The villagers have shown their support for Brown in the three elections he has fought and won since 2003. He is the first expatriate village head in Hong Kong under the dual-heads electoral system which was introduced after a landmark Court of Final Appeal ruling in the same year. Under the system, indigenous residents pick one head while the entire village selects the second head.
The three consecutive wins did not come out of the blue. As half of the residents are foreigners, it may seem that Brown has an advantage in elections. But he is irritated that newspaper reports have suggested his victories were “a matter of luck”. He thinks the media has overlooked the real situation.
Under the current rules for elections, not all the non-indigenous locals or expatriates are granted the right to vote. Only those who have lived in the village for at least three years are allowed to cast their ballots. Out of the 21 expatriates in San Shek Wan village, only eight are qualified to vote. Brown stands no chance of winning if he merely counts on the votes of expatriates. He believes he can win only because he can convince Chinese residents, both non-indigenous and indigenous, that what he stands for is worth voting for.
“I will be dumped if I just talk to the expats,” he stresses. “You cannot win the election in this village by luck. You have to win it by persuading or convincing people that what you are offering is better than the alternative.”
“The alternative” he mentions is the indigenous chief Mo Ngan-fuk and his family. Mo and his family members have run against Brown in the two-heads election since Brown first beat Mo’s son, Mo Kam-tong, in the first election eight years ago.
With the mention of his nemesis, Brown launches into a litany of complaints about Mo’s behaviour. “He is just a 77-year-old man who has no friends. People all hate him for all sorts of horrible things he does.”
Brown says Mo objects to every infrastructure project he proposes, citing bad feng-shui. He has also locked Brown out of the village office. Brown has never set foot in the office in the eight years he has been resident representative and villagers take turns to provide their homes as meeting venues.
Brown can barely contain his criticism of Mo. “He does not even organize a celebration on Chinese New Year which he should. I do not think he celebrates anything. He just sits there counting money,” he says, bursting into laughter.
Funnily enough, Mo describes Brown in exactly the same hostile way. He complains that Brown counts everything in the village as his own achievement. The septuagenarian is animated when he counters that Brown also opposes all his suggested projects, like constructing a concrete footpath up a hill. He thinks Brown is selfish, unreasonable and troublesome. Mo also says he does not communicate with Brown because he does not know English.