Nathan Leung has Down syndrome, but hearing him talk about his Friday night plans—pizza, then bowling with friends—he sounds just like any 19-year-old. The King George V pupil, who graduates this year, loves bowling. He’s also into juggling, listening to Justin Bieber and, well, posing for the camera.
We’re shooting him with four others who also have the genetic disorder—Lam Kwok-wai, 38, Coco Yip, 31, Yung Yan-yee, 13, and Chu Po-i, 2—and it’s clear right from the start that the teenager is very much at ease in the limelight. “Take one more,” he instructs our photographer. “This time of me turning my back to the camera and looking sideways. Mysterious.”
Seconds later, Victoria Tang-Owen, the new president of the Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association (HKDSA), walks on set and Nathan welcomes her with open arms. The rest of the group join in and we start snapping away. The mood is cheerful, light. Everyone is nothing but a great sport in front of the flashes.
“They all have such great personalities,” says Victoria between shots. “They’re real characters in their own unique ways. We want people to understand that—and embrace it.”
Established in 1987, the non-profit Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association has been at the forefront of serving those affected by the disorder and their family members through support and vocational rehabilitation services and activities.
These range from prenatal counselling, meeting groups and education platforms to sports classes, language courses, arts and crafts, movie nights and training opportunities to introduce people with Down syndrome into the workplace.
“We work really hard to promote the understanding that people with Down syndrome are part of society just as much as anyone else,” Victoria says. “Social inclusion is essential to really create a change, both in the life prospects [these individuals face] and perceptions from the outside world.”
Victoria was appointed president in November, but she’s been unofficially involved with the association for years. Her father, the late David Tang, held the role from 1993 to 2017.
"Victoria had long been familiar with the group’s structure, mission and fundraising efforts,” says her husband, Christopher Owen, who serves the association in an advisory position to help with marketing and communication. “When Sir David passed away in the summer, she was asked to step in and continue his legacy."