22 October 2016
Bernard Chan, Ko Wing-man and Paul Chan are among the top officials who have been pressed into service in a government campaign to push the political reform plan. Photos: Apple Daily, RTHK
Bernard Chan, Ko Wing-man and Paul Chan are among the top officials who have been pressed into service in a government campaign to push the political reform plan. Photos: Apple Daily, RTHK

Why officials are having a tough time during district visits

“Minister Ko, don’t cheat our children. Where are the 1200 members of the nominating committee coming from?”

“Hong Kong belongs to Hong Kong people… the government should listen to locals, rather than follow the central government.”

“Leung Chun-ying should be fired… he is working quite hard to fill his pocket!”

These were just some of the questions, suggestions and comments thrown up by Hong Kong residents at senior officials as the latter toured some districts over the long Labor Day weekend to garner support for the government’s controversial political reform package. 

Health Secretary Ko Wing-man, who faced the first question mentioned above, was among those from the Leung Chin-yung administration who especially had a difficult brush with reality.

During a trip to a public housing estate in Ngau Tau Kok on Saturday, Ko was heckled by some people, prompting him to lose his cool.

As he interacted with a youngster to explain the plan related to the 2017 chief executive election, a grey haired man urged Ko not to the “cheat” local youth by waxing eloquent about a flawed process. 

The man is said to have walked away after denouncing Ko, which prompted the official to go after him and exchange some angry words.

Ko later admitted to reporters that he lost his temper as the man refused to reason with him.

The official no doubt has a tough task, given the context of the political reform package.

As a Beijing appointed minister, Ko has no choice but to promote the policy blindly even if he realizes that the plan won’t meet the aspirations of Hong Kong people with regard to universal suffrage.

Bernard Chan, an Executive Council member who enjoys high popularity among the public, also faced some tough moments during a lobbying campaign over the weekend.

Touring Aberdeen on Sunday, Chan was challenged by a woman, who expressed her disapproval of the political reform plan.

“If the central government is picking a wife for you, will you feel happy about it?” the woman asked Chan.

Chan did his best to explain the situation, but one can only imagine his discomfiture at being subject to such questioning.

Top officials, regardless of what they say in public, are aware that the electoral reform package has aroused deep passions in society and stoked mistrust towards Beijing.

Voters can sift between facts and fiction and they know too well that they are being denied true choice with regard to choice of their leader.

Under the plan which was mandated by Beijing’s National People’s Congress on August 31 last year, there will be only 2 or 3 pre-screened candidates in the chief executive election.

As a 1200-member nominating committee is dominated by Beijing loyalists and business tycoons, the choices before Hong Kong voters will be choosing one of the pro-Beijing candidates.

It is the “fake universal suffrage” that the government is seeking to push with intense lobbying.

Pro-democracy lawmakers have said they will veto the proposal in the Legislative Council, but the administration is hoping to put pressure on them through a public relations campaign.

Using the enormous resources at its disposal, the government is stepping up efforts to convince the public of the merits of the electoral package. 

But as top officials have discovered over the weekend, the task is anything but easy.

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EJ Insight writer

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