Date
24 November 2017
Liaison Office chief Zhang Xiaoming called on his guests to 'brave the wind, sail the ocean' during the annual spring reception which was attended by top Hong Kong politicians and business tycoons. Photo: HKEJ
Liaison Office chief Zhang Xiaoming called on his guests to 'brave the wind, sail the ocean' during the annual spring reception which was attended by top Hong Kong politicians and business tycoons. Photo: HKEJ

Who (still) attends Beijing’s annual Hong Kong banquet?

It’s that time of year when politicians and tycoons come together to pledge their love of country and tell Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong they appreciate that China loves them back.

The latest gathering saw more than 4,000 guests at the annual spring reception of the central government’s Liaison Office hosted by director Zhang Xiaoming.

Zhang exhorted the assembly to “brave the wind, sail the ocean”.

The party secretary of Hong Kong asked participants to pledge their support to the mayor (oops, we meant Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying).

The top cadre must have made similar calls three times in the past six months, which makes us wonder whether these same heavy hitters have been supporting Leung in the past two and a half years.

As one would expect, the gathering was notable for who showed up.

They included former chief executive Donald Tsang, who has been in the news lately in relation to an ongoing corruption investigation.

He got an invite alright, but he had no role in the ceremonial toasts. His predecessor, Tung Chee-hwa, was on the stage.

Tsang did not speak to the media and was largely low-profile, but his mere presence showed he is still a VIP in the eyes of Beijing, which must be an awkward situation amid an unrelenting crackdown on official misconduct by President Xi Jinping.

Li Ka-shing was first to shake hands with Zhang, complimenting him for a “wonderful speech”, according to pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po.

Zhang’s “brave the wind, sail the ocean” clarion call must have resonated with Li more than it did with his peers given that he recently splashed out 20 per cent of his conglomerate’s market cap on a slew of European assets.

Pro-Beijing media lost no time writing headlines on Li, with one paper trumpeting “Superman: we must pass political reform!”, a play on the tycoon’s business savvy and political instincts.  

Wen Wei Po listed Tsang and Li among the top 10 guests and devoted 16 stories to the event, a feast of 10,000 words.

Apple Daily, founded by pro-democracy campaigner Jimmy Lai, couldn’t be bothered to produce more than a short news story.

Rita Fan, a National People’s Congress committee member and Henry Tang, who sits on the national committee of China’s top political consultative body, were honored guests.

So were Four Seas Mercantile Holdings chairman Tai Tak-fung, South Asia Group managing director Lam Shu-chit, Hong Kong Football Association director Albert Hung and Yu Hwa Chinese Products chairman Yu Kwok-chun, all “patriotic” businessmen, according to the report.

Rounding out the list were two second-generation tycoons — Victor Li of Cheung Kong Holdings and Peter Lee of Henderson Land.

And guess who was the only non-Chinese at the banquet? Lan Kwai Fong Group’s Allan Zeman.

In an interview with Wen Wei Po just days earlier, Zeman denounced pan-democrats for ruining any hope of universal suffrage in 2017.

– Contact us at english@hkej.com

BK/JP/RA

EJ Insight writer

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