A heartfelt conversation in a Starbucks this morning reveals that at least one person in Hong Kong feels deep sympathy for Henry Tang. Despite being groomed from back in the 1990s as Tung Chee-hwa’s likely successor, Henry lost out in 2005 when Beijing suddenly dumped the Crop-Haired One and installed mild-mannered and mildly competent pen-pusher Donald Tsang. After waiting patiently and loyally for seven more years, Tang has the position offered him on a plate only to fumble it up with one of the most memorable displays of public grotesquery the Big Lychee has ever had the pleasure to witness.
It is the twofold dashing of Henry’s hopes that makes the tale such a moving and tragic one, to my (female, it probably goes without saying) companion. The sight of tears welling up in his eyes on Sunday after the votes were counted was almost too much to bear. She even clutches a tissue herself as she recounts the shocking heartlessness of her husband, who it seems looked upon the scene with undisguised glee – like 7 million others. Pity, remorse and sadness for Henry. I have seen everything.
Now we wait to see who and what CY ‘Will Tackle Property Tycoons’ Leung actually is. Will he prove to be a long-overdue Thatcher-style reformer who eats vested interests for breakfast, turns a moribund society round and ends up being hated by everyone for it? Or would he prefer to go down in the history books as a slimy turncoat who delivers his fellow-citizens into Singapore-style, Communist Party-approved white terror, abolition of civil liberties and Stalinist economic planning? Or some sort of in-between hodgepodge that pleases no-one? At the very least, can we be rid of the sort of policymaking ridiculousness that requires average-earning Hong Kong people to send their kids to substandard schools while subsidizing a college restricted to the very rich to the tune of HK$600 million?
CY might prove effective where education is concerned. I’m not sure exactly what happened during his chairmanship of the Council at City University – something to do with a veterinary school, and, inevitably, remuneration for the publicly funded staff. If he had done evil, it would have been included in the West Kowloon, Triad and other smears aimed at him in the last couple of weeks. Instead, his detractors didn’t mention it, almost as if the decisive action that produced such wailing on the campus reminded them of their own inadequacies where governance is concerned.
On the subject of inadequacy, it comes to my notice that ‘certain people’, as Mainland leaders like to say, are doubting the accuracy of the Hemlock crystal ball that forecast Henry to be CE. The prediction was a dead cert (apart from the assumption that Beijing would flag the winner at an earlier stage), and indeed made allowances for a meteorite-style extreme change of circumstances. The Time Out feature used the example of Henry being eaten by a panda bear. Statistically, this was more probable than being caught with an illegal basement and taking PR advice to blame it on his wife. And you have to be really stupid to get eaten by a panda.