Mary Ann King Pui-wai may not have been widely known before her decision to run for a district council seat in Wan Chai in November. But she has been active in social movements for nearly a decade and is a recognised name among those following gender issues. While her fame may not match that of her friend Cyd Ho Sau-lan, who persuaded her to stand in last year's district council election, she is a formidable campaigner in the fight to stop Wan Chai's history being wiped out. 'I had just finished my master's thesis and had to look for a job,' Ms King said. 'Cyd suggested I should run for district council election. She said the district council has resources and power to make some change in the community. 'I thought, 'without the taxpayers, I would not have the chance to get a master's degree, so I should contribute to our society' and I decided to stand for election. 'My friends said I was silly. They said I was suggesting that everyone who studies for a master's has to run for election.' With a constituency that encompasses the Urban Renewal Authority's project to redevelop Tai Yuen Street, also known as Wedding Card Street, she is aware of her responsibility for the well-being of the street and its people. Though knowledgeable about gender issues, urban renewal was new to her and she threw herself into the campaign. 'I didn't reach out to the community before joining the district council. The issues I used to focus on might sound grand. But they are empty. Now I enjoy my work very much. My work is about real people and real issues. They have context.' Democracy, Ms King believes, is about more than universal suffrage. A democratic culture should be cultivated at all levels of society. To improve the welfare of neighbourhoods, Ms King said, politicians must work alongside ordinary people as equals and show them respect. 'It is important to empower everyone, so they will be more knowledgeable and sensible in making decisions rather than relying on the political leaders to tell them how to vote,' she said. 'There shouldn't be any big brothers in democracy. This principle applies to both the pro-Beijing camp and the pro-democracy camp.' Ms King was upset to see her friend's defeat in the Legco election. But she thinks it may be a blessing in disguise. 'Cyd can spend more time and energy to work on grass-roots issues. It is important to a democratic society,' she said.