Community comes first

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2007, 12:00am

Twenty-two-year-old Andrew Chiu Ka-yin became one of Hong Kong's youngest district councillors when he won the district council elections in the Taikoo Shing West constituency in Eastern District last Sunday.

The Democrat received 1,165 votes - 245 more than his predecessor who was seeking to reclaim his seat after representing the district for years.

'People voted for me because of my passion to serve the community. I've lived in the area for 10 years and I know that this middle-class, well-established neighbourhood has problems, like traffic congestion. And there are annoying construction projects all the time,' says Mr Chiu, who is studying for a master's degree in Public Administration at the Hong Kong Baptist University.

'I worked as a councillor's assistant and have devoted myself to community service for the past four years. I found that nothing had been done to improve the situation despite repeated pledges to the residents. I want to make things better - that's the main reason I joined the election.'

To prove his commitment and ability, Mr Chiu spent most of his time listening to residents' requests, researching the community's development planning, and mediating with government officers and property developers.

But getting into politics at a young age is difficult. His youth and lack of experience has meant he has to work extra hard to earn people's respect. And he's also had to manage on a limited budget.

Once, he successfully invited representatives from the police, the transport department and a property company to get together to discuss the traffic problems which have annoyed the residents for years. But the meeting did not last long because the former district councillor insisted there were

no problems. 'I don't have an office - I use a website as my campaign platform. I produced all the leaflets and posters myself,' he says.

There are some who doubt if Mr Chiu has the ability and experience to represent the community in the district council.

'Some people say, 'If you can be a councillor, I can be one too!' But I don't get upset because they've never done anything for the community like I have.

'These [comments] motivate me to do better. I want to prove that being a responsible district councillor is not all about age and experience - it's about having the passion to serve.'

Mr Chiu's interest in politics goes back to the Tiananmen Square protest in June 4, 1989.

'I was young when it happened. A few years later I watched news footage about the incident and was totally shocked. I couldn't believe that the government could tell its people such a big lie - that no students were killed.'

After that, he began to pay attention to current affairs, and while classmates were reading entertainment news, he buried his nose in commentaries and news reports.

Sunday's district council elections featured a surprisingly high number of young candidates - 107 were aged

30 or below. Mr Chiu believes the young candidates were inspired by the half-million-strong march on July 1, 2003.

'It was a demonstration of people power - we can change the government's policies as long as we speak out.'

But he is a little worried about the general lack of interest in politics among young people.

'Civic education as promoted by the government is all about patriotism. It does not talk

about political parties or democracy.'

Mr Chiu's immediate goals are to fulfil his promises to his supporters and to raise political awareness among young people.