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Legislative Council elections 2016

Eddie Chu, everything a seasoned politician is not

Alice Wu says the soft-spoken, long-time activist is already proving a political force to reckon with, having displayed rare wisdom in reaching out across party lines

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 September, 2016, 10:02am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 September, 2016, 4:53pm

As if we hadn’t seen enough people picking their jaws off the floor after the Legislative Council election results this month, lawmaker-elect and “king of votes” Eddie Chu Hoi-dick is now making sure there won’t be any more instances of political lockjaw.

Even before assuming office, Chu has already managed to make the government flinch, and the chief executive cry

For someone who has been sidelined, Chu sideswiped this city’s politics not simply by winning, but by doing so with an incredible number of votes. And he did it without any veteran politician propping him up by being second on his list, or any party backing. Chu received more than twice the number of votes of Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, who grabbed the last seat in their constituency.

Even before assuming office, Chu has already managed to make the government flinch, and the chief executive cry. And that’s not all. While the pan-democrats are still trying to figure out how to work alongside the localists, Chu has got them together under his Wang Chau housing project cause.

Chu has also expressed willingness to work with some pro-establishment lawmakers. That is something veteran legislators have not been able to do for years.

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Chu rode the waves of public distrust and frustration with traditional political institutions and the old way of politicking, including the way business is conducted in the legislature.

Amid rising public passions and distrust of traditional politicians, people find Chu to be everything a traditional “seasoned politician” is not. He displays no ego and is soft-spoken almost to a fault. Chu seems miscast for political high drama, but that’s exactly what he has managed to stage.

More than 80,000 voters in New Territories West saw Chu as the answer to Hong Kong’s growing and endemic political cynicism

Contrast the image of Chu on his bike with all the “emergency” appeals and “urgent” calls for votes, accompanied by political heavyweights flashing their million-dollar smiles and pulling their political weight; contrast Chu’s makeshift posters with the perfectly designed and printed ones we have grown used to on the campaign trail – and it’s easy to understand his appeal.

The overly polished and scripted versions of the overly photoshopped and photogenic have become unauthentic. What previously seemed amateurish, inexperienced and outside the political organisation has become appealingly refreshing.

More than 80,000 voters in New Territories West saw Chu as the answer to Hong Kong’s growing and endemic political cynicism.

Chu is not inexperienced. He has run in two district level elections, in 2011 and 2015. Though not exactly a household name, he is not unknown either. We have known Chu, the political activist, since 2005, when he fought for the preservation of the Old Star Ferry and Queen’s piers. He was there with the Tsoi Yuen villagers in 2010 as they fought the express rail link. For those who have lost confidence in politics and politicians, Chu fits the bill.

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He may not seem suave or media-savvy but he is as skilful as they come. He has full command of issues, and the know-how to generate interest in different political platforms. As a lawmaker, Chu is going to be a force to reckon with. His lawmaker status is just an added platform for his activism.

There is nothing amateurish or novice-like about Chu’s politicking – he is ready to work within the factioned non-establishment camp as well as the pro-establishment camp to advance his causes. He has shown that political showmanship pales before someone who knows how to make the conditions work in his favour.

Chu’s brand of political workmanship over political showmanship is something everyone can learn from, regardless of where they fall in the political spectrum.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA