Hong Kong’s ‘king of votes’ seeks to build democracy from the bottom up
Eddie Chu also plans to continue taking on the powerful Heung Yee Kuk as a lawmaker
Rejecting the “king of votes” label after his impressive victory in Sunday’s Legislative Council elections, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick is avoiding lofty goals to launch a bottom-up campaign for greater democracy.
The 38-year-old activist, who advocates democratic self-determination for Hong Kong, spoke to the Post on Wednesday of his humble plan for “repair cafes” to build up and consolidate democratic forces in the community.
“As a lawmaker I think I have a duty to reform the mode of district politics,” he said. “It is not just about working in your office to handle thousands of cases every year – that’s not how the democratic movement should proceed because this makes people rely on you.”
Playing on the Democratic Party slogan, “Come to DP if you have a problem”, the activist said his motto would be: “Come to Chu Hoi-dick if you have no problem – but want to help people.”
Watch: Exclusive chat with Eddie Chu Hoi-dick after his surprise election win
Chu also vowed to challenge powerful rural forces in his new capacity as a lawmaker, continuing to take on the Heung Yee Kuk village representative body – a lone battle he has fought for many years and cut his political teeth on.
“I will push for Legco hearings for villagers – they can come masked if they want – to expose the dodgy small-house deals by rural landlords, rigged elections for village heads and so on,” he said. “They can confront the kuk chief there. That in itself would be very explosive.”
He would also seek to change the legislation that governs the kuk to make it more democratically representative, he added.
The lawmaker-elect said it was early days yet, and his push for self-determination for the city would gain momentum only when his camp boosted its numbers in Legco for greater bargaining power with Beijing.
“The problem is most Hongkongers are too docile,” Chu said. “They don’t even have a sense to take back control of their daily life that is shaped by [big businesses] like the Link Reit. When people talk about Hong Kong independence and revolution, how big a force do they think they need?”
Two days after making headlines by scoring 84,121 in New Territories West without major party backing, Chu said he was building his own force.
But rather than form a party, he plans to set up his district office in the form of a “repair cafe” – a concept gaining currency in Europe and North America. The idea is to have a meeting place where volunteers repair or mend things, from appliances to clothes for neighbours and others. Anything can be discussed at such gatherings and the objective is to strengthen social cohesion as well as reduce waste.
Combining salary, reimbursement and gratuity, a lawmaker has access to some HK$10 million in a four-year term, a considerable sum of money for his plans, Chu said, and many among his 100-strong campaign team of professionals, teachers, social workers, renovators and others wanted to carry on contributing.
More repair cafe outlets could be possible, “if, say, 5 per cent of my electors want to contribute financially and personally,” he added.
Watch: Exclusive chat with Eddie Chu Hoi-dick after his surprise election win (Part 2)
Chu said he hoped the bottom-up approach would spread political awareness and lead to more lawmakers being elected on a self-determination platform.
Talk of self-determination would not be confined to him and five other newly elected localists, he argued, as some pan-democrats from major parties had declared their support for the cause.
“It’s not impossible that our camp would form the majority in Legco one day, hold a referendum and have enough power to bargain with Beijing,” he said.
As for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s offer to reach out to new faces in Legco, he said he would meet him with the rest of the newly elected lawmakers, but not Beijing officials “because if there is no clear goal there is no point for any discussion”.