26 October 2016
CY Leung and his wife Regina pose with Halloween characters. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam (right) has had some out-of-character moments recently. Photos: Facebook, TVB
CY Leung and his wife Regina pose with Halloween characters. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam (right) has had some out-of-character moments recently. Photos: Facebook, TVB

Why this book is essential reading for Thomas, Carrie and CY

It’s not very often we get inspired by a story about a prisoner.

But here we are talking about Thomas Kwok, former co-chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties, who seems to always have a positive message up his sleeve.

Apparently, Kwok told his son Adam to read a book on how to face adversity called The Road to Character.

Kwok, 64, who was sentenced to prison before Christmas last year, along with former chief secretary Rafael Hui in one of Hong Kong’s most high-profile corruption cases, knows a thing or two about adversity.

At his appeal hearing Monday, he looked a little worse for wear with his pale white hair — not quite the same man who ran up the steps of his 108-story International Commerce Center in Tsim Sha Tsui in 30 minutes.

But now that he has been behind bars, he has had more time to read and ponder life and its meaning.

By all indications, the past year of incarceration has not diminished his sharpness. 

He would have understood David Brooks, a Yale professor who describes himself in the New York Times best seller as being “born with a natural disposition towards shallowness”, better than anyone else.

The New Yorker calls the book “an account of Brooks’s efforts to find his way out of shallow punditry — or, as he put it, to ‘cultivate character’.”

There are two kinds of virtues, writes Brooks.

One is “resume virtues” that are valued in the contemporary marketplace. The other are aspects of characters such as humility, kindness or bravery.

It’s understandable that someone like Kwok would value the latter.

We can’t wait to get hold of the book. Also, we can’t help thinking how it could be of some help to our two most important government officials.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam quickly comes to mind.

She had somehow memorized a biblical passage and suggested there would be a place reserved for her in heaven because the government’s efforts to help the poor are “righteous”.

Two weeks ago, she told her staff to “safeguard the government’s dignity” and not to accept humiliation such as a request to drink contaminated water from a resident who wanted to put the lie to government assertions that tap water in his estate was safe.  

“One can be brave if he or she does not require anything,” Lam was famously quoted as saying.

Many people took her spiritual and high-sounding statement as a career ender, although she has repeatedly said she would step down in 2017.

In another out-of-character moment, she asked the public not to forget the achievements of Donald Tsang, her former boss, on the day he was formally charged with corruption.

Then there’s Leung Chun-yin who is struggling to connect with his constituents.

He put in a Halloween appearance in Ocean Park which was widely reported in the news.

And on Facebook, he likes to post flowers from Government House.

But with his extraordinary adversity quotient, he has a lot of puttering to do in his own backyard other than gardening.

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EJ Insight writer

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