International Women’s Day Feature: Wan Chai’s Woman Takes Charge

Clarisse Yeung is the chairwoman of Wan Chai District Council. She has been the district councillor of Tai Hang since 2016. She is also an artist and a former lecturer.

At first glance, one may perceive Clarisse Yeung as the girl next door, with her shoulder-length hair, her fringe, and her bright smile. Besides community related issues, the most you see on her Facebook page are photos of cats. Her background — being a visual arts master’s degree holder and previously a lecturer specialising in arts, culture and policy research — gives a tender touch to her persona.

Credit: Clarisse Yeung’s Facebook page

Yet, being gentle is not equivalent to being weak. “Gentleness can be strong,” Yeung said firmly in her warm voice. From being the only democrat in the previous district council term to the chairwoman of Wan Chai district, she has always strived to turn the council on its ear. For example, she is the very first councillor to do a Facebook Live during council meetings. She wishes to open up the council to the public — not just to let citizens understand what is going on, but also for them to be involved in the decision-making process.

Studying art is a vital part of her life, a part that makes her who she is today. The infinite possibility of art gives her the perseverance to fight against injustice and to try her best even when there is only a slight chance of success. 

The 34-year-old councillor has her ambitions. While she appreciates the extra government funding on promoting arts and culture in the past few years, more has to be done. “It is really difficult to say how much is done with the funding,” she commented. In her opinion, an ‘art census’ is essential. Data like the locations of art spaces in the city and the amount of resources contributed to art need to be obtained to do an urban art planning.

Yeung is clear on her role and what she wants to achieve in her term. “A diverse community should offer equal opportunity to people with different genders and sexual orientations,” she said. Community is not just about those who can speak up for themselves. “We have to take care of children, elderly and animals as well,” she argues. She has been pushing forward the implementation of a pet garden in Tai Hang since her last term.

Credit: Clarisse Yeung’s Facebook page

In a male-dominated district council field, young female councillors often catch the eyes of both the media and the public. Yeung does not think her gender makes her superior or inferior in her work, because what matters is experience and effort. Reluctant to attach labels on herself, she believes that being a woman is not exactly relevant to the challenges that she faces. “In fact, I think that titles like mister or missus are unnecessary,” she added, “perhaps we can even eliminate them to include more gender identities.”

Yeung’s leadership not only won the hearts of voters once again in the 2019 District Council Election, but also contributed to making Kickstart Wan Chai the biggest winner in the election as it gained six out of the 13 seats.

List of Kickstart Wan Chai candidates in the 2019 District Council Election (Credit: Kickstart Wan Chai Facebook page)

Girl power is a rising force in the district council, particularly for the pan-democrats. Wan Chai District Council has been the first and only one in Hong Kong in which more than half of its councillors are women. While the pan-democrats celebrated their moment of triumph in the district council election, female members also pulled off a notable victory as more than 80 women have been elected, hitting an all-time high in the history of Hong Kong’s district councils.

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