Legislative Council elections 2016

CY Leung not the problem, Hong Kong’s political system is, says Polytechnic University lecturer-turned-activist ‘Teacher Siu-lai’

Lau Siu-lai made a name for herself with her ‘Democracy Classroom’ for participants in the Occupy protests; she now wants to put her ideals into practice by running for a Legco seat in Kowloon West

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 July, 2016, 10:27pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 July, 2016, 9:48am

She may be anti-government but Polytechnic University sociology ­lecturer-turned-activist Lau Siu-lai has no time for the ABC (Anyone But CY) campaign, ­dismissing it as “pointless”.

She also rejects the idea of pushing for Hong Kong independence.

More popularly known as “Teacher Siu-lai” – a nickname she was given during the Occupy protests in 2014 when she held talks on social justice and democracy at the occupied sites, Lau is also an advocate of hawkers’ rights. During this year’s Lunar New Year holiday, she donned an apron to sell fishballs illegally in Sham Shui Po out of solidarity with the hawkers.

Hong Kong lecturer fined HK$1,800 for selling fried squid without licence

She plans to put her ideals into practice by running in Kowloon West in September’s polls.

“ABC is too simplistic and won’t solve any problems,” Lau said, referring to the campaign pushed by some pan-democrats with the aim of blocking Leung Chun-ying from securing ­another term as Hong Kong’s chief executive.

“You kick away Leung and Beijing will give you another one as bad as him, if not worse. We need to reform the system,” she said.

On Hong Kong independence, she had this to say: “I believe self-determination is a way out, but not independence. Independence is just ­unrealistic.

“Who would believe Hong Kong would have the ability to break away from China? But I do ­believe Hong Kong should enjoy a very high ­degree of autonomy so we can build up ­semi-diplomatic ties or form alliances with ­overseas cities,” she said.

“But we still need to keep a relationship with China. Self-determination is not xenophobia. We don’t need to be anti-China. In the modern world, we can have a lot of identities. I am ­Chinese. I am also a Hongkonger. I am a global citizen. I am an Asian. There is no need for us to get trapped in meaningless debates on identity.”

A strong Hong Kong would need a strong civil society, she said.

“Without that, democracy will be difficult to develop. And it will be meaningless to talk about self-determination.”

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Lau first shot to fame during the Occupy ­protests in 2014. The “lectures” she gave to ­participants were dubbed the “Siu-lai ­Democracy Classroom”.

She is used to the limelight and courting trouble. When she sold fishballs illegally, she was caught by officers and fined HK$1,800 by a court.

But she said she had no regrets because her sociology training had taught her not to ­compromise on social injustice.

She is now facing a disciplinary hearing by her university over the “moonlighting”.

Her hawking campaign was widely ­associated with the Mong Kok riot, which was reportedly triggered by a dispute between ­hawkers control officers and illegal sellers.

“If I could turn back time, I would hope the incident could have been prevented.

“I do not oppose using radical means to resist unfair rule. But there are also other ways to achieve the goal. We should not resort to just one way.”