19 May 2019
Carrie Lam is shown with her older son Jeremy, the only family member who showed up in her campaign. Lam Siu-por (inset) wrote Carrie Lam a letter on Valentine's Day. Photo: HKEJ, Facebook/Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam is shown with her older son Jeremy, the only family member who showed up in her campaign. Lam Siu-por (inset) wrote Carrie Lam a letter on Valentine's Day. Photo: HKEJ, Facebook/Carrie Lam

How politicians use their families… yes Carrie, you too

Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up. According to Carrie Lam’s publicity machine, her husband Lam Siu-por wrote her a Valentine message stressing his belief that she could make a great contribution to the “one country, two systems” thing. He clearly is an incorrigible romantic!

What next? Will we discover that Mrs. Tsang was captivated by her husband’s incredible ability to make fiscal forecasts? Maybe not because John Tsang’s publicity campaign was also in the Valentine’s Day messaging business and came out with a video of the young couple in their courting days. Apparently, he was also a whizz in helping with her nursing studies.

Mrs. Lam’s personal life, however, seems to be more bizarre as she has freely admitted to not knowing how to buy toilet paper in the evening and, apparently is on a steep learning curve when it comes to using public transport.

Politicians are very strange people. They scream and shout about their need for privacy and hit out over intrusion into the lives of their families yet, when it suits them, family members are brought to the fore and, in the case of Mrs. Lam, brought there with an incredible lack of self-awareness.

In many ways, this is far less troubling than the appalling manner in which Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has handled issues surrounding his troubled daughter Chai-yan.

After severely criticizing the media for reporting on her, he has used the government propaganda machine to push out a snapshot of himself, his daughter and his wife sitting on a park bench in London playing happy families.

Then, prior to his announcement of not seeking a second term of office, he arranged for reporters to be on hand when he visited a hospital where his daughter was staying. He followed this up by claiming that he decided not to run again because he did not want “his loved ones exposed to the media”.

Meanwhile, even more bizarre family matters are being played out in the White House where the new president uses his position as commentator-in-chief to hit out at a department store for not carrying his daughter’s clothing line and uses his offspring as a close coterie surrounding his every step, while loudly complaining about the way the media treats his family. There is definitely more to come on this front from this unspeakably ghastly individual.

However, be it in the Mickey Mouse world of Hong Kong politics or more or less anywhere else in the world, this strange, troubling and often farcical business of politicians and their families keeps being played out.

Even though using families as a way of humanizing themselves can be a high risk strategy, politicians find it hard to resist the temptation.

This is despite the fact that politicians who genuinely keep their families well in the background have done so with success. Examples include Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and Theresa May, the British Prime Minister.

They have drawn a clear line between their public and private lives and it has been accepted. Maybe it’s because they are both female and so somehow more human than the male politicians who preen around with trophy wives on their arms – apologies are in order here as I am back again to that ghastly man in the White House.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, politicians have been known to find that wives can be extremely useful when it comes to carrying the can.

Who can forget the way in which the hapless Henry Tang allowed his wife to take full responsibility for his illegal house building activities, arguing that he was quite unaware all this was going on.

Then there was the so-called “luggage-gate” fiasco in which airport security was breached last year to accommodate Leung Chun-yin’s other daughter Chung-yan after she managed to get Cathay Pacific staff to by-pass security checks in order to deliver her luggage to the gate. The chief executive “bravely” blamed his wife for this “misunderstanding”.

And so it goes on, wives clearly have their uses. Unfortunately, they are used by politicians who have nothing but contempt for the public’s intelligence and actually think that blame shifting will put them in a better light.

Mixing families with politics is a tricky business but politicians find it hard to wean themselves off the addiction of pressing their families into service for political ends.

Yet, we should not be cynical, maybe a love of “one country, two systems” is the ultimate aphrodisiac — personally I think that a wholehearted embrace of the Basic Law is rather more romantic but, hey, that’s just me.

P.S. Have I missed it or did Beijing somehow forget to sternly rebuke the right-wing American think tank, The Heritage Foundation, for again flagrantly intervening in Hong Kong’s internal affairs by putting the SAR at the top of the list of the world’s freest economies? Just asking.

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Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

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