One of the many “young guns” elected in the wave of anti-government discontent is Jason Chan Ka-yau, the new district councillor of the Fortress Hill constituency in the Eastern district. The 22-year-old Chinese University graduate rushed into the coffee shop he suggested as a meeting place (a 'yellow' shop with pro-democracy art all over the walls) after a meeting with residents.
Already, Chan has received more than a dozen cases from residents asking for help. And on top of that, he still needs to search for an office spot, hire staff, go through documents, and familiarise himself with the procedures of the District Council.
“Got to learn fast,” he says.
“Like any new job, it takes some time to get used to it.”
A long-time resident of the area and a community organiser since the beginning of 2019, before the protests started, Chan says he expected the complaints he had received.
He explains the complaints so far have generally been about old issues that have accumulated in the community, which they had already planned to start tackling. Chan lists examples such as dealing with mosquitoes and installing a lift, while keeping some of the other cases “in progress” under wraps.
“I’m confident that we can deliver on our promises within a year or two,” he said.
“I’m more worried about how the government will treat the district councillors in the future, like cutting their budgets and power, or even cancelling future elections.”
When it comes to the massive upset in the typically uneventful District Council ballots, Chan carefully considers his words. “There are many reasons that drive a person to vote, there are livelihood issues and political issues, it’s hard to clearly define it,” he says.
“My position is not to focus on one but handle both at the same time.”
“In the past, district councillors put out a joint statement in support of the extradition bill and that is a political statement. We could do the same thing in support of the five demands.”
But supporting the opposition movement will lead to the inevitable question that he has been asked countless times on the street: How do we reconcile the escalating violence that is engulfing the city?
“The ‘valiant’ protests are not a good way to express opinions, but I don’t think they are wrong. Or maybe it’s better to say if they’re wrong, they’re not all wrong,” he says.
“If they listened to us and the problems could be solved by peaceful means, it would’ve been fixed a long time ago. I don’t agree 100 per cent, but I can understand where they’re coming from."
“If we could do our jobs, they wouldn’t be out there fighting."
“People are saying ‘help the protests, help the protesters’ but the rules of the game already don’t favour you. We need time to learn the rules and figure out how to play the game."
“The social movement and the election results are like ‘Bang!’, fireworks going off, but working in the council is like slow mining,” he explains.
“Come on, 3,000 votes and a 70 per cent voting rate? Every ballot is a burden. How can we dare slack off? We’re racking our brains for ideas. We want to win a clean victory, too,” Chan adds.
His best piece of advice for students looking to wade into politics is a classic one. “Really, go to university,” he says. “My political opinions aren’t the most marketable out there. Too cautious and too moderate, but they are my sincere beliefs. A lot of my vision for society and my goals were formed during those few years in university studying sociology.”