24 October 2016
DAB politicians (clockwise from upper left) Cheung Yiu-bun, Au Yeung Kwan-nok, Cheung Ki-tang and Or Chong-sing pose for photographs in front of a burning building where two firefighters have died. Photos: Facebook
DAB politicians (clockwise from upper left) Cheung Yiu-bun, Au Yeung Kwan-nok, Cheung Ki-tang and Or Chong-sing pose for photographs in front of a burning building where two firefighters have died. Photos: Facebook

The guilty politicians trying to profit from a tragedy

The shamelessness of the four pro-Beijing politicians who dashed off to Ngau Tau Kok to pose for photographs as firemen were battling an industrial building blaze is breathtaking.

This is all the more so now that we know that two firefighters lost their lives in this inferno.

The list of shame of those who sought political advantage from this tragedy consists of the four DAB councilors: Or Chong-sing, Cheung Ki-tang, Au Yeung Kwan-nok and Cheung Yiu-bun.

Presumably they thought that turning up at the scene of the tragedy would somehow be seen as an expression of their concern.

Next time their names appear on a ballot paper voters will, hopefully, understand the real nature of their concern.

Opportunism is hardly an unknown characteristic of political behavior but there are still levels of decency to be observed. In this instance a line was crossed.

However, to be fair, it was not crossed by Leung Chun-ying, the Chief Executive, who also showed up because he is head of the government and it is entirely appropriate for the most senior government official to show his face when public servants are either at serious risk or have sacrificed their lives while serving the public.

Savvy politicians generally try to make the most of tragedy as it provides an opportunity for them to be at their most statesman-like.

In this context it is clear why Hillary Clinton is surging ahead in the US presidential election polls, leaving Donald Trump munching furiously on his own gold dust.

In the wake of the Orlando massacre Mrs. Clinton gave a measured, yet strong and coherent response to what happened, while Mr. Trump blatantly sought to turn this tragedy into one of his obnoxious campaign themes; even fellow Republicans were appalled.

In more innocent times back in Hong Kong I vividly recall being told that Governor David Wilson had to succumb to heavy pressure to visit the scene of a tragic landslip in Pokfulam.

His reasons for not going were entirely honorable, as he feared his presence would cause an unnecessary distraction to rescuers battling to save lives.

However, he was persuaded that his absence would be viewed by the public as a sign of indifference.

Sir David, as he then was, went to the site, determined to be as little a nuisance as possible.

Nowadays such reticence is hardly known and even a distinctly unpopular demi-politician, such as Leung Chun-ying, knows that presence is important.

CY, however, is not always so quick to make a public appearance at times of crisis; normally he prefers to comment from the safety of the well-guarded Tamar government complex.

And he is nowhere to be seen when people are out on the streets taking part in protests.

In part this is because his presence might provoke more protest but it is also because the Chief Executive simply will not engage with those who disagree with him.

At the height of the Umbrella Movement he left most of the heavy lifting to his number two, Carrie Lam, and when major public scandals break out such as that concerning water safety in public housing estates, Mr. Leung deftly steps to one side and keeps out of the picture.

His recent half-hearted attempt to do something to reassure the Hong Kong public in the wake of the detained booksellers’ saga comes some eight months after the event and consists of a timorous letter sent to Beijing “looking for answers” to questions that lend themselves to evasion.

However, the very fact that he has sent a letter and that he was even so bold as to finally declare his support for the local Hong Kong soccer team are signs of Mr. Leung’s concern over his own future in politics.

Although he will not even face a real election, questions involving popularity may arise in the coming so-called Chief Executive election as Beijing decides which of the candidates its handpicked electors have to vote for.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong public has demonstrated its appreciation for the fallen firemen without the need for any words from political opportunists.

The reality is that people are not as stupid as some politicians believe them to be and they are quite able to spot shameless opportunism when they see it.

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Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

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