Chong Chan-yau is hoping to turn defeat into victory. A fortnight after being beaten in the Legislative Council polls, the blind equal opportunities crusader is building on the progress he made while reaching out to voters. 'I have listened to a lot of people's opinions and grievances. I should not forget them,' he says. 'I do not think I should act as if nothing has happened.' By garnering more than 10,000 votes in his bid for a Hong Kong Island seat, Mr Chong surprised his rivals - the Democrats, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) and another eventual winner, Christine Loh Kung-wai. His campaign drew praise - as well as votes - from members of rival campaign teams, including the Liberal Party's Ada Wong Ying-kay. Operating on a relatively paltry budget of $500,000 (which ballooned to $700,000), he also won praise from a critical media and at times posed a threat to the charismatic Ms Loh. 'I know people started to understand me,' he says. Political analysts believe he will be a much stronger candidate in 2000, but Mr Chong is thus far declining to make a commitment to run next time. For now, he wants to exploit the prominence he has achieved by spreading his message to as many as possible. The issues he highlighted during his campaign - equal opportunities, poverty, unemployment and medical services - remain high on his agenda. Oxfam, the charity of which he is fund-raising director, has formed an alliance with a handful of non-governmental organisations to tackle unemployment (their first action will be a protest on June 21). The movement will focus on unemployment in all sectors, although the disabled in particular are believed to be suffering from the economic downturn. 'I know a spastic person responsible for clerical work in a bank was sacked recently,' he says. 'Employers are becoming less patient with the disabled, who may need more time to do their work.' During his campaign, Mr Chong drew criticism as well as understanding from the public. The hardest part, he says, was convincing voters that he could represent them effectively. 'I was stigmatised as someone who could only represent the blind,' he says. He tried to break the stereotype by discussing housing and employment to show he was not a single-issue candidate. 'In this way I am also conveying the message of equal opportunity. You should disregard my blindness. You should look at my knowledge, commitment, social concern and social understanding.' He recalls both genuine compassion and prejudice while out on the hustings. 'I was also told passers-by had little eye contact with us,' he says. 'Why are Hong Kong people so cool?' During a TV forum, the host asked whether he represented the interests of the public or the disabled. It was a defining moment for Mr Chong. 'Why should there be a distinction?' he asks. 'Disabled people are part of the public. I want to convey a message: I am Chong Chan-yau. I am a person who happens to be blind.' Mr Chong is determined to avoid being seen only as an expert on issues relating to the disabled. The implication in an invitation by Democratic Party vice-chairman Yeung Sum for him to be their adviser on disability issues must have rankled. 'If they have understood my message, they should not have asked me to advise only on disability issues. I can also advise on other social issues,' he says. 'I will keep on advocating democracy and equality. That's why I did not feel sad when I was defeated in the election, unlike some other candidates.'