Leung Chun-ying has been rarely seen or heard outside of his official duties since he became Hong Kong chief executive.
But on Tuesday, he spoke as a parent and few would have failed to relate to what he had to say.
“In their hearts, all parents are alike. They would never harm their children or say something unpleasant about them,” he told a media briefing after hurriedly leaving a cabinet meeting.
Leung broke his silence after his elder daughter Chai-yan accused her mother of slapping and kicking her in a Facebook post.
Leung was visibly distressed, his voice breaking, as he revealed for the first time that Chai-yan is ill and emotionally unstable and asked that she be given space to heal.
The next morning, pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao ran an editorial sympathetic to Leung, saying he has a soft heart for his daughter.
I have to agree that it must be heartbreaking for Leung to address a very private family matter in a very public way.
We cannot know exactly what happened that Tuesday morning that drove Chai-yan to tell the world about her anguish.
“My mother literally just pushed me up against a wall, slapped me and called me a [stupid ... whore ...] kicked me — I fell, hit my spine against corner of study table. Lovely,” Leung wrote.
“I genuinely think if I were on the 20th floor of a building instead of being in [Government House], I [would've] jumped … There is no way out.”
On Wednesday, she said in a new Facebook post that she had left home.
Some sympathetic people might feel relieved at this information while others might be skeptical in the wake of her father’s revelations.
But to be sure, judging by recent media reports, Chai-yan’s relationship with her mother Regina has not been easy.
Some of Regina’s public actions depict her as ill-tempered and harsh.
In a now infamous public outburst, she called academic Ivan Choy “shallow, ignorant, cold blooded and unfeeling” after he commented on the Leungs’ family life.
Some people deride her “human lobster” fashion sense and many say that next to Leung, she makes her widely unpopular husband look decidedly likeable.
On the other hand, Chai-yan is no stranger to theatrics and shocking comments.
In a viral post last summer, she uploaded a picture showing a cut wrist and a bloodied hand with the words “Will I bleed to death?”, sparking rumors she had tried to commit suicide.
Subsequent posts blamed her mother for the incident and the media for her troubles even as she defended herself from critics of her controversial posts.
It remains to be seen how much Leung’s public admission of Chai-yan’s turmoil has put things in perspective.
He said the family had kept Chai-yan’s condition secret in order to protect her.
“In this environment, Chai-yan faces great pressure as a daughter of a key government official at a young age,” Leung said.
Leung is expected to run for a second term and his political career may be far from over, but he must know there’s a downside to it.
The enormous pressure of political success on family life is a recurring theme for people in high office. It’s a trade-off that must have painfully occurred to him on Tuesday.
But for a change, there were no political brickbats this time around.
As a parent to another, I would cut him some slack.
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