What is all the big fuss about D7689 anyway?

January 26, 2015 14:48
Puma removed this promotional ad from its Facebook page after a pro-establishment supporter said it insults Leung Chun-ying (left). Photo: Facebook

There are many things people can quibble about and still make the discussion sound useful but what do we make of the political brouhaha over an entry number on a runner's bib?

By all accounts, D7689 is worth every bit of the controversy it's creating.

But really, do we always have to take ourselves so seriously?

It seems a certain pro-establishment supporter thinks so. The loyalist promptly fired a letter to the global chief executive of Puma to take issue with the entry number.

For those not in the know, this is how it breaks down to -- "689" is the number of electoral college votes it took Leung Chun-ying to become Hong Kong chief executive; "D7" in Cantonese sounds like the English f-word.

The complaint was that the entry number on the bib Puma used to market itself ahead of Sunday's Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon insulted Leung.

Puma removed the promotion from its Facebook page but not before alert netizens had reposted it and turned it viral.

Puma has no official response to the controversy.

Since the posting, the ad has inspired countless versions, with one restaurant offering discounts to anyone whose Hong Kong identity card includes D7689.

Are Leung's supporters also about to go after them?

The Puma incident is only one of a few examples pro-establishment groups show their displeasure and unease when confronted with the truth about Leung.

The number "689", for instance, is especially stinging because it shows just how little mandate Leung enjoys from Hong Kong people.

That number is slightly more than half of the 1,200-member election committee in the 2012 election that represented vested interests rather than the Hong Kong voting population at large.

Loyalists will not hesitate to use friendly media to attack people who question Leung's legitimacy.

When Professor Johannes Chan, former dean of the faculty of law of the University of Hong Kong, weighed in on the side of pro-democracy activists, the move merited a three-page article in pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po about his supposed failings to ensure teaching quality.

Also, he was accused of allowing Benny Tai, one of his colleagues in the university, to organize the "illegal" Occupy Central movement.

The wider implications of the Puma incident and Wen Wei Po's criticism of Chan's professional integrity are a reflection of the state of free speech in Hong Kong.

It gives us a glimpse of what the government might do to suppress dissent.

In his policy address last week, Leung flagged such intentions when he singled out a university student journal for publishing an academic discussion of self-determination, accusing it of inciting independence for Hong Kong.

And who could forget how James Tien fell out with China's top cadres after he made critical remarks about Leung? 

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EJ Insight writer