Hong Kong district council elections 2015

'Umbrella father': How Occupy was a wake-up call for ordinary Joe and election miracle winner Chui Chi-kin

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 November, 2015, 4:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 November, 2015, 6:07pm

Chui Chi-kin does not appear much different to other middle-aged men living in Chai Wan. The 46-year-old was a relative unknown until Sunday, when he displaced one of the most well-known names in the pro-establishment camp, Christopher Chung Shu-kun.

The victory was nothing short of a “miracle”, according to analysts, since Chung, of the city’s biggest political force, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, was respected citywide as a veteran Beijing loyalist and member of the Legislative Council.

Chui, a trader by profession, was an independent candidate not backed by any political party. A career in politics was never part of his plan – until the 79-day Occupy sit-ins last year jolted him into action.

The protests were a wake-up call. Chui felt guilty watching students taking up the front lines in the fight for democracy and blamed himself for living a life of political indifference.

“Middle-aged people like me have devoted our whole lives to earning money. We did not try hard enough to defend Hong Kong’s core values,” he said.

Chui later formed a group called “umbrella fathers and mothers” with other protesters before joining the district poll in Yue Wan constituency, his home of more than two decades.

“[Joining the race] was not about winning or losing. It was about how an ordinary resident could stand up and play a more active role for change.”

His rival Chung was backed by a strong party and had been serving the constituency for 24 years. In response to that challenge, Chui made his name known to local residents within a few months through hard work and home visits. He approached more than 2,000 households and could be seen out on the streets meeting residents seven days a week.

READ MORE: ‘I’ll be back’, vows veteran Hong Kong district councillor after shock loss to Occupy-inspired candidate

Then on Sunday, he beat Chung by 2,017 votes to 1,826.

“It was not that I was particularly good, but that Chung had performed poorly,” a modest Chui said. “He devoted too little time to the district.”

 Chung has vowed to “be back” in the 2019 contest for Eastern district.