Minnows fight against odds in by-election

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 November, 2007, 12:00am

Welfare recipients and mainlanders may be in the minority in Hong Kong but their voices are being heard loud and clear in the Legislative Council by-election.

And one of the candidates contesting the Hong Kong Island seat on December 2 says some people are not too happy about this.

Single mother and heritage activist Ho Loy, 42, who lives on comprehensive social security assistance, says she had faced blatant discrimination since declaring her candidacy.

'Some residents have asked me, 'How can you be a legislator? You aren't even handling your own life well. You can't even manage to have your daughter go to school'.'

Ms Ho has been criticised for not sending her nine-year-old daughter to school. Recalling cramped living conditions during her childhood, the major plank of Ms Ho's platform is a demand for a housing policy review.

She said the income ceiling for public housing families should be raised.

She also feels flat sizes are too small to enable people to lead decent lives and for them to appreciate art and culture at home.

Ms Ho wants democracy at every level of life, including culture and town planning. She advocates small classes and more support for non-Chinese students.

An opponent who shares her grass-roots background, Lau Yuk-shing, describes himself as a 'free worker'.

Mr Lau, 54, was a democracy activist on the mainland and was jailed for more than a month for taking part in the April Fifth Tiananmen Square protest in 1976.

He moved to Hong Kong in 1985.

In his first attempt to win a Legco seat, in Kowloon West in 2004, he was teased during a televised debate for his heavily accented Cantonese and still prefers to use Putonghua in interviews.

But he said his previous election experience had reinforced his confidence in being able to gain residents' support.

Mr Lau, who often attacks heavyweight opponents Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee in his campaign, said he was the first one to take a nomination form from the Home Affairs Office, well before the two former senior government officials declared their candidacies.

'I am running for genuine democracy to save Hong Kong,' he said.

Beijing-born Cecilia Ling Wai-wan, who moved with her family to Hong Kong 19 years ago, said she was concerned that she and the five other lesser known candidates were being treated as also-rans by the media and the public.

'The main problem is that the media tends to report our frivolous remarks to reinforce that perception,' she said. Ms Ling said she was a director of a small trading firm, without any political affiliation.

While her platform includes reforming the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme, she proclaims herself a 'Taoist' in politics.

'I follow the non-action approach advocated by Taoists. I think the chief executive cares too much about his popularity and does a lot to boost it. But a good leader is one where people don't feel his presence and yet benefit from his governance.'