Legislative Council elections 2016

The rise and rise of young Hongkonger Yau Wai-ching of Youngspiration

The group, which arose from the Occupy movement, says it will work with pan-democrats only on issues of common interest

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 September, 2016, 6:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

It has been an amazing transformation for the daughter of a civil servant.

Largely a nobody in the political circle one year ago, Yau Wai-ching edged out veteran incumbent Wong Yuk-man to win a seat in the new-look Legislative Council.

The 25-year-old lawmaker-elect from localist group Youngspiration that advocates self-determination for Hong Kong was elected in the Kowloon West constituency with 20,643 votes.

Another member from Youngspiration, Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chun-hang, was elected in the New Territoriest East constituency.

With two legislators, Youngspiration is now effectively the third largest pro-democracy party in the legislature, after the Democratic Party and the Civic Party.

Like other localist candidates, Youngspiration pulled off its victories by riding a wave of anti-China sentiment. It differs from established pan-democratic parties in that it wants a referendum in 2021 on Hong Kong’s future after 2047, when “one-country, two-systems” guarantees end.

“But that does not mean that we will not keep in contact with the Chinese side. We will not meet them just for the sake of a meeting. If it’s just for having a cup of tea or exchanging name cards, no thank you.

“But I see no reason why we should boycott meetings with the Chinese side if there are serious issues about Hong Kong that need to be sorted out by both sides,” Yau said.

While she said Youngspiration was unlikely to join the pan-democrats’ “lunchbox meetings”, the group would be pleased to work with other parties on policies on which they share the same principles.

In the past legislative session, most pan-democrats met over lunch once a week to discuss and try to consolidate common stances on various government policies or social issues. It was convened by Cyd Ho Sau-lan of the Labour Party. However, she lost in the Legco elections earlier this month.

Despite being regarded as a localist member, Yau said Youngspiration would not necessarily support the stances of other localist legislators, citing the controversial universal retirement scheme.

Youngspiration, which is more inclined to support the government-backed proposal, would like to see a means test to determine how much a senior citizen should receive.

“I understand that some localist legislators, or even pan-democrats, have different views on this. In this case, we won’t seek to cooperate with them. I don’t think we should give up our principles for the sake of showing unity to oppose the government,” Yau said.

She also said Youngspiration had plans to open more district offices to promote the party and its “Hong Kong self-determination” idea.

Stopping short of advocating a break from China, Youngspiration maintains independence should be among the options Hong Kong people are allowed to consider.

“We will need to strengthen our district work to reach out to the public and promote public awareness of Youngspiration’s ideas,” Yau said. “We won’t expect results overnight. It will take a long time and a lot of effort.”

Youngspiration is one of several groups to emerge following the 2014 Occupy campaign for universal suffrage.

Comprising mainly young political greenhorns, it was launched in March last year but caught media attention after member Kwong Po-yin unseated veteran Kowloon City district council chairman Lau Wai-wing in last November’s district elections. Kwong quit Youngspiration in June, citing “differences with the group”.