One of Asia's leading democracy advocates, Szeto Wah has worked for decades to establish, preserve and protect Hong Kong people's democratic institutions, freedom and human rights. A core member of the Democratic Party, Mr. Szeto first came to public prominence as a long-time leader of Hong Kong's largest teachers' union. Time Magazine named him one of the 25 most influential people in Hong Kong, calling him "Democracy's Foot Soldier." Known to the people of Hong Kong simply as "Uncle Wah," he was one of Hong Kong's earliest elected representatives, and continues to be one of the Special Administrative Region's most popular and admired politicians.
Education and Background:
Mr. Szeto was born in 1931 and educated in Hong Kong. He has degrees from Queen's College, the Grantham College of Education, and the Evening School of Higher Chinese Studies. He is a teacher and school principal by profession.
Mr. Szeto has long devoted himself to the development of democracy in Hong Kong. In 1973, he formed the Professional Teachers' Union, one of the earliest pressure groups in Hong Kong to fight for the interest of teachers. He served as its president from 1974-90 and as its vice president from 1990-96. He is currently a Senate chairman in the organization.
In 1985, Hong Kong had its first functional constituency elections, in which Mr. Szeto was elected to represent the Education professionals in the territory. In the same year, he served as a member of the Basic Law Drafting Committee, the body appointed by Beijing to draft Hong Kong's post-1997 constitution. Following his condemnation of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, he withdrew from the committee. He is also the chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement of China, the organization formed in 1989 to support the democracy movement in China.
Szeo Wah was a founding member of the United Democrats of Hong Kong (UDHK), Hong Kong's first political party. In March 1995, Szeto Wah won a hotly contested seat as an Urban Councillor in the Kwun Tong district, earning 58 percent of the popular vote. He followed that victory with a second, decisive win of 55 percent in the 1995 Legislative Council elections, the last to be held before the transfer of sovereignty. He has been elected to the Legislative Council in 1985, 1988, 1991, 1995 and 1998, making him one of the council's most senior members.
At midnight on June 30, Beijing abolished the elected Legislative Council and replaced it with an appointed legislature. Mr. Szeto was ousted along with his Democratic Party colleagues -- while the candidate he had defeated in 1995 took his seat in the China-appointed body. Szeto Wah will stand for a seat representing the Kowloon East geographical constituency in the May 1998 elections.
In late 1996, Szeto Wah led a public challenge to China to make its appointment system for the selection of the Chief Executive more democratic, transparent and accountable to the public. In this campaign, he ran as the Democratic Party's nominee for the "Shadow Chief Executive" and secured over 100,000 signatures in his endeavor to educate the public about their rights.
Szeto Wah's dedication to freedom of expression and human rights has been recognized worldwide. In December 1997, the Czech Republic presented Mr. Szeto with its distinguished "HomoHomini" Human Rights Award.
Mr. Szeto is the Constitutional Affairs spokesperson and Social Welfare deputy spokesperson for the Democratic Party.