22 April 2019
Zhang Xiaoming (3rd from right), Beijing's top envoy in Hong Kong, takes the mike at a DAB fund-raising event on Monday. Photo: WeChat
Zhang Xiaoming (3rd from right), Beijing's top envoy in Hong Kong, takes the mike at a DAB fund-raising event on Monday. Photo: WeChat

Why Zhang Xiaoming can consider a second career in calligraphy

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) has never been short of funds, thanks to its overtly pro-Beijing stance.

With generous backing from pro-establishment tycoons, Hong Kong’s largest political party has seen its coffers get replenished continuously over the years.

Thus, it’s no surprise to learn that the party has scored yet again in a fund-raising event this week.

On Monday, DAB reaped more than HK$60 million through a dinner fundraiser as fat cats opened up their wallets to support the establishment group.

What was really interesting was the role played by Zhang Xiaoming, Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong, to help out a key ally.

At the fund-raising dinner, the Liaison Office chief offered a piece of his calligraphy for auction, drawing intense bidding.

The calligraphy, which bore four Chinese characters「度德而處」that roughly translate to advice that a person should act according to his own moral strength, fetched an astounding HK$18.8 million.

The winning bidder was Gunter Gao Jingde, the chairman of Sunbase International, a group that is involved in property investments, transport, infrastructure and high-tech sectors.

Gao, who is a Hong Kong delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference — a key political advisory body to Beijing — apparently believed he was doing his duty as a patriotic citizen to help out a pro-China entity.

The “auspicious” HK$18.8 million bid, meanwhile, has helped set a new record for Zhang’s work.

In DAB’s previous fundraiser in 2014, a calligraphy piece of Beijing’s top envoy was sold for HK$13.8 million, 5 million less than that fetched by his latest work.

One wonders about the valuation of Zhang’s calligraphy, with his writing now deemed on par with a Sotheby’s art piece.

At HK$4.7 million per word, Zhang has beaten Professor Jao Tsung-I, a world-renowned scholar in Chinese and Oriental Studies as well as arts and culture, who has seen a painting of his fetch only HK$3 million in the DAB auction.

Like the respectable 99-year-old scholar, Zhang has donated his work to help out the DAB.

After the record sale, Zhang jokingly said it is easier to offer the calligraphy work bearing the message “one should act according to his moral strength”, rather than a subsequent phase –「量力而為」- that translates to “live within your means”.

Incidentally, the latter is also the line that tycoon Li Ka-shing has often used when he is asked as to whether one should buy a flat.

Given the high prices commanded by his works, Zhang should now perhaps consider a second career in art. 

Meanwhile, we reckon Starry Lee Wai-king might have good prospects as a singer.

At the Monday event, the DAB chairwoman raised HK$5 million for her party as she sang a duet — “Pearl of the Orient” — with her predecessor Tam Yiu-chung.

That almost covered her Legco election campaign expenses of HK$5.3 million, mainly sponsored by DAB.

Earlier this month, it was disclosed on the Legco website that the DAB donated HK$22.7 million to 12 of its members. That compared with the party’s income of HK$100 million in the 2014-15 financial year.

Monday’s fund-raiser, which was DAB’s sixth such event, saw 60 full tables in a room at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, with heavyweight guests drawn from political, government and business circles.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was not in town, so Chief Secretary Carrie Lam attended the event and stayed the whole evening.

Financial Secretary John Tsang, seen as a potential contender in the 2017 chief executive election, showed up for a cocktail reception.

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EJ Insight writer

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