Dickson Chau Ka-fat (周嘉發) is the underdog in the Yau Yat Tsuen constituency. He’s hoping the LSD will be seen as a compassionate fighter so voters help him overcome.
A late night campaigner accosts potential voters, but doesn’t even look old enough to get into a Category III movie. However, a young face belies the intentions of a deadly serious young man seeking to represent residents in the Yau Yat Tsuen district council constituency. His name is Dickson Chau Ka-fat (周嘉發).
Chau, aged 24, will represent the League of Social Democrats (LSD) in the upcoming District Council elections. The fact that a newcomer who was born in the 90s is now preparing to stand for elections while people are still talking about political participation of the 80s generation bears heavy symbolism. But for Chau, his youthful appearance, projecting inexperience, has gained him some attention he did not aim for.
“When I was campaigning, one out of 20 people passing-by would approach me on political issues while seven or eight were simply amazed that a ‘teenager’ is now striving to serve them in the district council,” Chau tells HT.
David and Goliath
This could be a disadvantage to Chau, considering the voting pattern in previous elections. Since Yau Yat Tsuen became a separate constituency in 2007, Jimmy Kwok Chun-wah (郭振華), 62, from the pro-establishment Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA) has been the man for residents in the low-density upmarket neighbourhood. Even among the Sham Shui Po District Councilors, Kwok is the grand old lion: He is the current chairman of the Sham Shui Po DC.
Dominic Lee Tsz-king (李梓敬), chairman of the Liberal Party Youth Committee, is also building support in the same district council constituency area after losing in the previous Kwai Tsing DC election. With rumours suggesting that Kwok might withdraw from the race, people from the estate could see new blood representing them regardless of the outcome.
Granted, Chau’s profile may not look as persuasive compared to the two candidates from the pro-establishment camp. Nor does he have the ample resources of his competitors. But he is not falling far behind. He may be associated with the outrageous LSD, but has cultured a buttoned-down image in campaign banners and on street intercepts in the affluent community.
He and former head of Hong Kong Federation of Students Alex Chow were committee members of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union. During the Occupy Movement, he assisted in coordination work – to a point that he was once held by the police when escorting resources to Admiralty and was later charged with allegedly “gathering goods for illegal use”. Meanwhile, as a native raised in Yau Yat Tsuen, Chau is able to identify many areas in which he could help bring about change in the community.
“Excessive lead in drinking water is no doubt the most recent talking point. Like other parties, we are also collecting water samples from the residents for lead tests,” Chau says, “Minibus safety and management of roadside trees are huge concerns as well.” He was also campaigning to improve the lighting condition of a major alley to Festival Walk, and distributed leaflets examining a wide range of policies.
Marketing on a small budget is a key skill for district councillor aspirants. A twist of nomenclature has caught on in the district through an unusual connection between him and movie star Chow Yun-fat whose Chinese name is just a character apart: Dickson Chau is 周嘉發, Chow Yun-fat is 周潤發.
The celebrity is fondly known as ‘Brother Fat (發哥)’ and Chau was accordingly nicknamed ‘Little Fat (發仔)’ – with no reference to their relative masses.
“People seem to like that nickname, and I’ve used it to identify myself since then,” Chau joked. A possible connection with another ‘Fat’ – Uncle Fat, aka Lau Wong-fat (劉皇發), in the Legislative Council may be more politically relevant but certainly less attractive for the LSD candidate.
It is foreseeable that Chau’s main supporters would be pro pan-democratic voters. Pro-dems normally will not run candidates against each other in the same constituency. But it may not be so straightforward given Chau’s party allegiance. Once tagged as the city’s most radical force, LSD is now losing ground to the far rightists and ‘localists’ while the mainstream pan-democrats are still distancing themselves from the likes of ‘Long Hair’ who leads LSD. But Chau believes that he has a clear and effective positioning.
“We advocate policies with priorities given to local residents. Meanwhile, we are more ‘loving’ than the more radical ‘localists’ in the sense that we regard new immigrants as part of the local community.” Chau elaborates, “We are here to fight for all Hongkongers for their wellbeing and to realise their democratic aspirations. There should be no differentiation among Hong Kong residents.”
The odds may be against him, but Chau will seek a movie star ending where the underdog wins the day against tough odds, just like his movie-star namesake, Brother Fat.