Chris Patten-inspired scholar lends optimism to pursuit of democracy

Scholar buoyed by former governor Chris Patten's encouragement in 2012 urges Hongkongers to look on the bright side

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 5:26am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 5:26am

Hong Kong has to stay positive as it forges ahead with democratic development, a Sir Edward Youde Memorial Fund scholar says, drawing inspiration from her meeting with the city's last governor two years ago.

Stephanie Wong Hoi-ki, who is studying for a postgraduate certificate in laws at the University of Hong Kong, met Chris Patten in March 2012 when she was a visiting student at the University of Oxford.

"We wanted to talk to him about Hong Kong's politics and the city's future development, so we sent him an e-mail out of the blue. Surprisingly, he replied and said yes," Wong, 24, said.

She was joined at the House of Lords in London by six other Hong Kong students whom she had met during a summer internship in the government's administrative service.

"As young Hongkongers, we were worried and felt that our democratic development was getting worse," Wong said.

"But he comforted us, saying he reckoned the progress of Hong Kong's democratic development was okay." She quoted Patten as saying the city's "gradual development towards universal suffrage" was evident.

"He reminded me of one thing - we have to keep an optimistic and proactive mind [to fight for democracy]. I could tell that he really cared about Hong Kong," she said. "He also reinforced my belief that democracy needed to be pushed forward."

Wong received a HK$283,000 fellowship for overseas studies yesterday. She has applied to read civil law at the University of Oxford.

Asked if she supported public nomination as the means of putting forward candidates for the chief executive election in 2017, Wong said it was "ideally most representative" but might not be realistic.

Besides, "there is a deadlock here when the government says [public nomination] violates the Basic Law. We need a more creative means to accommodate different expectations."

Alongside Wong at the award ceremony was her younger sister, Mavis Wong Hoi-ching, 19, who received HK$20,000 from the memorial fund scholarship in the current academic year.

The younger Wong is now studying journalism and communication at Chinese University - so she could help "awaken people to issues in society".

Asked if she believed media freedom was waning in the wake of a February 26 attack on Ming Pao's former chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to, she said "yes, from an objective point of view".

"We have no evidence that the attack is linked to press freedom, but the point is that when the possibility exists that the two may be related, it is already cause for alarm."

She had joined several rallies that backed media freedom and condemned the savage attack, she said, as it was time Hong Kong became "cautious".

The siblings were among some 900 students who received awards and scholarships at the 27th presentation ceremony of the memorial fund at City Hall.