Former actress wins political beauty contest to head up People Power alliance
Former actress and beauty queen becomes new face of People Power as she vows to step up fight for universal suffrage before 2017 election
Earlier this month, beauty contestant Erica Yuen Mi-ming chalked up her latest win - not in a pageant, but in politics. Yuen was elected chairwoman of the "People Power" alliance on July 17 in a move that marked a decisive departure from the career path ofprevious finalists in the Miss Hong Kong beauty contest.
Yuen, 33, is already a successful entrepreneur, running a beauty business named Mi Ming Mart with three branches and millions of dollars of turnover annually. Now, she's the face of the pro-democracy political camp.
"I guess my publicity and my good relationship with media might help spread People Power's message to the public," Yuen told the South China Morning Post.
She entered politics in 2010 by co-founding the Power Voters group, affiliated to People Power. She went a step further by running with Raymond Chan Chi-chuen in the Legislative Council election last year, but did not quite make it into the Legco with Chan.
With more than a million votes and three Legco seats after that election, People Power has demonstrated its widespread support among pro-democracy Hongkongers. Yet the alliance has also taken several knocks this year.
First, there was the withdrawal of funding from Siu Yuek-yuen the former administrator of Hong Kong People Reporter, an online radio station and forum, after a row over Occupy Central with lawmaker Wong Yuk-man.
Then in May, Wong unexpectedly quit the party amid disagreements over electoral reform proposals.
Having taken the reins from former People Power chairman Christopher Lau, Yuen said her first mission would be to strengthen group unity and look at turning the alliance into a fully-fledged political party.
"We don't have a membership system now," she said. "If we could officially build a party, at least we could solidify and mobilise supporters in an easier way."
Yuen was one of the top five finalists in the 2005 Miss Hong Kong Pageant. She also won the Tourism Ambassador Award. She then joined TVB as an actress and host, but left the broadcaster two years later.
She started a blog and wrote newspaper columns on skincare and make-up, and posted video clips on YouTube that generated more than 100,000 hits and attracted over 30,000 subscribers.
The economics graduate started trading shares and commodities, raising questions in the minds of some People Power supporters over her commitment to the social welfare goals of the alliance - questions Yuen said were unfounded.
"I was somehow pro-free market … but I am also very generous towards the needy and the poor," she said.
Yuen said People Power did not have clear economic policies, but that its need to fix a position on economic issues was urgent. People Power has frequently been criticised by the pan-democrats, even though it is associated with the group in voters' minds. Yuen said the party would no longer attack the Democrats, but would keep urging them to be "more aggressive".
She said she opposed electoral reform proposals based on decisions made in the National People's Congress in 2005, and supported by the Alliance for True Democracy, which would grant Hongkongers universal suffrage in the chief executive election in 2017 at the earliest.
"I can't see why we have to respect the NPC's decision," she said. "People Power insists on universal suffrage for the Legislative Council and chief executive elections in 2016 and 2017."
EDUCATION Graduates from Tufts University in Boston with a Bachelor of Economics degree in 2003
2005 Ranks as a top-five finalist in Miss Hong Kong Pageant; wins Tourism Ambassador Award
2007 Resigns from TVB
2010 Sets up Mi Ming Mart, a cosmetics and health store named after herself. Co-founds Power Voters, a political group affiliated with People Power
2012 Her "political introductory tutorial" videos receive more than 200,000 hits on YouTube. Gives up United States passport and runs for New Territories East seat in Legislative Council election with People Power colleague Raymond Chan Chi-chuen. Chan takes the seat.
2013 Takes over as chair of People Power alliance