You would have to be stupid to think that Shanghai, with its “mainland judicial system, corruption, and lack of freedom” could overtake Hong Kong, Sir David Tang has said.

At a Foreign Correspondents’ Club Luncheon on Thursday, the founder of Shanghai Tang was candid in his criticism of the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his latest policy address. Tang began by calling the address “a silent contortion of the truth”.

“Does anyone here really believe that the government, our government, foster harmony or share prosperity?” he asked. “I believe these words are patronising and condescending at best, and at worst, meaningless.”

Tang said that, over the span of Leung’s two hour policy address, he did not give the slightest indication that there was political or social dissatisfaction. The pro-democracy Occupy protests that took place in 2014 and the voting down of the political reform package in 2015 were not mentioned, he said.

Tang also called Leung’s first line of the address – that being “Since taking office, the current term government has focused its efforts on promoting democracy” – a “supreme paradox”. He suggested it was perhaps produced by “a monkey who accidentally typed up those words on a typewriter,” Tang suggested.

Even Li Peng, the former Chinese Premier, met with student leader Wu’er Kaishi on television during the student protests leading up to the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, Tang said.

In contrast, “[T]hroughout the Umbrella Movement, our Chief Executive steadfastly refused to meet the protesters… [he] hid behind the azaleas at Government House and pushed out that diminutive figure of Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who fluffed around with absurd preconditions and insisted on meeting the students behind closed doors,” Tang said.

‘Puppet on a string’

Tang also criticised the 48 mentions of Beijing’s One Belt, One Road initiative: “What on earth would an ordinary citizen of Hong Kong care or understand about One Belt, One Road?”

By “second guessing what the Chinese government does not want to hear”, the Chief Executive had become a “puppet on a string”, Tang added.

Photo: HKFP.

Tang cited, amongst others, the case of the missing booksellers, the city’s poverty, and the aging population, as problems that needed fixing but that could not be resolved with the current standoff between the pan-democrats and pro-establishment in a politically polarised climate. The legislature that was slowly losing the confidence of the public and the Chief Executive was highly unpopular, he said.

[D]ivergent views should be “brought closer together openly, through peaceful, intellectual and intelligent negotiations… We must cling on to Hong Kong as our home, but we cannot afford to stand by our status quo,” he said.

The holy trinity

Tang said Hong Kong still has its “holy trinity” – a decent judicial system and a fairly uncorrupted community and genuine freedom in Hong Kong. “You think Shanghai, say, with her mainland judicial system and corruption, and lack of freedom, could overtake Hong Kong as China’s premier city? You would have to be utterly insane, and stupid,” Tang said.

Tang said the city’s holy trinity made “the 7 million of us in Hong Kong the greatest and freest de facto Chinese diaspora”, and that the Hong Kong must hang on to it “until the bitter end… or 2047, at least”. Tang said he even fantasises that the city and its holy trinity could play a vital role in shaping the future of China.

“Why else would 50 million mainlanders come flooding through Hong Kong every year?”

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.