If there’s one clear winner from last night’s debate between the chief executive hopefuls, it’s not any of the three contenders themselves but rather someone else.
It’s Julian Law Wing-chung, the relatively young personal assistant of John Tsang.
Now, we all know that Law is a tremendous asset to Tsang and that his skills come in for praise from various quarters.
But would you believe that he has been lauded by none other than the chief rival of his boss?
Well, this is exactly what happened Tuesday as Carrie Lam, the principal opponent of Tsang in the CE race, publicly hinted that she would love to have an assistant like Law.
In what must have surely been embarrassing to her own aides, Lam made a not-so-subtle job offer to Law, Tsang’s long-time political assistant, in front of millions of TV viewers.
Lam, who is widely expected to be anointed Hong Kong’s new leader, suggested to Law that he just needs to approach her in case he seeks new career options after the March 26 election.
Amid some verbal duels with Tsang during the debate, the headhunting pitch to Law went like this: “I really admire you (Tsang) that you have a very smart political assistant Ah Chung,” Lam said, referring to Tsang’s key aide.
“Somebody said if I was elected, I should hire Ah Chung.”
The comments left some viewers aghast, with people wondering if it was just a slip of the tongue or if Lam was really aiming to poach Tsang’s assistant.
Imagine Donald Trump trying to poach Hillary Clinton’s top gun publicly — it doesn’t make sense.
Also, won’t the remarks leave Lam exposed to questions that she has spent millions to acquire a campaign team that she is not too happy about? This was another thought crossing people’s minds.
Now, who is Julian Law and what exactly is his big draw?
Let’s take a look at the man’s track record.
Law, who was once a reporter with the Hong Kong Economic Journal and Ming Pao, was cherry-picked four years ago as Tsang’s political assistant.
As the key aide, he was instrumental in Tsang getting recognition for various good works and schemes, helping the boss win high popularity on social media and boost his approval ratings.
When Tsang quit as financial secretary to run for the CE post, Law, who is now 38, gave up his position the same day and followed his boss to help with the election campaign.
Law is working for free for the campaign, and he has also made other sacrifices — for instance, he gave up on over HK$600,000 in gratuity as he quit the government without finishing his term.
Law was believed to be the ghost writer for Tsang’s blog and he also managed the former financial secretary’s Facebook account, which helped propel Tsang to the top in popularity charts among senior government officials.
Everyone seems to have some good words to say about Ah Chung, who incidentally was my junior at Queen’s College and again in the Journalism and Media Studies Centre although we never studied or worked together.
Someone should perhaps tell Lam now that the difference between her and Tsang is that he managed to hire a smart political assistant.
During the televised debate last night with Tsang and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, the other CE contender, Lam claimed that she did not hire a political assistant as she wanted to save money for the government.
That may have been true for the recent past, but a fact-check shows that Lam did indeed hire a political assistant during 2012-13.
The assistant was Carmen Cheung, but she did not last long.
Well, among other things, Lam is known for sending emails to subordinates way past midnight, a habit staff might have found a bit annoying.
Coming back to Lam’s attempt to poach Law, the witty Tsang immediately came up with this rejoinder: “My whole campaign team is very united, and it’s a team money can’t buy. You can’t buy it.”
As for Ah Chung, given his track record — and the unsolicited endorsement from Lam — he can rest assured that he can pick whoever he wants to serve in summer and beyond.
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