Defeated district councillor Rosanda Mok Ka-han plans to shake-up ADPL as new party chair
By Rubie Fan
Last year’s district council elections will be remembered for the success of young newcomers and the felling of political heavyweights. In Sham Shui Po, the veteran Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood (ADPL) district councillor and legislator Frederick Fung Kin-kee lost his seat to a 25-year-old pro-Beijing candidate who was dubbed a pro-establishment “little flower” by the mainstream media.
Not so far away in Ma Tau Wai, Rosanda Mok Ka-han suffered a similar fate, losing her seat by just 45 votes to a 24-year-old pro-establishment rookie. Ironically, some mainstream media referred to Mok as a “past-it little flower”.
“The residents thought that Mok Ka-han had been the district councillor for a long time and they should let the young people try,” she says. But the 43-year-old is anything but “past it”. Although she was disappointed with the result, she chose to stay in the ADPL and serve her former constituents.
Sitting between stacked up paper boxes, Mok starts counselling two women in her office in Ma Tau Wai Estate, the public housing estate she has served for more than 15 years. Only now, she is doing so as the new chairperson of the ADPL.
The man she replaced as chairman is her mentor, former district councillor and legislator Bruce Liu Sing-lee. Mok chose to work as Liu’s assistant after graduating from City University because she identified with the ADPL’s motto of helping the needy from the grassroots. She says that as a student she had taken summer jobs working with a “rich political party” that she does not identify by name. “I couldn’t agree with the work of the rich political party. They thought you could make things work with money. But I think there’s a difference between wanting to really serve society and hankering for the status of a councillor. There are things money can’t buy,” she says.
In 1999, Liu encouraged her to contest the Ma Tau Wai seat in the District Council Election. She was 27 when she won on her first attempt. Young female district councillors were a rarity at the time and stereotypes about women were common among councillors.
Some experienced male councillors questioned a woman’s ability to serve the community and thought female councillors treated the work as something to be done in their spare time. On the contrary, Mok found that her identity as a woman and as a mother helped her on some issues.
“A female district councillor has a certain advantage on some women’s issues. You would be more able to view them from a female’s point of view,” she says.
An example is the campaign she fought alongside other district councillors for more comprehensive breastfeeding support facilities around two years ago. Mok points out they were not just advocating for the setting up of nursing rooms but also for support for mothers’ emotional and mental health.
She says some of her male colleagues in the council did not understand the issue. One of them, who is also a university professor, suggested mothers could learn how to breastfeed from YouTube videos and claimed there was not much support for breastfeeding in other countries.
“Mothers sometimes have to sit in a conference room or even the toilet to pump milk. Only women would understand the hard feelings of having to hide away,” Mok says.