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Interview: Lawmaker Yau Wai-ching has no regrets, but hopes to escape oath row and work for Hongkongers

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An electoral success, she is Hong Kong’s youngest ever female lawmaker. But – to some people – Youngspiration’s Yau Wai-ching is the most hated person in the city.

Yau was one of the fresh faces returned to the Legislative Council in the last election. But it is unclear whether Yau will be able to keep her seat, as the Chief Executive and the Secretary for Justice have lodged a legal challenge asking the court to declare her office vacant.

During her first taking of the oath, she pronounced People’s Republic of China as “People’s Refucking of Chee-na,” which some deemed as an insult to Chinese people worldwide.

yau wai-ching

Yau Wai-Ching. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

She has yet to complete her oath, but told HKFP that said she had “no regrets” over her actions. She insisted that she read the whole of the original oath, and that she made a proper effort to complete it.

“This government has no standards at all. If they want to crush you, you can read the oath normally and they can still say: ‘Oh you mispronounced this word, I will have to disqualify you,” she said. “And so if there are no standards to speak of, then why don’t I choose to be true to myself, to really make a promise to Hongkongers.”

Yau said she was not satisfied with the current situation: “I entered [LegCo] to do work… I did not join to only complete the oath, I have been feeling that my progress in work is too slow, I should not be stuck at this step.”

Despite the controversy, she is officially a lawmaker and is paid HK$93,040 a month, but she said she hoped to do more with her position.

“I must admit our street stands have not been as frequent as in the past. I very much hope I can appear at street stands after the incidents from these two months are settled.”

“Because I have told people that I cannot be a lawmaker who only shows up [at local districts] once in four years, I must not break my promise… This is my responsibility.”

Yau said her party plans to conduct more work in local districts, with its 100-odd members and other volunteers, by using her LegCo seat to bring their ideas into reality.

yau wai-ching

Yau Wai-Ching. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Age and gender

Yau, 25, is considered the only female localist in 70-member legislature.

But Yau said that she did not want to be bound by the labels.

“My age is not a problem, attitude is the problem,” she said. “In politics, your conviction or ideals are important, and they should not be bound by age. Being young or localist is not the main point.”

She dismissed the idea that she and party colleague Sixtus “Baggio” Leung were childish or naive during the swearing-in ceremony.

“We were actually very serious, Baggio Leung and I were very serious,” she said. “I never thought it was a childish act. If you paid attention to the entire process of our oath-taking, we first pledged loyalty to Hongkongers, I don’t think this is childish.”

hong kong independence shee-na youngspiration refucking

Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Often branded a “goddess” or a “bb” [baby] by supporters, Yau has also attracted countless sexist comments following the recent incidents. However, Yau said she did not care.

“When people want to attack you, it does not matter whether you are male or female,” she said. “This is why I will not draw attention to my being a female as a reason for being attacked.”

yau wai-ching

Yau Wai-Ching. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Independence

Yau emphasises that Youngspiration was founded to serve Hong Kong people, and she has stuck with the main tenets of her platform – the self-determination of Hong Kong people and changes to immigration policy.

With or without opposition from within the chamber, Yau is adamant that she will take every opportunity to raise motions on these topics.

She said she has considered that she may face further challenges from the government over the next four years.

“If there are several more cases like that, I think people will see who is one stirring up trouble, I entered [LegCo] to do work, to propose issues important to Hong Kong people, no matter livelihood issues or the future of Hong Kong, they have to face it sooner or later,” she said. “In this contrast, people can see obviously who is playing the destructive role.”

星期二過後就係星期三 #一等再等 #我已經講到好白

A photo posted by 游蕙禎 Yau Wai Ching (@yauwaiching) on

Losing focus

The day before the latest oath-taking drama exploded at LegCo on Wednesday, Yau made a seemingly nonsensical post on Instagram, drawing thousands of likes and hundreds of perplexed comments.

“After Tuesday is Wednesday,” it said.

Yau said the cryptic post was meant to raise awareness of the controversial LegCo meeting, which she and Leung were barred from. This is not the first time a public statement from her team has misfired, drawing attention away from the original focus.

See also: Explainer: Separation of powers, judicial reviews and the legal bid to stop localist lawmakers

“A successful public relations [exercise] should let the public know what you really want to say, but at the same time you need to raise people’s interests to know about the issues,” she said. “It needs a very skillful technique, but so far the issues I raised have not received the intended result.”

Yau said there was very little public response when she raised the issue of limited space on minibuses this year, but in early October, just one phrase from her generated an avalanche of media attention.

She said bok-yeh, a Cantonese slang term for “to bang”.

“Even if we want to bok-yeh, we can’t find a room, this is a very practical issue,” she said at a forum, when speaking on young people’s living space.

When asked again, a more media-savvy Yau tried to avoid the two words, simply framing the issue as “space issue,” with a smile.

“Many people know what I was actually talking about, but focused their attention on those two words,” she said. “These two cases seem to be complete opposites – I am still learning how to bring up an issue.”

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Interview: Lawmaker Yau Wai-ching has no regrets, but hopes to escape oath row and work for Hongkongers