It is sort of amusing that prospective candidates in next year’s chief executive election are quoting famous English lines as they warm up for the battle ahead, instead of using Mandarin which would more likely appeal to the top leaders of Beijing, whose blessing they would need to actually join the fray.
But when retired judge Woo Kwok-hing declared his plan to run for Hong Kong’s top job last week, he talked about everything except how to get the benediction of China’s bosses.
His decision to participate in the race puts the pressure on other CE hopefuls to declare their intention right away so that the public can start assessing their fitness for the office.
But the other contestants apparently believe in the virtue of biding their time.
Take the case of Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who has dropped broad hints of his intention to challenge the incumbent, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, but has opted to remain a part of his administration up to now.
So what is he waiting for?
To which he replied by paraphrasing the famous line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “To run, or not to run, that is the question.”
It seems appropriate enough to deliver the quote while speaking on stage before the local presentation of a Shakespeare-inspired drama.
His witty response won a hearty round of applause from the audience.
There have been reports that Tsang had written to the central government about his plan to resign from his current responsibilities so he could throw his hat in the ring.
That’s why he probably feels the time is not yet ripe for him to announce his candidacy, or at least he is unlikely to quit before his official visit to Iran this week.
After all, he knows the top leaders in Beijing have been quite busy lately, having just finished the sixth plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
Quoting Shakespeare is a smart choice because President Xi Jinping himself borrowed the same famous line last year when he visited London to state that he enjoyed reading the British bard in his younger days.
However, his rivals are not amused. Woo Kwok-hing was quick to respond by saying, “I am, and I will be, there is no question,” thus throwing the ball back to Tsang.
In the case of CY Leung, the quote of the day came from Harry Truman.
In his blog, he quoted the immortal line on the 33rd US president’s desk – “The buck stops here” – to assert his decisiveness as a leader, that it’s not his habit to pass the buck as he has shown in carrying out his housing policy and in acting against the Youngspiration duo over the oath-taking controversy.
“It is much easier to be the nice guy, but it takes courage to act like you’re the bad guy,” he wrote.
His remarks came after he scored the lowest among senior public officials in the latest public opinion poll, in contrast to the high ratings of the highly popular Tsang.
Leung, apparently aware of the huge gap between him and his financial secretary in terms of popularity, took a dig at Tsang without mentioning his name by saying that his secretaries should focus on their work instead of dividing their attention on different matters.
But Tsang retorted: “Sure, but how many people can really focus on one thing, right? It is kind of impossible.”
If Leung tried to be subtle in firing shots at his potential rival, Executive Committee member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee was more direct.
She criticized Tsang for being “a bit of a slacker” in his almost 10 years as financial secretary.
Ip’s broadsides also hit Tsang’s mentor, the former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, accusing him of delaying action on pressing problems such as housing during his seven-year reign.
But John Tsang replied: “If you can really slack off for 10 years, then you must be some kind of a genius.”
Well, Tsang cannot afford to be a slacker now that his potential rivals are taking potshots at him. He has to announce his decision soon.
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