Emily Lau Wai-hing
|Emily Lau at City Forum, 2010|
|Chairlady of the Democratic Party|
16 December 2012
|Preceded by||Albert Ho|
|Member of the Legislative Council|
1 July 1998
|Preceded by||New parliament|
|Constituency||New Territories East|
9 October 1991 – 30 June 1997
|Preceded by||New constituency|
|Succeeded by||Replaced by Provisional Legislative Council|
|Constituency||New Territories East|
21 January 1952 |
|Nationality||Hong Kong Chinese|
|Political party||Frontier (1996–2008)
Democratic Party (2008–present)
|Spouse(s)||John Ball (m. 1983–85)
Winston Poon (m. 1989–2006)
|Alma mater||University of Southern California
London School of Economics
Emily Lau Wai-hing, JP (Chinese: 劉慧卿; born 21 January 1952) is a prominent liberal, government critic and woman politician in Hong Kong champions press freedom and human rights. She is a journalist-turn-politician when she was elected to the Legislative Council of Hong Kong in the 1991 LegCo elections. She is currently the Legislative Councillor for the New Territories East and the chairlady of the Democratic Party, the flagship pro-democracy party.
Lau was born on 21 January 1952. Her family moved to Hong Kong from the Guangdong Province in 1948 during the Chinese Civil War. In 1962, her family transferred her to the then new English-language Maryknoll Sisters' School in Happy Valley, where she studied until 1972. When she was in primary school, she was given the English name Emily by her aunt.
Lau traveled to the United States to study journalism studies at the University of Southern California from 1973 to 1976 and graduated with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism. She later cited the Watergate scandal and investigative journalism having had a major formative effect on her views on the role and potential of the press.
After returning Hong Kong, Lau worked between 1976 and 1978 as a reporter for the South China Morning Post, the major English-language newspaper in Hong Kong. She then moved into television journalism when she joined the Television Broadcasts (TVB) and promoted to senior producer in 1981. She furthered her studies in the early 1980s at the London School of Economics and completed an M.Sc. in International Relations in 1982, then followed a position as an assistant producer within the BBC from 1982 to 1984, while concurrently working as the London correspondent of Hong Kong TVB News.
It was the time the People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom discussed over the fate of Hong kong after 1997. She later noted, "My passion for politics began to develop in 1982, when China told Britain that it would impose a settlement on Hong Kong if the two sides could not reach an agreement by 1984. From that moment, politics began to matter."
Emily Lau married John Ball in 1983 and returned to Hong Kong as Hong Kong correspondent of the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review in 1984. The position allowed her access and insights into the politics of the colonial Hong Kong. During the time Lau took up position at the Journalism and Communication Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in 1987 and subsequently at the Extra-Mural Department of the University of Hong Kong (HKU).
In December 1984, after signing the Sino-British Joint Declaration, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher flew to Hong Kong to give a press conference. Lau questioned Thatcher, “Prime Minister two days ago you signed an agreement with China promising to deliver over 5 million people into the hands of a communist dictatorship. Is that morally defensible, or is it really true that in international politics the highest form of morality is one’s own national interest?” Thatcher said everyone in Hong Kong was happy with the agreement, and Lau may be a solitary exception.
She also involved with the Hong Kong Journalists Association during this period, serving as an executive committee member, vice-chair and later on chairperson from 1989 to 1991. She remarried to a Hong Kong lawyer, Winston Poon, QC in 1989.
Last years of the colonial period
When the direct elections for the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo) were first introduced in the 1991 elections, Lau resigned from her posts and ran for office in the New Territories East geographical constituency (GC). She campaigned for five months as a new breed of populist politicians in Hong Kong who can appeal wide range of Hong Kong populace. The elections ended with a liberal landslide victory, she became the first woman elected in direct elections along with other pro-democracy politicians of the United Democrats of Hong Kong (UDHK), largely due to the fear of Hong Kong populace towards Beijing after the Tiananmen massacre in early June 1989.
In this period, Lau became a household name in Hong Kong and the legislator came to be both a champion of her constituents and a perceived thorn in the side of the Hong Kong administration. She was equally a critic of Britain and Beijing. When the last British Governor Chris Patten aimed at faster the pace of democratisation and carried out the reform packages which enfranchised millions electorates in the functional constituency indirect elections. Although the reform packages were ferociously criticised by Beijing government for violating the Sino-British agreements, she introduced a private bill which would even allow all 60 Legislative Council seats to be directly elected in 1995. The bill was beaten by only one vote. She was re-elected to the legislature by popular vote, winning with 58.51 percent of votes cast, the highest figure among all the geographical constituencies.
In October 1994, Lau led legislators in urging Britain to grant full citizenship to 3.5 million native Hong Kong British Dependent Territories Citizens (BDTC). As the situation intensified, she led a cross-party delegation of Hong Kong legislators to Britain to lobby government and opposition politicians ahead of the LegCo debate. The five councillors met the British Foreign Secretary and other senior officials, but achieved little.
Growing disillusionment with the Democratic Party, the pro-democracy party formed and succeeded the United Democrats of Hong Kong in 1994, and other liberal forces, Lau founded a new political grouping, The Frontier, in August 1996 and became the convenor, having five legislators and becoming the fourth largest political grouping in the legislature in the run up to handover. Lau remained in the Legislative Council until it was disbanded by the PRC following the handover on 1 July 1997.
Lau also participated in street protests, and in December 1996 she was arrested within 29 others while demonstrating outside the closed-door election for the post-handover Chief Executive. Over the following several months leading up to the July 1997 handover, Lau urged the Chief Executive-designate Tung Chee-hwa to stand up against Beijing, following his "unreserved support" for the Beijing-hand-picked Provisional Legislative Council abolishing or modifying some Hong Kong laws covering human rights and civil liberties. In March, Lau called for boycott of Hong Kong's future first election under PRC rule if the voting system was unfair and the proportional representation favoured pro-Beijing candidates.
Early post-handover era
She was required to relinquish her British passport and adopt Chinese citizenship in order to be eligible to run for the first Legislative Council elections after the handover in 1998. The pro-democracy camp won 63 percent of the popular vote and Lau was returned again to the Legislative Council through New Territories East and still remained in.
Lau led The Frontier at the forefront of pressure on the government for early democratisation and was an outspoken critic on human rights and a number of other policy areas in the HKSAR; she was skeptical of the functioning of the "One country, two systems" principle. Beside pushing for tightened human rights protection, greater efforts on equal opportunities, and the establishment of a statutory right to access to information, she demanded a redraft of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's constitutional document, and democratisation in China. On the economy she supported legislation on fair trading, oppose importation of foreign labour, and called for a minimum wage. Lau received the Bruno Kreisky Award for her human rights work in 1998.
In 1998, Lau sued the Hong Kong branch of the Xinhua News Agency over its slow response to her queries for personal information. She lost the case and was ordered by the court to pay legal fees of HK$1.6 million. Claiming that her lawsuit was in the public interest, she attempted to raise funds from the public to repay the debt. In December 2000, with over $1 million still outstanding, the agency (now the Central People's Government Liaison Office) applied to the court for her bankruptcy.
On international issues, Lau is supportive of self-determination for Taiwan. In 2003, she and another legislator, James To of the Democratic Party, attended a seminar entitled "Hong Kong Under One Country, Two Systems" organised by a pro-Taiwan independence group headed by former ROC President Lee Teng-hui. Lau stated that "Taiwan's future should be determined by the Taiwan people themselves". Her subsequent refusal to explicitly recognise Taiwan as a part of the PRC during an interview again drew criticism from more conservative sectors of the Hong Kong society, including attacks from pro-Beijing politician Leung Chun-ying, who became Chief Executive in 2012.
Beside her legal problems, Lau has been the victim of several criminal nuisance cases, including telephone nuisance to her office in January and October 2003, and two cases where food and/or faeces were splashed outside her office in Shatin in July and September 2003. A woman and an old man were arrested and fined in connection with some of these cases. Most notably, an arson attack against Lau's office took place on 21 June 2004. Posters outside her office, about an upcoming rally, were burned. Words were left saying "All Chinese traitors must die."
She fiercely opposed to the controversial national security bill in 2002 and 2003 to meet requirements of the Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23. After the 2003 July 1 march in 2003, she was listed second on the joint-candidate list with other pro-democrats in the New Territories East and was elected to the Legislative Council elections in 2004 Legislative Council elections. She was elected chairwoman of the Legislative Council Finance Committee and had chaired for occasions until 2012.
Joining the Democratic Party and 2012 reform package
After the 2008 LegCo elections in September which saw Emily Lau was re-elected in New Territories East with the fewest votes, the Frontier merged into the more mainstream Democratic Party in November and Lau immediately became one of its two vice-chairpersons. After The Frontier merged into the Democratic Party, her earlier strident stance toward the Beijing government and opposition to pro-Beijing supporters mellowed somewhat and was seen by some even to have been compromised.
On 24 May 2010, Emily Lau and Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho and veteran Cheung Man-kwong met with Beijing representatives headed by Li Gang, the deputy director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong – the first meeting between Democratic Party leaders and senior officials from the central government since the Tiananmen protests of 1989 – for negotiations over 2012 constitutional reform package. In June 2010, as vice-chairperson of Democratic Party, she voted with her party in favour of the government’s reform package, which included the party's late amendment – accepted by Beijing – to hold a popular vote for five new District Council (second) functional constituencies. She has become the main target attacked and discredited by the radical democrats, Wong Yuk-man and the People Power.
Chairlady of the Democratic Party
In the party leadership election on 16 December 2012, she was elected chairwoman, narrowly defeating vice-chairman Sin Chung-kai, by 149 votes to 133, becoming the first female leader of the party since its formation in 1994. For three months prior she had been acting chairperson of the party, following the resignation of Albert Ho, in the aftermath of the 2012 Legislative Council election. In December 2014, she was re-elected chairwoman in the party leadership election.
- "Emily Lau Wai-hing elected Democratic Party chairwoman". South China Morning Post. 16 December 2012.
- Lee, Lily Xiao Hong; Stefanowska, A. D.; Wiles, Sue, eds. (2003). Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume 2. M.E. Sharpe. p. 290-292.
- "Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP". Legislative Council of Hong Kong.
- "Featured Alumni: Emily Lau (MSc in International Relations, 1982)". Department of International Relations blog.
- Democratic Party becomes moderate but no wiser
- Cheers and jeers for political reform vote, SCMP, Gary Cheung, Albert Wong and Fanny WY Fung, 25 June 2010
- Lau makes political history, The Standard, 17 December 2012
- 2012 Election Blog of Emily Lau
- Home Page of Emily Lau
- Emily Lau's Letter to former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook (In the letter she urged the UK to grant British citizenship for all BN(O)s)
- Emily Lau biography in German and interview in English in cosmopolis.ch
|Legislative Council of Hong Kong|
|New constituency||Member of Legislative Council
Representative for New Territories East
With: Andrew Wong (1991–1995)
Provisional Legislative Council
|New parliament||Member of Legislative Council
Representative for New Territories East
With: Cyd Ho (1998–2000)
Andrew Wong (1998–2004)
Lau Kong-wah, Andrew Cheng (1998–2012)
Nelson Wong (2000–2004)
James Tien, Li Kwok-ying (2004–2008)
Ronny Tong, Leung Kwok-hung (2004–present)
Nelson Wong (2008–2012)
Gary Chan (2008–present)
Fernando Cheung, Elizabeth Quat, Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, James Tien, Gary Fan (2012–present)
|Party political offices|
|New political party||Convenor of the Frontier
|Merged into Democratic Party|
|Vice Chairperson of Democratic Party
Served alongside: Sin Chung-kai
|Chairperson of Democratic Party
|Order of precedence|
Member of the Legislative Council
|Hong Kong order of precedence
Member of the Legislative Council
Member of the Legislative Council