It is doubtful if there is any expatriate in Hong Kong who is more popular than Clifford Hart, aka Clifford BB.
For one thing, the outgoing US Consul General speaks perfect Cantonese (and also Putonghua) and knows how to cheer Hong Kong citizens by making good use of social media.
In his farewell video posted on Facebook, Hart borrowed a famous line from comedian Stephen Chow Sing-chi and proclaimed “I really like Hong Kong. If I must put an expiry date to my love, I would say 10,000 years”.
Using the words from the 1994 movie “A Chinese Odyssey”, Hart pledged abiding love for Hong Kong as he prepares to complete his three-year tenure as Uncle Sam’s top man in the city.
The video has gone viral, with many netizens expressing sadness at the envoy’s departure.
“Clifford BB, don’t leave us”, one Facebook fan pleaded.
BB has been a new Chinese word for cute, usually referring to someone popular.
Hart, who took over as US Consul General in Hong Kong at end-July 2013, has seen his popularity grow leaps and bounds in the past three years.
That is in contrast to the city’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, who has seen his approval ratings hit an all-time low.
Hart has reminded us of Chris Patten, the city’s last British colonial governor who was known for his fondness for Hong Kong snack foods.
Both men knew well that the shortest distance to people’s hearts is through the stomach. Thus, they never missed an opportunity to show off how much they enjoy local delicacies such as turnip cakes and egg tarts.
No wonder netizens have crowned Hart the 29th Hong Kong governor after Patten.
Well, on a more serious note, we must recognize that Hart’s term came at a difficult time for the city and that his job was not easy.
During his tenure, Hong Kong faced social and political turbulence, including the Occupy Central movement in 2014 when the US was accused of stirring up pro-democracy sentiments.
Among other developments, frictions between Washington and Hong Kong and China in the wake of a row over NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden saw Hong Kong citizens being denied visa-free access to the US.
Hong Kong refused to extradite Snowden, who was wanted by Washington for leaking classified information from the US National Security Agency, after former spy came here after fleeing the US.
Snowden spent some time in Hong Kong before leaving for Russia in the summer of 2013.
Despite some testing moments, Hart has emerged as a very popular figure who knows how to push a positive message and let people know that he cares deeply about Hong Kong.
His successor will definitely have big shoes to fill.
Coming back to Hart, he has revealed that he will be taking a job with a private enterprise in Hong Kong after retiring from US government service.
Well, we are not surprised, given his professed love for the city.
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