Richard Chan, a 48-year-old businessman who made headlines after being pepper-sprayed during protests at Hong Kong's international airport has quit the boardroom to involve himself in the city's political life full time. He spoke to RFA's Mandarin Service about his support for the five demands of the six-month-old protest movement, and his recent election to the District Council:
RFA: You are perhaps best-known for getting involved in protests at the airport on Aug. 13. Why did you do that?
Chan: I did it because I knew that the standoff would get more violent if nobody intervened or helped. I knew that if someone stepped in at that point, there was a chance they might achieve something, and maybe resolve the conflict. That's why I went wading in.
RFA: Was it also because it would give you a shot at running for District Council?
Chan: What happened on Aug. 13 gave me a boost, and it gave me inspiration, so I decided to run. Firstly, I didn't want to see any uncontested districts, and so I thought I'd run if nobody else did. Secondly, that experience gave me the sense that it was possible to communicate with the public. I thought that if certain things needed doing, then I should go and do them, without the help of anyone else. If I hadn't gotten involved that day, maybe nobody would have.
RFA: As a political newcomer, what strategy did you use in the campaign against [your opponent], who had been elected for three consecutive terms?
Chan: There isn't really a particular strategy for candidates new to politics. We just did what we could, and learned from others; I imitated what they did. When the others went out onto the street, I went too. I wasn't very confident going round the villages, so I had to reach voters on the main thoroughfares.
RFA: Do you have any plans or ideas for your work at the District Council over the next four years?
Chan: The duty of district councilors is to reflect public opinion. This is very important, so if you ask me what I will be doing over the next four years, I will be listening to public opinion, and listening more closely still to the needs of local residents. But I often say we shouldn't separate people's livelihoods from their political demands and aspirations.
RFA: Many people were saying that the District Council elections were a kind of political referendum. Can you help mediate the current political stalemate between [the protest movement] and the [pro-China establishment] in Hong Kong?
Chan: I think mediation is always effective. The government is very stupid, because they expended a lot of energy starting from about 10 years ago, or even before that, to talk about the concept of mediation first, and to promote mediation. But they didn't use mediation to deal with the disputes that have arisen today. There will be a place for mediation but we must first learn how to find common goals.
Chan: What do you think will be the common goal of dissenting citizens right now?
Chan: The common goal is caring about Hong Kong. Even citizens who support the government care about Hong Kong. But everyone may have different ideas about the information they are getting, what needs to be done, and how to ask for what they want. If you ask a lot of citizens who support the government, many say that we need an independent inquiry to investigate [police violence and the government's handling of the protests]. I think even a lot of police officers would say that we need this.
Reported by Tseng Yat-yiu for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.