High-flying Hong Kong pilot looks to stay down to earth with Kowloon East poll bid for Civic Party
Jeremy Tam Man-ho insists he is interested in grass-roots issues despite his high-flying career
Most people seem to know him only as a pilot but Jeremy Tam Man-ho says he is much more than that.
The Civic Party member insists he is a down-to-earth person interested in grass-roots issues, having done district work in Tung Chung and Kwun Tong and having run – and lost – three times in district council elections.
“A pilot’s job is to solve problems arising from the ever-changing situation up in the air,” Tam, who works for a passenger airline, said. “The skill set for a councillor is very similar, I’d say.”
Tam, who spent his teenage and university years in Australia where he studied aerospace engineering, said his first involvement in political life began on July 1, 2003 during the historic protest march that drew 500,000 people angry with then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa’s governance.
“I then thought, ‘If you want to get something properly done, do it yourself,’ and I want to change society for the good of my two kids,” he said.
And that was how he, a loner in politics, started with his own neighbourhood and ran for a district council seat in 2007.
Tam said he was not happy with the community planning in his area including a disjointed cycling route and lack of community facilities. He went online to check the minutes of district council meetings only to be disappointed by the red tape.
It was a few years later when he spoke up as a pilot trade unionist that he got to know party politicians, including then Civic Party lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, who quickly became an inspiration.
“She is my role model, very knowledgeable about government policies and what she was advocating,” he said.
Then he joined the party and was defeated twice in subsequent district council elections by slim margins.
Now running to succeed his mentor and party leader, Alan Leong Kah-kit, as a lawmaker in the Kowloon East constituency, Tam admitted he faced huge pressure.
But he said the pair had been planning the succession for the past four years, with him frequently shadowing Leong in his political work.
If elected to Legco, Tam, who holds a master’s degree in transport engineering, said he would probe a range of controversial, expensive infrastructure projects, including the cross-border high-speed railway under construction to Guangzhou, the cross-border bridge to Zhuhai and Macau, and the airport’s third runway.
He also has another mission.
“Right now pan-democrats are stuck in a chess game. I hope I can join other new faces in Legco to start the game over. I want to see government policies getting a balance so they won’t favour big businesses and vested interests,” he said.
“Officials should not turn a blind eye to pan-democrats’ proposals just because they are fed up with them after all these years.”