26 October 2016
By sitting in his seat and doing what he was supposed to do, James Tien enabled a lopsided historic vote that has embarrassed Beijing. On his Facebook page, he uploaded a cute pig photo (inset), ridiculing his colleagues. Photo: HKEJ, Facebook
By sitting in his seat and doing what he was supposed to do, James Tien enabled a lopsided historic vote that has embarrassed Beijing. On his Facebook page, he uploaded a cute pig photo (inset), ridiculing his colleagues. Photo: HKEJ, Facebook

Why ‘wait for Fat Suk’ has become HK’s hottest slang phrase

The pro-establishment lawmakers who walked out of Legco to “wait for Fat Suk” (“King of the New Territories” Lau Wong-fat) eventually failed to cast their vote to “pocket it first”, leading to a resounding vote against it.

“It” being, of course, the 2017 election reform package heavily promoted by the governments of Hong Kong and Beijing. 

Instead, the absent legislators may have to “pocket for a lifetime” the shame of the fiasco, which will go down in the city’s history as a pivotal moment in politics.

Thanks to legislators Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung and Ip Kwok-him, “wait for Fat Suk [Uncle Fat in Cantonese]” has now become the hottest slang in Hong Kong.

Innovative netizens have created graphics, songs and a Facebook page on that theme to mock the pro-establishment camp.

It is not difficult to understand why the punchline is so funny.

First, Lam made a fatal error in assuming that former Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun would go along with his invitation to join the walkout and delay the crucial vote so as to buy time for pro-Beijing legislator Lau to arrive — from his sickbed, Lam told the media.

Tien would likely have been happy to wait for any other sick old man, but not Fat Suk.


Tien, a vocal legislator who switches between supporting Beijing and the people of Hong Kong, is a top-level politician.

He is best remembered for helping to sink the bill enacting the national security provisions of Article 23 in 2003, leading to the downfall of former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.

After that, Tien was seen as disloyal to the pro-establishment camp, and his political capital quickly diminished.

Lau withdrew his rural fiefdom’s support for the Liberal Party from 2004 onward, reportedly at the urging of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong.

This is why Tien failed to retain his New Territories East seat in the 2008 Legislative Council elections.

Given this history, should Tien, who regained the seat without any help from Lau in 2012, have been expected to “wait for Fat Suk” on Thursday?

Second, Lam should remember that Tien had a score to settle with him after Lam split the Liberal Party in 2009 by founding the breakaway group Economic Synergy, which became the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong in 2012.

Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold, and Tien finally had his opportunity on Thursday — and took it.

After he and the four other legislators from his party stayed in the chamber to make up the quorum and provide the majority of the eight votes in favor of the reform package, Tien bluntly told reporters that the excuse the other pro-establishment lawmakers made for walking out — that they wanted to “wait for Fat Suk” — was “nonsense”.

He was right, and the nonsense resulted in a miracle.

On his Facebook page, Tien uploaded a cute pig photo, ridiculing his colleagues who had brought about an outcome that embarrassed Beijing. He quickly scored 26,000 likes.

Tien, who was kicked out of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, for calling on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to resign, and subsequently stepped down as Liberal Party leader in October, has perhaps regained the confidence of Beijing for not joining the ill-fated walkout.

He said the liaison office called him after the vote to show its appreciation for his support. We wonder how many other legislators got such positive feedback from Sai Wan.

Those who failed to vote (including a tearful potential candidate for chief executive, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee — the secretary for security in 2003 responsible for the Article 23 legislation and whose nemesis was therefore none other than James Tien) blamed one another for their absence at the crucial moment in the 20-month campaign for the historic electoral reform.

The politician who got the last laugh was Tien, who merely stayed in his seat and did what he was supposed to do. 

Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing bemoaned the outcome of the vote as an “accident”.

It may not have been an accident, as we have seen, that the quorum enabling the lopsided 28-8 vote against the reform package was met.

The “accident” might not have happened, after all, if the government had not chosen to consistently ignore and belittle Tien.

Some officials will have lots of explaining to Beijing to do. 

[James Tien's Facebook page]

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EJ Insight writer

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