27 February 2020
Allan Zeman (left) nominates Next Media chairman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying (bottom), Legco President Jasper Tsang (top) and New People's Party deputy chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun (right). Photo: HKEJ
Allan Zeman (left) nominates Next Media chairman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying (bottom), Legco President Jasper Tsang (top) and New People's Party deputy chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun (right). Photo: HKEJ

The art of nomination: lessons from the ice bucket challenge

The crux of universal suffrage may not be who nominates but who gets nominated. That’s the lesson of the ice bucket challenge, which poured into town this week.

Whether you are the girlfriend of Asia’s richest man, a rebel billionaire or an A-list entertainment celebrity, you are immediately under the city spotlight once you get nominated to play the charity game. It means gaining, not losing, face.

The game may look stupid, but the fun part is you get the nomination rights.

To be able to nominate is a privilege. Unlike in a political exercise, there is a surprise element in the process because the player normally doesn’t ask permission from the nominees.

Looking through the list of ice-bucket celebrities, one can safely deduct that there is at least one candidate such as a close friend, a business partner or an associate who is willing to take up the challenge. So at least one player would keep the ball rolling.

Most players would also have a wild card candidate they want to challenge — whether a role model, a dream girl or even an enemy (but usually not a family member) — and that someone would often become the most talked-about player of the game.

For instance, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg challenged his fellow Harvard dropout Bill Gates, who even made his own contraption to take up the challenge. The choice is interesting, to say the least. Zuckerberg is the Bill Gates of the 21st century, and by choosing Gates, he is able to further raise the level of the game as well as public awareness of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is the real purpose of the game.

But there are good tastes and bad. I presume most Hong Kong people would think it was a nice touch when HKTV boss Ricky Wong Wai-kai nominated Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung who got in the way of his pursuit of a free-TV license.

No extra word was said but the government minister brought in Allan Zeman (after letting him go as Ocean Park chairman just two months ago), who gladly took up the challenge. The free-TV license battle would probably drag on, but everyone got a good laugh.

So nominated pop singers Leon Lai and Agnes Chiang Lai-ping and Hong Kong Tourism Board chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok. The first two are active in charitable activities while the latter is doing a lot to promote Hong Kong.

Zeman, on the other hand, nominated Next Media chairman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, Legco President Jasper Tsang and New People’s Party deputy chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun. Covering both pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps, his choices are definitely politically correct.

The ice bucket challenge may be a great way to break the ice between people who otherwise do not see eye to eye. But others use it to get back at their adversaries.

Ben Chan Han-pan, a legislator from the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, nominated Occupy Central organizer Benny Tai Yiu-ting and pan-democratic legislator Lee Cheuk-yan because he explained they needed cold water to rethink whether they should encourage students to join the illegal movement and accept donations from Jimmy Lai.

That wasn’t funny. Neither was his suggestion to donate the proceeds from the ice bucket challenge, which is intended to help the ALS Society, to the Red Cross Society of China instead. Some DAB members are simply out of touch with the Hong Kong people.

Likewise, it’s not at all surprising no one has yet nominated Chief Executive CY Leung for the challenge — let alone for the 2017 race. Is someone suggesting that he’s the wrong person for the game?

The lesson of the game is quite simple: Before there is civic nomination, Hong Kong people should learn the art of nomination. You are what you nominate.

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EJ Insight writer