Mar 29, 2012|
It is common knowledge that Hongkongers aren’t interested in anything that belongs to the past. Tell any business suit-wearing young metropolitan professional over a happy hour drink at a pub in Lan Kwai Fong that you enjoy the tap-dancing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and you will most likely be frowned at with confusion, finding yourself marginalized from the elite herd of up-and-coming Centralists.
I have been subjected to just such social discrimination at a recent party over my ignorance of Lady Gaga, when I wondered aloud if the name was referring to a brand of kinky lingerie like you would find in a sex shop in London or Amsterdam. Mention names of yesterday’s pop singers, such as Anita Mui or Leslie Cheung, and you are met with the cliché response of a giggle—you have just given away your age. Even the memory of Bruce Lee is lost among some teenagers, or so I was told by a friend of mine who had just been asked whether it was the name of some sort of old brand of jeans.
It is in light of this trendy and common forgetfulness that CY Leung, now the chief executive-elect, at first enjoyed high popularity ratings in a number of public opinion surveys over the past six months, especially among youngsters in their 20s. It felt self-deludingly good, as young metropolitan professionals talked about CY’s slogan of “change” and joked about Henry Tang’s extramarital affairs at a Starbucks in SoHo pretending that they were living in Greenwich Village in the run-up to the next American presidential election, while forgetting that voting was actually restricted to a small, Beijing-picked, 1,200-member body.
TV debates featuring the “candidates” in a production style copied from the Americans made Hongkongers briefly forget that the “election” was haunted and controlled by the phantom of Beijing. Not until the old skeletons in the closet fell out about the rumor of Leung’s preference to use force to crack down on demonstrations over the controversial Article 23 legislation in 2003 did they wake up to the grim prospect that the former British-trained surveyor could emerge as a mini-Putin of Hong Kong, appointed by the Lenin of Beijing.
Curiously, CY’s popularity dropped sharply overnight shortly before the election last Sunday. Once hailed as a messiah for Hong Kong by some quasi-intellectuals, pseudo-academics (as well as Hong Kong’s George Clooney by single office ladies), the former convener of the Executive Council suddenly looked diabolical and sounded sinister as he announced “consultations” over the forthcoming legislation of the anti-subversion law immediately after being elected. Now seen as a threat to the “core values” of democracy and freedom, CY Leung had not lied to the public. He had simply covered-up the essential bits like he was wearing a miniskirt, and talked impressively about redistribution of social wealth.
It was Li Ka-shing who had a longer memory, and smelled a rat underneath that skirt and insisted on his choice of Henry Tang, the lesser of the two evils. Li emerged as the new “Conscience of Hong Kong.” A Li Ka-shing-backed stuttering Henry Tang is better than a Hu Jintao-controlled but eloquent CY Leung. Hong Kong is likely to pay dearly for its short memory.
Chip Tsao is a best-selling author, columnist and a former producer for the BBC. His columns have also appeared in Apple Daily, Next Magazine and CUP Magazine, among others.