Hong Kong's most popular legislator doesn't see herself as a natural politician. "I don't think I have the personality," says Audrey Eu. "I would be happy to sit on the side and look at how other people do things." In fact, the self-effacing former chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Assn. jokes that the only reason she has stood out is her height. At 1.75 meters, "I am very tall for a Hong Kong woman," she says.
Modesty aside, Eu, 50, has been a populist powerhouse since she won a seat in the Legislative Council in 2000. The London School of Economics graduate is a leading advocate for democracy in the former British colony and helped launch a campaign in late 2002 to educate people about the local government's attempt to ram anti-sedition legislation through the legislature. After half a million people took to the streets to protest the law last July, Hong Kong's government withdrew the proposal.
Eu has shown courage, too. Even though three outspoken radio talk-show hosts have recently quit their jobs, citing pressure from pro-Beijing forces, Eu continues to speak out on the weekly show she broadcasts over the Internet. She also co-hosts a weekly show on Commercial Radio, one of the city's biggest stations.
As a result of her defense of civil rights, Eu regularly ranks at the top of a University of Hong Kong poll of favorite lawmakers. Now, Eu and her colleagues are taking on an even more contentious issue. They have formed a new group to promote political reform in Hong Kong -- the Article 45 Concern Group, named after the section of Hong Kong's Basic Law that deals with political development and the goal of universal suffrage. In April, Beijing announced it would not allow the territory's next leader to be chosen by universal suffrage in 2007, when current Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa steps down.
Eu isn't giving up. She contends Hong Kong people need full political participation now, not at some distant point in the future, as pro-Beijing leaders propose. "I think that every Hong Kong person has a role to play," she says. With her solid grasp of its legal aspects, Eu is well-positioned to take the lead in the political-reform debate as pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps gear up for pivotal legislative elections in September.