Hong Kong’s annual list of honours and medal recipients was announced on Thursday night. However, the selection raised eyebrows with accusations that some winners were receiving a political reward, as opposed to being recognised for their contribution to society.

In the 2016 list, 310 people received honours. Those included top government officials, pro-Beijing camp lawmakers, district councillors and businessmen. Several recipients took part in the election campaign of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in 2012.

Leung Chun-ying
Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK.

Seven people received the highest honour, the Grand Bauhinia Medal. They include:

  • Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Chief Secretary
  • Tam Yiu-chung, lawmaker of Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB)
  • Chan Wing-kee, member of the standing committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference
  • Tsui Lap-chee, former University of Hong Kong president
  • Moses Cheng Mo-chi, member of several public committees
  • Hu Fa-kuang, founder of Ryoden Development
  • Victor Lo Chung-wing, former Executive Council member during previous Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s term

It was not uncommon for government officials to receive government honours. Speaking to media on Friday, Carrie Lam said the medal was a great honour, but “it was nothing special” as top officials in the past had received the same medal.

“If I did not receive it, it would be more worthy of a story,” she joked.

carrie lam
Carrie Lam. File Photo: Stand News.

Other principal officials received the Gold Bauhinia Star, the second-highest honour, including Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing, and Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po.

There were also three other lawmakers from the pro-Beijing DAB party who received Gold, Silver and Bronze Bauhinia Star medals respectively, namely Chan Kam-lam who is set to retire, Starry Lee Wai-king and Chan Hak-kan.

However, no lawmakers from the Federation of Trade Unions nor the Liberal Party received medals, except the latter’s Vincent Fang Kang who will retire. Fang received a Gold Bauhinia Star.

No pan-democratic lawmakers received honours.

Johannes Chan (left) and Leonie Ki (right). File
Johannes Chan (left) and Leonie Ki (right). File

Political rewards

Leonie Ki Man-fung and Dr Lo Chung-mau, both University of Hong Kong Council members, received Gold and Bronze medals respectively. They were two of the members who voted down liberal law scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun’s appointment as a top official at the university, according to leaked recordings.

There were four members of Leung’s 2012 election campaign who received medals, including Vincent Marshall Lee Kwan-ho and Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon. Both were appointed to higher education institutes during Leung’s term.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen told Apple Daily that the honours for Ki and Lo gave people the perception that people were being rewarded for voting down Chan’s appointment.

Ma Ngok, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said recipients of honours – in the past – had to make a large, long-term contribution to society, but many of those during Leung’s tenure only became active in society over recent years.

Ma said that Lo has a professional background, but Ki’s honours will be perceived as based on a contribution to Leung Chun-ying, rather than to society.

He added that honours received by the pro-Beijing camp were rewards for past contributions, and a means to consolidate support for next year’s Chief Executive elections.

Ngau Tau Kok fire
Thomas Cheung (left), Samuel Hui (right). Photo: GovHK.

Heroes, sports, entertainment

The two firefighters who passed away during the Ngau Tau Kok fire that burned for more than four days last month were posthumously awarded the Gold Medal for Bravery.

Chan Yuen-ting, the first female coach who won the Hong Kong top football league with the Eastern club, received a Bronze Bauhinia Star. Stephanie Au Hoi-shun, a Hong Kong swimming representative, received the Chief Executive’s Commendation for Community Service.

Members of the entertainment sector also received honours, most notably singer and actor Andy Lau Tak-wah.

The 2016 Honours List can be seen hereThe full list of Justices of the Peace appointments can be seen here.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.