Legislative Council oath-taking saga

From classroom to politics: ousted Hong Kong lawmaker Lau Siu-lai feels ‘weight of the world’

In a four-part series in which the Post speaks to disqualified lawmakers, the former lecturer turned activist says she is eyeing the by-elections in the long war for democracy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 September, 2017, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 September, 2017, 3:29pm

Hong Kong lecturer-turned-activist Lau Siu-lai says she feels the “weight of the world” after transitioning from academia to politics, only to be unseated from the Legislative Council over an oath-taking row.

But Lau, more popularly known as “teacher Siu-lai” – a nickname she was given during the 2014 Occupy movement when she held talks on social justice and democracy at protest sites – refused to be pessimistic about the rise and fall of her political career. For her, the fight is a long war instead of a short battle.

The saga began on October 12 last year when several lawmakers added their own elements to the official oath. Lau spent eight minutes delivering her oath, pausing five to seven seconds between every Chinese word.

Despite ouster, ‘Long Hair’ confident in city’s social activism

She later said on Facebook that she did that to “manifest the falsehood of the oath”.

The antics prompted the government to seek the disqualification of six lawmakers. First to go last November were localists Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who insulted China when they took their oaths. Four more lawmakers, including Lau, were disqualified in July.

I think I should not just stay in the classroom, but go out and fight for justice
Lau Siu-lai

Out of the four recently unseated lawmakers, Lau and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung have indicated that they would appeal against their disqualifications.

Lau said: “There has been a major setback in the democracy movement. What we should do is to heal our wounds, stay calm and be persistent.”

She has also set her sights on the by-elections. “We have to win back the seats,” she said, adding that Legco was a larger platform for her voice to be heard and to monitor the government.

Lau Siu-lai says Hong Kong government’s case against her ‘political persecution’

She said she was proud that she had strived for better policies in her nine months in Legco, including fighting for issues relating to bazaars and hawkers.

She recalled that on the day the court announced its ruling to disqualify her along with three other lawmakers, she had been pressing the government in the morning to increase the supply of beds in North Lantau hospital. The Hospital Authority finally gave her a positive response that day after months of follow-ups.

“When I taught sociology in schools, I asked students to think about how society should be just and fair. Yet, I realised society has turned worse and my students are the groups facing suppression ... that is why I think I should not just stay in the classroom, but go out and fight for justice,” Lau said.

“Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, whom I admire greatly, wrote a book called The Weight of the World. I really feel this after stepping into the political arena.”