Alvin Yeung Puts His Hope in Hong Kong's Fresh-blood Politicians
The Civic Party lawmaker assumed office after winning the February 2016 New Territories East by-election.
I went to study in Canada when I was 14 years old. It was the 90s. After [June 4] 1989, many middle-class families in Hong Kong did the same thing. I went to a boarding school, had my secondary education and got my first degree there. It made a big impact. I am very liberal, and this liberal belief has to have something to do with my Canadian education and upbringing. I then went to Beijing to do an LLM [Master of Laws] degree.
I read a lot of Chinese history books when I was little, so I wanted to go back to China—not as a tourist, but as a student—to see the country. To some extent, there’s a fantasy of building up China. I can’t build the infrastructure because I can’t be an engineer; but I can be a lawyer to work out the rule of law.
The turning point was when I realized Hong Kong was also in need for me to come back and contribute. It was the year 2003: First, there was SARS. It made me realize Hong Kong is a place that values professionalism. I really admire the spirit of Dr. Joanna Tse Yuen-man [who gave her life treating patients during SARS]. Second, there was Article 23. I realized Hong Kong’s rule of law could be very fragile. When I saw Hong Kong’s situation, it made me not want to stay in China anymore. So I went to the UK for another law degree.
I came back to Hong Kong in 2007. My family has always been in Hong Kong. So the decision to return was never difficult. This is where my family is. Law and politics are twin brothers. The gist of politics is about law, and the making of law is politics. Ever since I was a kid, I found politics fun and fascinating. When I watched the news, I thought the politicians were really cool. I wanted to be like them.
I’m just one of those who want to do more than staying in a barristers’ chambers. I’m interested in politics and I don’t mind doing a bit more for Hong Kong. So becoming a legislator is only natural. All politics is local. Politics has to be local. I personally don’t fancy [Hong Kong independence]. I don’t see it as a practical way out. But I respect and I understand why people ask for it. Because people get disappointed.
In a perfect world, people would not have expected Hong Kong to go independent, simply because the “one country, two systems” would be a promise. But now it’s a broken one. When people are upset, when people see no hope, they look for something else. This is the situation we are facing right now, and you can’t blame them. After all, we’re only politicians, not magicians. We’re not here to perform magic, but we have a duty to convince those who are losing patience that we still have a slim chance of success.
If you’re a believer in non-violence, then you have to demonstrate that non-violence still gives a way out—albeit a difficult one. What’s a better Hong Kong? A more democratic, more liberal, more just society. The way to achieve it: non-violence. This is what I think, in a few simple words, is a pan-democratic lawmaker’s duty. I get disappointed too. The mere fact that [additional funding for the] express rail link was passed in such a manner, it’s just hilariously unacceptable. But on the other hand, this is something that would inevitably happen during our long battle if you refuse to use violence.
“You don’t really care how Coke is made, but you drink it because it’s sweet. You don’t care about politics because it’s bitter.”
Legco is not a strange place for me. I’ve been to this “kitchen” many times and seen how the “food” was made. But the difference is, when you are in the kitchen as a chef, you have to go to the wet market to buy food, and do the cleaning, chopping and everything. That’s quite a different experience from simply watching.
Politics can be sexy. Politics is about people’s lives. But why do people not care much? Because it’s at such a distance. You don’t really care how Coke is made, but you drink it because it’s sweet. You don’t care about politics because it’s bitter. I’m not Daniel Wu, I can’t make politics sexy. It’s not entertainment, after all. But I still think there’s something in politics that can attract people. To get the attention of those who only like to read about wine and food, and watch TVB dramas, that’s our job. That’s why we need better politicians.
In September [after the Legco election], you’ll see a lot of new faces. The fresh blood will bring new ideas and new approaches to Hong Kong politics. So I’m optimistic: Joshua Wong is only 19 years old. Even [student activists] Nathan Law, Oscar Lai—come on, they’re young. I’m not sure if they can make Legco, but I’m sure they’ll be in the campaign. These newcomers will definitely reshape Hong Kong’s political landscape. I’ve full confidence in that.