23 October 2018
Li Ka-shing became emotional at the press conference  as he talked about Hong Kong competitiveness, among many other issues. Photo: HKEJ
Li Ka-shing became emotional at the press conference as he talked about Hong Kong competitiveness, among many other issues. Photo: HKEJ

What does a goddess have to do with Li’s choice for CE?

Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, broke his silence over his choice for chief executive by using an ancient Chinese myth to give his take on events.

When asked if he would vote for a male or female candidate, Li brought up Nuwa, who is best known in Chinese mythology as a goddess who created mankind and mended the pillar of heaven.

Observers quickly concluded that Li would vote for former chief secretary Carrie Lam, who is widely expected to win Sunday’s election thanks to the backing of Beijing’s Liaison Office.

Li also said he would choose a candidate who can work with Beijing and who is trusted by the central government, calling these two qualities “very important”.

Except for these two essentials, Li left his preferences very much up in the air.

But by invoking Nuwa, Li sent tongues wagging that he has settled on Lam. Journalists and politicians alike were all over each other putting words in his mouth. Even public broadcaster RTHK weighed in by saying Li has made his choice. 

But it would be simplistic and naive to take Li’s words literally. His speech should be read between the lines to understand his thinking.

Li punctuated his statement by saying many things are quite difficult to deal with but they can be overcome by hard work and a strong spirit.  

The Nuwa analogy showed that Hong Kong people can do anything to repair their differences and prevent matters from spinning out of control. He did not say that the work is best undertaken by a man or a woman.

In fact, Li may have his choice in mind but he has no responsibility to make it public.

But in general, he put additional emphasis on how the future leader can bring Hong Kong back on track and avoid further social conflicts and instability through a close working relationship with the central government.

Lam has been labelled as Beijing’s “favorite” ever since her boss, Leung Chun-ying, decided to forgo a second term.

However, Lam has no special connection with Beijing’s central authorities because her job did not require her to have such links.

In contrast, her main rival John Tsang had a close working relationship with Beijing in the nine years that he was financial secretary.

Tsang is a former schoolmate of Liu He, a key economic consultant to President Xi Jinping, and enjoys close contact with Chinese foreign officials.

In fact, Tsang has expressed his willingness to “mend the pillar of heaven” broken by five years of social conflict.

In an interview with Cable TV, Tsang said the failure of the current administration was in drawing the line with the opposition camp.

He said whether the line is still there will be known when the results of the election are in.

Tsang is the only candidate who has secured nominations from both democrats and Beijing loyalists. Lam rode the support of the pro-establishment camp.

Tsang understands that what Hong Kong people want is solidarity and believes Beijing knows the implication of his high popularity.

What Tsang said may resonate with Hongkongers who have been struggling under a deeply unpopular administration in the past five years.

But from the perspective of Beijing loyalists, Tsang’s enormous popularity could be a threat to Beijing authorities and could threaten national security. Some say Tsang could be a “loose cannon” who could jeopardize Beijing’s sovereignty over Hong Kong.

Tsang issued a statement to deny the allegations and stress the importance of building an inclusive society.

Meanwhile, pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao reported on Wednesday that some young Tsang supporters it described as “small potatoes” have links to the US.

It said two main members of the group come from the consultancy APCO Worldwide, which is related to former US president Bill Clinton and investor George Soros.

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EJ Insight writer

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