Legislative Council elections 2016

After 24 years in Legco, ‘Hong Kong’s Iron Lady’ Emily Lau bows out

Former reporter calls for editors and publishers to back their journalists against local and central governments

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 5:56pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 8:42pm

Days before ending her 24-year stint as a lawmaker, Emily Lau Wai-hing shed no tears but pledged to continue contributing to the betterment of Hong Kong and the country.

The former Post reporter also urged journalists to spare no effort in defending press freedom in Hong Kong. “Hongkongers need your service,” she said.

Nearly 100 journalists, including some who worked shoulder to shoulder with her in the late 1970s, attended Lau’s farewell lunch on Monday. Her legislative tenure will end on Friday.

Director of Broadcasting Leung Ka-wing, Lau’s former colleague at TVB in the late 1970s, recalled her abruptly storming out of an interview with a senior British colonial housing official – taking the camera crew with her – because of her dissatisfaction with the official’s bureaucratic style.

“Emily’s move caused some difficulties for our colleagues covering housing news for some time. But she has always been true to herself,” Leung said.

Emily Lau helps out on domestic helper issues

Lau was a reporter for the Post between 1976 and 1978, and joined TVB afterwards. In 1984 she became a correspondent for the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review.

She became an overnight celebrity after turning the tables on then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in a news conference over the future of Hong Kong, asking the Iron Lady about the morality of “delivering over five million people into the hands of a communist dictatorship”.

In 1991 she entered politics and became the first woman in the city’s history to be directly elected to the colonial legislature, winning 46,515 votes in New Territories East.

She joined the Democratic Party in 2008 and became party chairwoman in 2012.

In December, the legislator known for her uncompromising style announced her intention not to stand for another term in the Legislative Council, signalling for many the end of an era.

The 64-year-old said she would continue to contribute to the betterment of Hong Kong and the country after leaving the legislature.

She also called on media executives to speak out for frontline journalists when they face unreasonable treatment from the Hong Kong government and mainland authorities.