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Legislative Council elections 2016

How the Mong Kok riot shocked a rising Hong Kong political star into action

Barrister Eunice Yung is determined to create a better future for the city’s youngsters

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2016, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 July, 2016, 9:37am

A barrister-at-law for the past eight years, Eunice Yung Hoi-yan was content to focus on her career and community work. But two events caused a change of heart.

The first was this year’s Mong Kok riot. The second was the constant filibustering by pan-democrats in the Legislative Council.

She felt she needed to take a stand and so joined the New People’s Party, mostly because she admired founding leader Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee. But she also agreed with Ip and deputy leader Michael Tien Puk-sun’s vision of politics of “telling the truth, doing things pragmatically and not engaging in politicking”.

There was an urgent need to restore Hong Kong’s fading glory, she said, and solve young people’s social mobility problems.

A rising star of the party, she is targeting the New Territories East a constituency, a pan-democrat stronghold, saying: “We are offering a new choice and hope ... We want to ‘win back Hong Kong’.”

“Things have been too politicised in recent years ... Instead of stalling and backlogs in Legco, we want to move forward ... and go back to the high international status that Hong Kong used to enjoy.”

Yung’s first degree was in computer science and after studying for a law degree at City University, she became a barrister and offered legal advice at several NGOs. She is also a keen singer of Canto-pop and old English songs and president of a wind ensemble who plays the trumpet. That explains perhaps her view that it is important for politicians to accept different voices.

Yung was a relative unknown in political circles until December last year, when she founded the Youth and Professional Network to help young people with start-ups.

It was sad to see young people protesting without any limits ... I feel the stress and despair of young people in Hong Kong
Eunice Yung Hoi-yan

The network’s founding was regarded by political observers as partly Yung’s bid to raise her public profile. At that time, she was already tipped to lead the NPP’s ticket in New Territories East.

But Yung, 39, told the Post that it was the violent clash between protesters and police in February that proved a turning point.

“It was sad to see young people protesting without any limits ... I feel the stress and despair of young people in Hong Kong. They felt they had nowhere to go,” she said.

Yung hoped her experience in the legal and technology sectors could help her work with young people to create “a better future they deserved”.

“The problems are not simply about the lack of jobs and the need to create jobs for young people ... we need to listen.”

Commentators believe Yung’s candidacy could threaten the Liberal Party’s bid to retain its seat in New Territories East as both paries appeal to middle-class and pro-establishment voters. The Liberals’ candidate, Dominic Lee Tsz-king, 32, had questioned if Yung was supported to run by Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong.

Yung dismissed such claims. “I think that was only their way of propaganda.”