21 February 2019

Talks verdict: Who were the wall flowers and the invisible man?

The verdict is in: The moderator was a fanatic, two government representatives were wall flowers and the students were brilliant beyond their years.

Just hours after talks between student leaders and a government panel on Hong Kong’s political reform, netizens are weighing in with a mix of praise, sarcasm and humor.

They mocked moderator Leonard Cheng, vice chancellor of Lingnan University, for showing bias toward embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, calling him his “biggest fan”, Apple Daily reported Wednesday.

Undersecretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Lau Kong-wah, a long-serving Beijing loyalist, and Edward Yau, director of the Office of the Chief Executive, were derided for not saying a word and were sarcastically compared to people who eat peanuts while watching TV.

Political commentators had a field day with Lau, anointing him as the “best performer” in the two-hour televised show.

They said Cheng’s presence wasn’t felt but he exuded loyalty to the chief executive.

Meanwhile, film director Alfred Cheung put it all in cinematic context.

He praised the student representatives for their ability to present complex ideas using simple but effective story-telling techniques.

Because of them, members of the public could now better understand why the universal suffrage proposal by the National People’s Congress is not genuine, he said, adding that the calm atmosphere and the candid conversations served as a positive backdrop.

As to why all the talking was done by only three of the government representatives, Cheung said it was probably in the script.

The government did not want Lau or Yau to fumble their lines, which reflected the serious and cautious tone of the government side.

Political commentator Johnny Lau said the student representatives were well-prepared and more than held their own against their elders.

Lau singled out Yvonne Leung, whom he described as conversant with the Basic Law, helping her present a solid case for the student panel.

It was proof positive that “these students have a bright future ahead of them”, Lau said.

Prof. Ma Ngok of the Chinese University of Hong Kong said the government team, headed by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, hid behind bureaucratic language to restate the government’s stance, showing their political limitations.

However, they did try to break the ice by addressing the students by their Christian names, he said.

The students spoke their minds while the officials kept repeating their lines, Ma said. He said nothing was achieved to narrow their differences. 

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