Donald Tsang

Typhoon Donald blows away common sense

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 May, 2005, 12:00am

The prospect of a typhoon called Donald sweeping destructively through Hong Kong is enough to send a shiver down the spine of any self-respecting government spin doctor.

So it is understandable that the Observatory was a little uncomfortable when the name Donald Tsang was put forward in its recent competition to find new names for tropical cyclones.

But the way in which officials reacted to this fresh meteorological phenomenon was as wet as an April shower. Their sensitivity was absurd.

This was a popular competition. There were 25,000 entries. They included the names of public figures and dim sum delicacies. The two winners selected by the judges were Tai chi and Kapok.

The Observatory was happy to release the number of nominations received for some of the proposed names. Typhoon Tung Chee-hwa, for example was one possible candidate. The former chief executive's name received 218 nominations (rather fewer than the number he secured from the Election Committee when given a second term in 2002).

So how many people wanted to see a Typhoon Donald Tsang? We do not know - because the Observatory will not tell us. A spokesman explained that the number is a 'very sensitive matter'. He would not even reveal whether Typhoon Donald received more votes than Typhoon Tung. The level of support, it seems, is now a closely guarded official secret.

It is easy to see why the names of public officials might not be deemed appropriate for use in identifying storms and cyclones. And Mr Tsang, as frontrunner to become the next chief executive, might be a special cause for concern. No prospective leader would want to be associated with a possible source of death and devastation.

The government's PR machine would probably not even be happy if the typhoon in question turned out to be mild and harmless. It might be worried about newspaper headlines along the lines of 'Donald - damp squib'.

But there was no question of Mr Tsang's name being included on the official list for typhoons kept by the United Nations. And there is nothing sensitive at all about the number of nominations the name received. Our officials need to relax a little - and develop a sense of humour.

The name Donald, it seems, would have been a world first if it had been adopted. The list of names for the Atlantic includes a Dennis, a Debby, a Dean, a Dolly and a Danny. Closer to home, we get a Damrey, a Danas and a Dujuan. But there is not a Donald in sight.

We are told that the proposed new names should represent the Hong Kong spirit. Tai chi and Kapok might do the trick. (Mr Tsang would argue he will too).

But the people of Hong Kong are not looking to Mr Tsang to bring them a typhoon. They are, instead, hoping he will whistle up the winds of change.