Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, who announced his intention to run for Hong Kong leader on Thursday, has said that he would have joined the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests if he were 50 years younger.

Woo said in an RTHK programme on Friday that he did not understand the requests of the young Occupy protesters at the time, and did not have the chance to meet them, since he belongs to a class of people who have no demand.

Woo Kwok-hing
Woo Kwok-hing. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Woo said that he would have participated in the Occupy movement if he were young, because young people – including his teenage self – tend to be “radical.” He added that young people would “lose face” if they did not join the protests when their friends did.

The retired judge also said that the Occupy protests were “fun” for young people, as they could camp out, receive free meals, get tutorial help, and have late night conversations with friends.

He added that if he were the chief executive at the time, police would not have had the chance to fire tear gas as he would have met with the Occupy protesters and sought a solution.

Woo said that those in positions of power should be lenient towards young people, since Hong Kong’s future depends on them.

Hong Kong independence

Woo also said on Thursday that Hong Kong independence is impossible on the basis that it contravenes the Basic Law, but he would like to talk to those young people who support independence.

“I haven’t met those people, and I don’t know their political ideals. I would say publicly, I am eager to meet with them,” he said.

occupy central umbrella
The 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests. Photo: Wikicommons.

“If they make sense, I will definitely listen to them. I don’t understand the issue yet, so I will listen to them,” he added. “Maybe after hearing them out, I would tell [them] that what [they] are advocating is actually not independence.”

Woo said that, as a judge, he was used to listening to opinions from both sides to find the most reasonable answer. “I am very tolerant,” he said.

See also: Retired judge announces run for Chief Exec, criticising CY’s failure to bridge gaps in society

Woo is not the first former judge to enter a chief executive race. Yang Ti-liang and Simon Li Fook-sean ran in 1996 but failed in their bids.

Woo, 70, has served in multiple public roles including chairman of the former election commission and later the Electoral Affairs Commission between 1993 and 2006. He was the first ever Commissioner on Interception of Communications and Surveillance between 2006 and 2012.

His last judicial appointment was as a deputy judge of the Court of First Instance of the High Court from August 17 to October 18. He announced his intention to run for Hong Kong’s top job a week after his temporary appointment ended.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.