Pigs, Dogs and the Chief Executive of Hong Kong

The newly appointed chief executive of Hong Kong SAR, Donald Tsang, had his first question-and-answer session at the Legislative Council yesterday.  This photograph shows him entering the hall.

As expected, Leung Kwok-hung (aka "Long Hair") pulled another media stunt.  As Donald Tsang entered, Leung stood up and raised a placard for the photographers in the gallery.  Leung would be ejected from the session by the council president after refusing to remove the sign.  As a parting gesture, Leung ripped up a copy of Tsang's fourth report on constitutional reform. 

Leung's stunt took 25 minutes away from the question-and-answer session; no matter, since nothing important ever gets asked or answered anyway.

The non-Chinese reader must be dying to know: What was written on the sign?

小 圈 選 舉 、 豬 狗 不 如
全 面 普 選 、 還 政 於 民
官 商 勾 結 、 天 地 不 容

Small circle election is worse than pigs and dogs
Full universal suffrage and return power to the people
Collusion between government and businesses is decried by Heaven and Earth

Afterwards, Leung said: "We should never tolerate a Chief Executive elected by the 800-strong Election Committee to cheat all 6.8 million people in Hong Kong."  This is where Leung is off the mark.  He is intellectually lazy by recycling old stuff, just as the sign that he used is re-cycled from a previous occasion (see Wen Wei Po).  This scene had happened before (see the New York Times Sunday Magazine report by Daisann McLane via Longhair.hk):

The Legislative Council of Hong Kong meets every Wednesday afternoon in a three-story building that looks like any state capitol, with standard-issue neo-Classical dome and high columns all around. From the council's roof, a statue representing justice brandishes a sword and raises a scale into the tall shadows cast by fabulously expensive Asia-boom-era skyscrapers with designer pedigrees -- a pocket of the 19th century sandwiched amid the castles of global capitalism.

The meetings of the Legislative Council, or Legco, also seem anachronistic, a surprisingly seamless blend of Asian and Western pomp and circumstance. The clang of a gong calls the bilingual sessions to order, and proceedings operate according to a precise set of rules adapted from those of the British Parliament. Upon entering or leaving the chamber, Legco members -- all except one -- bow to Rita Fan, the council president, who dominates the body from her high leather chair like a representative of the emperor (which in a way she is, since she also serves as a delegate to Beijing's rubber-stamp National People's Congress).

On one Wednesday afternoon in January, all of Legco's 60 members -- except one -- arrived in their best dark suits (the women favored Chanel). Hong Kong's chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, was about to make one of his infrequent appearances before the Legislature, to deliver his annual policy address -- a Hong Kong version of the State of the Union. A shipping tycoon's son handpicked by Beijing eight years ago (he was ''elected'' by a committee of 800 businessmen and community leaders), Tung is wildly unpopular in Hong Kong. More than half a million people marched in Hong Kong's streets on July 1, 2003, and again in 2004, demanding Tung's resignation and the right to directly elect the chief executive.

Nevertheless, when Tung strode into the Legco chamber, everyone respectfully rose. As Tung took the podium, the representatives sat down.

All except one.

The Honorable Mr. Leung Kwok-hung, better known in Hong Kong as Cheung Mo, or ''Long Hair,'' remained on his feet. For a moment he said nothing, pausing to let the effect of his disobedience -- and maybe, also, his appearance -- sink in. In a sea of suits and ties, Long Hair, 48, was dressed like a 60's-vintage campus radical, in a ratty tweed jacket over a pair of black trousers patched and repatched with a million tiny stitches. Under the jacket, he wore a blue sweatshirt bearing the face of his idol, an unlikely hero for a Hong Kong-born Chinese politician: Che Guevara. Long Hair tossed his head slightly, causing some of his thick black hair, which falls past his shoulders, to come loose from the black scrunchie that keeps it tamed, sort of, in a ponytail. Finally, he pointed an accusing finger at the chief executive and declared, in a loud, deep voice thickened by 30 years of street demonstrations and thousands of cigarettes: ''You! Mr. Tung! You are not qualified, and have no right to address this body. We have been elected by the Hong Kong people. You were not. You were appointed by a clique of 800 tycoons. You don't defend the interests of Hong Kong people; you are in collusion with tycoons. . . . ''

Before he could say another word, Rita Fan hastily adjourned the meeting and Tung scuttled out of the chamber. Fan instructed Long Hair to meet with her in her private chamber. Five minutes later, they returned, and she spoke to him in front of all the representatives, adopting the voice of a mother scolding a child: ''Would you promise not to interrupt the chief executive's speech, Mr. Leung?''

Long Hair stood his ground. ''He is not qualified to speak before elected officials. . . . ''

''Mr. Leung! . . . ''

''And I want to say one more thing. Absolute power leads to absolute corruption.''

Then Long Hair turned on his heel and walked out.

So the same old script has been brought back.  However, the dynamic has changed.  Back in January, Tung Chee-hwa was a highly unpopular figure and that would motivate his resignation in April.  It might have been fair to characterize Tung as not being the popular choice of the people.  But today Donald Tsang comes into office as the replacement Chief Executive and is preferred by the overwhelming majority of the people, according to public opinon polls, and no viable alternative exists.  The 6.8 million people of Hong Kong do not feel cheated by his ascension.  Running the same old script risks a backlash from the people.  There is a difference between criticising a messed-up election system and attacking the people's choice to stop him from getting on with the business of running the government.