In a parallel universe, CY Leung is an upstanding fellow, always smiling and happy to give tourists tips on where to get the best deal on sneakers.
No one refers to him as “689″, questions his loyalty to Hong Kong, or makes fun of him for sitting in a US$1,800 chair. And there’s no toilet paper bearing his face.
Yes, he’s a stinky tofu vendor at the night market on Fa Yuen Street in Mong Kok.
In this world, he doesn’t ever have to worry about giving poor people too much power or clearing the streets without making concessions. Here, he is poor and working concessions on the streets.
On the other side of the wormhole, handing control of the city government over to the general public is a smart business move. “Aiya, whaddya mean need license, constable sir?”
And hassles about illegal structures at his houses on the Peak are moot. In this world, he lives in a box.
Sure, this CY has ties to China’s party elite dating back decades. But only because he once overcharged then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s son-in-law for grilled scallion dim sum on a stick.
This CY doesn’t need to sack his PR guy. Because his party line is simply: “No steam, no stew lah. Deep fry stinky tofu fo’ you!”
This CY is no cunning wolf. He just smells like it. But only if that wolf rolled around in some seriously hot steamy sewage.
In this world, there’s no push for universal suffrage. Unless what you’re really talking about is all the suffering by people downwind from CY.
The only people who want CY to quit are people who hate stinky tofu.
In this alternate reality, CY isn’t loathed and reviled. His daughter doesn’t brag on Facebook that her luxury purchases are “funded by all you HK taxpayers”. And he doesn’t get outed for taking a secret US$6.5 million payout.
The only thing thoroughly rotten about our street hawker is the pungent stench of his tofu.
In the real world, Hong Kong’s brash unloved leader has been called incompetent, a liar and ruthless. And that’s from people who are just trying to be nice.
During recent pro-democracy protests, effigies of him burnt at protest sites; in posters he was likened to Dracula; and demonstrators lit shrines to him, a customary way to honor someone who has died, according to Quartz.
A quantum leap away, the only approval ratings CY the stinky tofu vendor has to worry about are the ones on OpenRice. When CY sees young protesters here, they’re demanding more soy sauce, vinegar and chili oil. No teenagers go on hunger strikes on Fa Yuen Street.
In this world, the only back-room deals and pork barrel politics CY has to deal with get him a better spot for his three-wheeled pushcart.
When people here accuse him of being a closet member of the CPC, they’re talking about the Chinese Peddlers Cooperative.
While the real CY may have scored points in Beijing for bringing the 79-day protest to a close, his problems are far from over. An entire generation of ticked-off Hongkongers know they can take their grievances to the streets at any time. And with panache.
For the CY in the safe haven of a parallel universe, the only student-led anything are studies into how many kinds of active bacteria actually swim around in his secret sauce.
Curiously, in both worlds, CY is a working class hero to his supporters and a Chinese stooge to his detractors. It’s just that way when it comes to stinky tofu—you either love it, or you wouldn’t touch it with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.
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