Mandela spent more than 27 years of his life in prison, before his release in 1990. He had been arrested in 1962 and found guilty of trying to overthrow South Africa's white-minority National Party government, which imposed segregation and limited the rights of black people.
Let me first share one of the inspiring stories of his life. In 1990, many white people in South Africa considered themselves superior to black people. Many white South Africans wanted to go to war with the African National Congress, the political party challenging apartheid.
Mandela, the leader of the ANC, admitted that the black people could not stand up to the white population because of their lack of resources.
However, Mandela told the white leaders to remember two things. "You cannot win because of our numbers; you cannot kill all of us," he said. "And you cannot win because of the international community; they will rally to our support and will stand with us."
In the end, he took two warring sides - black against white, the National Party versus the ANC - and made them realise that they needed each other.
Many other such moments were to follow. At every turn, Mandela chose reconciliation and peace over war and violence. He even decided to suspend the armed struggle against the apartheid government, which meant taking away the threat of violence against the state.
Having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, Mandela was widely recognised for supporting peace over violence.
In my opinion, this story not only shows Mandela's wish to pursue peace, but also his brilliant instincts.
He believed the unwavering spirit and determination of the nation's black people was the key to their success. He convinced his followers to be peaceful and united. He increased their power against the state and brought apartheid to a peaceful end.
None of this could have been achieved if the black population had refused to protest peacefully.
Here in Hong Kong, people want a better democracy. I think that our unity and peace are vital to achieve this. Throwing eggs or cuddly toys at our politicians does little for democracy. It makes protesters look angry, as if they want to stir up trouble in our society.
Hongkongers need a leader like Mandela to guide us to real democracy peacefully. Also, we should think about what we truly need, and never compromise. Regret is not an option.