27 October 2016
Lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung tried a novel approach to denounce John Tsang's budget proposals, but the finance secretary was unruffled. Photos: Reuters, HKEJ
Lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung tried a novel approach to denounce John Tsang's budget proposals, but the finance secretary was unruffled. Photos: Reuters, HKEJ

How ‘Mr Pringles’ tamed the artistic Long Hair

Maverick lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung got the goat of many top officials during his colorful political career, but even he would have realized this week that he’s no match when it comes to taking on our popular financial secretary, John Tsang Chun-wah.

The always rebellious legislator, commonly known as “Long Hair”, staged a protest ahead of Tsang’s annual budget speech on Wednesday although he remained in his seat during the actual address.

On Thursday, Leung sought to denounce Tsang’s budget proposals by portraying them as pandering to the middle class, rather than meeting the needs of the poorer sections of society.

To illustrate his point about an “unbalanced” budget, the radical lawmaker held aloft a justice symbol made of paper with the scales uneven.

Despite the protests, Leung was not expelled from the LegCo on either occasion. In fact, he received a backhanded compliment from Tsang.

“Your hand-made piece is getting better and better,” said the financial secretary. “But I’m afraid it may not make it to the M+ museum… You need to try harder.”

For those who aren’t aware, M+ is the new museum for visual culture that is being set up as part of the West Kowloon Cultural District project.

Leung would no doubt have been surprised that someone would actually look at his paper-made product in an artistic way.

However, the real story for us is that it offers more proof of Tsang’s charming and inoffensive nature. 

The finance chief, who has been dubbed by some as “Mr Pringles” for his resemblance to the mascot of the popular potato chips brand, has shown many times in the past that he has the ability to win over anti-establishment groups using humor and tact, instead of berating them.

Tsang’s budget speech has drawn positive reactions from most observers, in contrast to the widely-panned policy address of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying last month. 

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam should perhaps now ponder why her subordinate Tsang has won the hearts of many in Hong Kong, despite the public holding a negative impression overall on the CY Leung administration.

If she reflects seriously, she’ll realize this simple truth: Tsang knows how to speak from the heart.

Yesterday the finance chief was asked if he saw the indie movie “Ten Years”, a politically-charged production that has sparked much debate about Hong Kong’s future.

Though the movie has been nominated in the best film category in the upcoming Hong Kong Film Awards, it has met with disapproval from mainland authorities.

That has prompted Chinese state media and leading Internet portals in the mainland to shun the film awards ceremony.

Tsang said he saw the movie, which features five episodes, but found some issues with it.

“The directing skills of the five young directors are rather raw,” he said.

“There is room for improvement because it is not easy to tell your story within 20 minutes… some detail in the movie were exaggerated.”

Fair comment!

Tsang, meanwhile, did not forget to praise local and politically-correct productions such as “The way we dance” and “Lost on a Red Minibus to Tai Po” to make a point about investing in future talent for the Hong Kong creative industry.

Apparently Tsang also knows how popular he is, judging by his decision to show up at a Hong Kong football match to cheer the local team along with ordinary fans.

That marks a big contrast to Chief Executive Leung, who had fought shy of making his preferences clear in a Hong Kong Vs China game last September.

Given Tsang’s popularity and good nature, it will be a real pity if he chooses to retire in 2017 and not join the contest for the upcoming chief executive election.

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EJ Insight writer

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