Ms. Mo speaks up in English for true democracy

June 17, 2015 13:44
Claudia Mo said she might give a copy of her book to the DAB's Christopher Chung (inset), but publisher Jimmy Pang (left) said it would be a waste. Photos: Claudia Mo, HKEJ

She is not the first person you would think of when asked to name a pan-democrat.

She looks like a world-famous politician, but her face is often blocked from view by her party's other members.

So, she has come up with a smart idea to get herself heard by a global audience.

Thanks to Claudia Mo Man-ching, there will be at least one English speaker among the 70 legislators who will each deliver a speech of no more than 15 minutes in the debate starting today on the government's proposal for the 2017 election for chief executive.

The Civic Party member -- who worked as a journalist for Agence France-Presse, The Standard and TVB -- told media Tuesday at the launch of her book We Want True Democracy that she would address in English the international audience that cares for democracy in Hong Kong. 

Using a language that is still an official language of the sacred place where laws are made in Hong Kong is a noble act -- and a gesture usually avoided by government officials.

Senior government officials from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and heads of regulatory agencies communicate to the public through blogs, but rarely do they choose to use English – probably because English-speaking Hongkongers and expatriates are not their main audience.

Beijing officials are.

Sometimes referred to as the local version of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi because of their striking similarity in appearance, Mo is direct and adamant about the precise meaning of words in English and democracy.

In a recent posting on Facebook, she wrote, “I vow to vote down this fake, sham Beijing-decreed election plan, which just makes a nonsense of the word democracy.”

Also known as Ms Mo for her English-teacher-like persona, she told reporters political “reform” was too generous a term, since the government's proposal is nothing but a “Beijing-decreed election plan”.

She also posted on Facebook: “Pls can the international media just stop using the word 'reform' quite so liberally over HK”.

Always the language purist, Mo also prefers to use the term “not down to earth” in English to describe officials or policies that are out of touch with the ordinary people -- eschewing "Kennedy Town", a slang phrase that has become popular among local media because it sounds like "having one's feet way above the ground" in Cantonese.

Her upholding of standards in the Queen’s English contrasts starkly with the howlers sometimes perpetrated by members of the pro-establishment camp.

Legislator Christopher Chung Shu-kun of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong was ridiculed after he famously berated Jay Walder, at that time chief executive of the MTR Corp.: “You are dreaming on your office ... Same on you!” -- mispronouncing the word "shame".

Two young guns in the pro-Beijing party – chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king and Gary Chan Hak-kan -- also need to try their best (not "breast", as Chan once said) to make progress (which Lee once mixed up with “process”) in brushing up their English.

Jimmy Pang Chi-ming, the publisher of We Want True Democracy, which has a limited run of 2,000 copies, rejected her idea of sending a copy of the book to the DAB, saying, “What is the point of giving a comb to a Buddhist monk?”

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EJ Insight writer