New lawmaker makes her mark

With 150,000 views on YouTube, DAB's Ann Chiang Lai-wan's passionate and biting speeches have put her in the spotlight

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 November, 2012, 4:35am

Among Legco's 28 new lawmakers, Ann Chiang Lai-wan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) did not take too long to make her name known - for better or worse - among the city's internet users.

One YouTube video showing how she slammed rival pan-democrats one by one at a Legislative Council meeting has drawn almost 150,000 hits so far - along with nearly 2,000 negative comments.

Another clip in which she offers her support to beleaguered Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim - in a thunderous voice - earned her the not-so-elegant moniker of Yuen Qiu, a Chinese martial arts actress who played the shrew in Stephen Chow's movie Kung Fu Hustle.

Love her or not, the DAB vice-chairwoman won more than a fifth of the votes cast in Kowloon West in September, more than any other candidate in the constituency.

"To me, the most important thing in politics is to be candid, my real self," Chiang, 57, said. "You can't put on a mask everyday to show a happy, smiley face."

Speaking of her remarks to defend the education chief, Chiang said she was furious that pan-democrats kept calling for the heads of officials.

"The opponents survive by opposing the incumbent government," she said. "It will continue even after we have universal suffrage."

And the likeness to Yuen Qiu bothers her not in the slightest: "She is a very sentimental person in the film."

Born in Tiu Keng Leng, Chiang is the second daughter of industrialist Chiang Chen, founder of the Chen Hsong Group and a recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal in 2005.

Her father was a low-ranking Kuomintang officer when he fled to Hong Kong after the communist victory in 1949. Along with other defeated KMT soldiers, Chiang stayed in Hong Kong in the hope of being resettled in Taiwan. That never happened.

"I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth," Ann said proudly, recalling the family's early years living in a squatter area near San Po Kong. Chiang is one of six girls and a younger brother. Younger sister Agnes Chiang Lai-ping gained fame as a singer in the 1980s, but most of her siblings chose business careers.

Ann and another younger sister, Lily Chiang Lai-lei, were the only two who went into politics - albeit along different routes. Lily, a former chairwoman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, was a core member of the business-friendly Liberal Party before she was found guilty for a string of commercial crimes, that included acquiring HK$3.7 million in illegal profits, and was sent to jail for 42 months last year.

Ann, on the other hand, rose through the ranks of the pro-Beijing DAB to vice-chairwoman in 2007. She has also been a local delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference since 1993.

"I joined the party because I wanted an opportunity to achieve something," Ann said. "A real political party should represent different social classes. My expertise in the commercial and industrial sectors is something DAB needs."

Despite her father's close ties with the Kuomintang, Ann said she was not raised to embrace either Taiwan or the mainland. "My father did not really tell us too much about politics. Maybe it was too complicated for us as kids."

It was not until 1983, when she first set foot on the mainland, that she felt a loss of identity: "I was not a Chinese, neither was I British, even though I held a colonial passport. But I was so emotional at that time that I wanted to kiss the ground as soon as I got off the plane," she said.

Her decision to join the DAB has paid off. She took the vacated seat of fellow party lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king in September when Lee chose to contest one of the five newly created district council "super seats" in Legco and has since gone on to become a member of the Executive Council, the government's most senior advisory body.

She may have been likened to Yuen Qiu but Chiang has suffered her own humiliations, too. During an election forum she was quizzed, in her capacity as a pro-Beijing candidate, by People Power's Wong Yuk-man over the symbolism of the flag of the People's Republic of China but was left red-faced when she couldn't answer.



Age: 57
Education: Bachelor of Arts, from Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
Family: Married
Current post: Legislative Councillor (Kowloon West) (2012-); vice-chairwoman of DAB (2007-); chairman of C&L Holdings.