16 October 2018
Joseph Lian (L) and Leung Chun-ying (R). Photo: HKEJ
Joseph Lian (L) and Leung Chun-ying (R). Photo: HKEJ

Hongkongers and Chai-yan: Where the similarities lie

What goes on in Hong Kong’s first family is a private matter but it concerns public interest.

I will not touch upon the Leung family disputes but I would like to point out three issues related to law and the public good.

It’s difficult to reach any judgment with inadequate information, so the media and lawmakers have a responsibility to investigate.

Here are the three issues I wanted to raise:

1) Whether Leung Chai-yan’s legal rights have been infringed upon

These include her freedom of speech, her right not to be subjected to violence and abuse and her right to access timely and proper medical assistance.

She declared on her Facebook page that she was going to “leave home forever”. I wonder if her freedom of movement as an adult has been also restricted.

2) Whether her father Leung Chun-ying and her mother Regina have violated their daughter’s freedoms and rights

Did they illegally detain Chai-yan or force her to delete her Facebook account? Did Regina Leung verbally or physically abuse Chai-yan, or did she deliberately obstruct the police in performing their duties? (A woman in Government House reportedly called the police Tuesday morning.)

Or did she stop Chai-yan from calling an ambulance? (An ambulance was called to Government House that morning but left, saying no one was injured.)

Chai-yan has claimed that on more than one occasion, her mother did not allow her to call an ambulance. 

3) Whether the police and ambulance service merely relied on Regina Leung, her subordinates, Government House security personnel or domestic helpers to conclude that the caller no longer needed help and thus left without checking

In a press conference that afternoon, Leung Chun-ying denied all accusations Chai-yan had made on Facebook including that her mother slapped and kicked her and hurled abuse at her.

Leung said his daughter is ill and mentally unstable, adding that the wounds she showed in an earlier Facebook post were not new.

In a rare emotional appeal, he said only a son or daughter would say something unpleasant about their parents but not vice versa.

Yet, many are not convinced. Chai-yan should have been given a chance to speak. 

On online forums, netizens criticized the Leung couple.

I seriously doubt the police can ever launch an investigation into the matter but I do see not a few similarities between Chai-yan and the people of Hong Kong.

What she might have gone through could be compared to how Hong Kong is being treated by Beijing after the return of sovereignty.

Chai-yan was sent to a local international school and further to Britain to study law (at The London School of Economics and Political Science).

Law studies are part of the Anglo-Saxon culture. Although she was born in a patriotic, pro-communist family, she is a youngster with strong western values after she spent her critical years of ideological adolescence in the UK.

She mostly writes posts in authentic, colloquial British English and seldom uses Chinese on Facebook.

Likewise, Hong Kong is deeply influenced by Britain, especially on rule of law and social management.

Being the second child of the Leung couple, Chai-yan is perhaps more outgoing and rebellious than her brother and sister.

There is a saying that the middle child in a family is the most disobedient and mentally independent as he or she gets the least attention from the parents.

In Chai-yan’s case, she may be the best example in this regard. The British culture she grew up in is also open and independent.

Hong Kong can be seen as China’s second child after the mainland and Taiwan the youngest.

Since the founding of communist China in 1949, Beijing has mainly focused on its rule in the mainland and spared no time curbing Taiwan independence. Thus, Hong Kong is usually not at the top of its agenda.

Also, with Beijing’s pledge that Hong Kong’s current political situation “will remain in effect for 50 years”, Hong Kong has largely maintained and even furthered its rebellious and independent streak since the handover.

Chai-yan returned home after her studies, although she said she has not been getting along well with other family members since 14 or 15.

I reckon she does not have a British nationality, so she had to return home. Hong Kong returned to China amid mixed feelings by its people: many loved the country, supported reunification and yet were equally doubtful about the future.

Since she returned home, Chai-yan has lived with her parents in Government House, an impressive, elegant mansion in the heart of Hong Kong which is the official residence of its top official.

She did not have to worry about her career because with her family name, a decent job is guaranteed.

Hong Kong benefits economically from the handover: astounding rallies in stock and realty markets, support after the SARS outbreak, a free trade agreement with the mainland and in particular a retail boom driven by the individual visit scheme, something that you can almost reap without sowing.

But when the honeymoon ends, those who returned to the big family, either Chai-yan or Hongkongers, have to brace for the reality.

In a relationship between the strong and the weak, the strong have no need to be accommodating.

And, the weak usually end up losing in any dispute.

Hongkongers have been denounced by officials for their sense of estrangement caused by what Beijing has done over the years.

Similarly, the autocratic parent is always right.

Less than two decades after the handover, Hongkongers are resolute in their demands including “Hong Kong people deciding their own fate”.

Separation is always bitter but it is also an ultimate choice when there is no other option left.

The weak deserve compassion and the strong — either parents like the Leung couple or an authoritarian regime like Beijing — must have done something awfully wrong.

Oscar Wilde said in his play A Woman of No Importance that “children begin by loving their parents. After a time, they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.”

Such a “love-judge-not forgive” process applies precisely to cross-border relations in recent years.

To some extent, an authoritarian rule is similar to parental rights. No sweet words or materials can redeem the mistakes that have been made. That’s the lesson the first family has taught us.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 19.

Translations by Frank Chen [Chinese version 中文版]

Leung Chun-ying’s reply to Joseph Lian Yizheng 

I have already made a public statement regarding my daughter Chai-yan’s health and other related issues and I hope the public will respect the privacy of Chai-yan and other members of my family and give them more space and time.

I am deeply disappointed by Mr. Lian’s article, which made an issue out of my daughter’s health problem.

As Chief Executive, I respect different opinions. But even though we may uphold different political viewpoints, no one should exploit health issues of family members of government officials for political purposes.

Chai-yan’s condition is serious. She needs a quiet environment for recovery.

My wife and I will continue to fulfill our parental responsibilities.

Keeping family members out of political attacks should be the absolute bottom line of one’s conduct and moral standards.

I appeal to the newspaper and Mr. Lian to stop.

Leung Chun-ying

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 20.

Translations by Frank Chen [Chinese version中文版] 

HKEJ statement

Joseph Lian has his own opinion and it does not represent the view of the Hong Kong Economic Journal, which is a platform for different opinions.

The Hong Kong Economic Journal is the parent of EJ Insight.

– Contact us at [email protected]


Chai-yan (left picture) was seen at a local fashion show days before Tuesday’s drama. Leung Chun-ying and his wife Regina consider the matter closed. Photos: Internet

Former full-time member of the Hong Kong Government’s Central Policy Unit, former editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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