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Interview: ‘Tech girl’ lawmaker Eunice Yung finding a foothold in Hong Kong’s political world

Pro-Beijing camp lawmaker Eunice Yung, a newcomer to politics, is often under the media spotlight for her gaffes.

Most recently, during a visit to the mainland, Yung was asked by reporters why she did not raise the issue of the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for the upcoming Express Rail Link, which democrats say amounts to a ceding of land to China. In response, she said: “I believe there should not be too much politics inside or outside of the legislature.” A parody video ridiculing her was shared 7,400 times.

But despite the virality of her comments, there is scant media coverage of the issues that Yung stands for. Voters in Hong Kong may think of the Link REIT row or the joint checkpoint debate when they think of Yung’s mentor Regina Ip, and they may associate fellow pro-Beijing lawmaker Elizabeth Quat with IT issues and animal protection. But Yung’s standout issue – the one she is most vocal about – is perhaps e-sports, a subject that may be seen as trivial or insignificant in comparison.

‘Goddaughter of Sai Wan’

Yung, 41, was not a well known political figure before rumours of her running for office in 2015. But within eight months after joining the New People’s Party in January 2016, she won a seat in the Legislative Council with 36,183 votes.

She finished secondary school in Hong Kong, but moved to Canada for further studies after a hiccup in the public exam.

eunice yung

Eunice Yung. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

After the disqualification of lawmaker Yau Wai-ching, who was 25 when she was ousted, Yung became the youngest female lawmaker in the legislature. Many have credited her quick rise to her ties with Chinese officials, calling her the “goddaughter of Sai Wan” – suggesting that she was supported by the China Liaison Office in the Sai Wan district.

In fact, her father Yung Yan-biu was a top manager at a subsidiary of state enterprise China Resources. And Yung’s master supervisor when she was becoming a barrister, Kenneth Chan Chee-lok,was a member of a political consultative committee of Guangzhou’s Yuexiu district.

Yung was once invited by pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung to enter politics when she studied law under her at the City University of Hong Kong, but she refused as her legal career had just begun, according to Oriental Daily.

China Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

China Liaison Office in Hong Kong. File Photo: Apple Daily.

A few years later, when Yung had a stable career, she was volunteering as a legal adviser for the New Home Association – a pro-Beijing group which assists new immigrants from the mainland. It was there that she met the New People’s Party’s Regina Ip. Ip, a lawmaker and ex-Hong Kong security chief, asked Yung if she wanted to run for the legislature – this time, she accepted.

Election ‘attack’

Yung dismissed the label “goddaughter of Sai Wan” in an interview with HKFP, saying that it was an attack on her during the election. “After the election, no one mentions the same thing again,” she said.

When pressed to explain her relationship with Beijing’s office in Hong Kong, Yung said she has been in touch with the body’s education departments to work on a Hong Kong-Yunnan school linkage project. “This is the relationship I have with them. It is more like a working relationship,” she said.

Yung was thankful for Ip’s guidance. She was once asked which lawmaker she would choose to be with in the legislature in the event of the imminent apocalypse. She said she would spend the final day with Ip.

“I am actually a very young politician, I would say that,” Yung said. “This is something new for me. I won’t say I am living under anyone’s shadow, but I of course appreciate what she taught me.”

Eunice Yung Regina Ip

Eunice Yung and Regina Ip. Photo: Citizen News.

But a major obstacle for her, she said, was that her party lacked an influential online voice to promote herself and her party to the public.

“I will say we are not inactive. But what we have done – they can’t see it, they don’t know how to reach us,” she said. “We need to build a bigger platform, a bigger noise – how do we form a bigger noise? How do we tell them that we can help you?… They just don’t know where they can seek help from.”

Signature issues

Yung is also a member of the Civil Force, a group formed in 1993 by politician-turned-official Lau Kong-wah. The group, a district level political alliance with eleven elected pro-Beijing district councillors in Sha Tin and Sai Kung, was widely seen as a major driving force of her election win in 2016.

Yung spent a lot of time dealing with community issues arising from the group’s supporters, such as a request for a new municipal complex in Tai Wai.

Asked if there are any other issues she would like to pursue in the future that would help to define her public image, Yung said the issues she was pursuing did not come out of nowhere.

“Even if Eunice Yung is not here, issues are there. I’m just picking up those which haven’t been solved by my party’s members.”

eunice yung

Eunice Yung. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

When asked to comment on what other pan-Hong Kong issue she will focus on, Yung mentioned water leakage problem in households.

“I think it’s something big – because it happens in every single household,” she said. “Everyone has water seepage problem.”

She said she will also focus on the problems with Link’s management of public housing estates, the lack of parking space and traffic congestion, as well as educational issues. “Every single issue is a very huge issue – hard to be solved,” she said.

Young women in the legislature 

Of the current 68 lawmakers, only ten are female.

Yung said she did not feel any pressure as a female lawmaker: “I don’t think gender is one of the issues which hinders what I am advocating for.”

lawmaker group photo

A group photo of lawmakers on November 29, 2016. Photo: LegCo.

“So far, I am still single, so I don’t have a family burden. My parents are still very healthy, they can take care of themselves. I can do whatever I want, I can serve the community more, I can work more,” she said.

But she said that working women in Hong Kong may have different priorities, such as spending more time with their families.

“As a LegCo member for two years, I’ve been staying out of home most of the time. I go out for work at – like – eight in the morning, and I go back home at eleven or twelve [at night],” she said. “When I have my own family, if I got married, I might change my priority.”

‘Tech girl’

Yung may not have been a Hong Kong lawmaker if just one minor detail of her life had changed – she had sought a role  at the American corporation Electronic Arts.

“I am actually a tech girl, that’s why I like playing games – I tried to get into the gaming industry before, but failed to do so,” Yung said.

Eunice Yung Clash Royale

Eunice Yung playing mobile game Clash Royale using her real name. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

At the time, she had just graduated from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver studying computer science. One thing stopped her from getting the job was that the company did not want to apply for a visa for a foreigner.

But Yung’s interest did not wane, and she has since been advocating for the developing of e-sports in the city. Competitive gaming is an official medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou.

She said the general public has yet to accept gaming as a sport – which requires team effort and cooperation. They instead link it to video game addiction. The solution, Yung said, is to put more effort to promote the satisfaction and honour in playing e-sports.

The prime age for young people to participate in e-sports is between 15 and 20 years old, but the top prizes for competitions are often in millions of dollars, she said.

But Yung said prize money may not be the best reason to encourage parents to allow their children to join the sport: “It’s very difficult to be the champion in the world… even more difficult than winning the Mark Six [lottery].”

Dota 2 International

The International, an annual Dota 2 tournament at the KeyArena in Seattle in 2014. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Jakob Wells.

“You have to spend loads of time playing the games, or maybe you have to pay for better equipment, it’s one of the most difficult things in the world,” she said.

Yung said there are better opportunities in the mainland than in Hong Kong, especially for e-sports.

“I see new chances and new opportunities up there. So I will ask more young people to go up [to the mainland] and see what they can do,” she said.

‘Bad politics’

Asked what she thought of the viral clip of her “too much politics” comment, Yung complimented its creator, saying they must spent some time on it.

“Thank you,” she said with a laugh.

Eunice Yung

Eunice Yung with students at the Legislative Council. Photo: LegCo.

In her own defence, she said she did not have time to fully elaborate on why she believed politics hindered the legislature’s progress, when she was asked by reporters.

“Everything has politics… I was only mentioning that we have to spend less time talking about bad politics.”

She said such “bad politics” can be seen at the bills committee over the joint checkpoint arrangement, where the pro-Beijing camp and democrats have failed to reach a consensus over its constitutionality. Yung criticised the democrats for asking similar questions over and over again.

“They just don’t accept that West Kowloon is one of the mainland’s ports,” she said, in reference to the new terminal. “This is the bad politics we are facing.”

Interview: 'Tech girl' lawmaker Eunice Yung finding a foothold in Hong Kong's political world