Protesters heckle Tsang at reform roadshow
Heckled, abused and accused of selling out the people of Hong Kong, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen yesterday hit back at protesters, saying they were in the minority and should not obstruct the 'political reform vessel' from setting sail.
On a stage in Shau Kei Wan during his electoral reform package publicity blitz, Tsang urged the crowd to applaud and cheer in support of the government proposal after he failed to quell the shouting protesters.
Yesterday's 'Act Now' campaign hopes to gather public support for the 2012 electoral reform proposal, but pan-democratic supporters who oppose the ideas took the opportunity to voice their opinions.
The government proposal suggests amendments for both the chief executive election and the Legislative Council poll in 2012, but pan-democrats want guarantees on how universal suffrage will be implemented in 2017 and 2020 before they support the package.
Ministers split into three teams yesterday, visiting Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories in an attempt to distribute leaflets and promote the reform proposal to the public. Despite only disclosing their itinerary at 1pm, students, activists and supporters of various pan-democratic parties gathered at the destinations to welcome ministers with a chorus of heckling and booing.
Protesters shouting, 'All Wrong' drowned out every chant of 'Act Now' by the ministers. 'All Wrong' in Chinese characters is similar to those for 'Act Now', the official slogan which literally means 'weigh anchor', signifying the need to set sail towards universal suffrage.
Tsang began at Kornhill Plaza in Quarry Bay at 3pm but was prevented from handing out fliers due to a crush of protesters, journalists and plain-clothes police who formed a tight cordon around the chief.
Passers-by were frustrated that the MTR entrance was blocked, and the Jusco department store pulled down its metal shutters during the chaos. Tsang remained for five minutes, with the only words that could be heard coming from protesters chanting for the abolition of the functional constituencies.
Tsang's entourage had better luck at the Oi Tung Shopping Centre, Shau Kei Wan, where a pre-arranged carnival was held, which Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong fishing sector lawmaker Wong Yung-kan attended.
Tsang spoke on stage, but while invited guests were clearly supporters of the government, protesters chanted from the edge of the cordoned off area and passers-by on escalators voiced their discontent.
Visibly agitated, Tsang departed from his prepared speech to accuse his detractors of obstructing reform. 'These groups advocating being anchored, we do not fear you ... Today, we have to take the opportunity and raise the anchor on political reform,' he said, using imagery to point out that the fishing community understood best the negative effects of being moored forever. When he failed to placate the protesters, he urged supporters to counter their chanting with applause.
'Fellow citizens, let us show those who oppose the reform hear us cheer in support,' Tsang said, as he walked towards protesters and pointed at them. 'These are the minority, and those are the absolute majority. I hope you will stop obstructing this vessel from moving forward.' As he left, a protestor appeared to run towards him but was knocked to the ground.
As of yesterday, there were 9,161 members of a Facebook group called 'All Wrong', which ridicules the government's 2012 reform proposal.
Tsang was re-elected as chief executive in 2007 with 649 votes from 796 Election Committee members. Elsewhere, ministers led by Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung met similar opposition. Tang led a team into shopping malls in Kowloon West - the constituency that saw 60,395 people vote for the League of Social Democrats Wong Yuk-man last month - and was met by protesters who had to be removed from his path.
John Tsang stepped out of a van in Sai Kung and strode to meet his first member of the public only to realise too late that he was walking towards a reform package opponent heckling him.
Health minister Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, constitutional affairs minister Stephen Lam Sui-lung and education minister Michael Suen Ming-yeung handed out pamphlets while the chief executive and the three secretaries drew most of the attention.
Wong said the voices of opposition were to be expected in a city that cherished freedom of expression, but Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing said such obstruction was not the proper exercise in freedom of expression and was 'worthy of condemnation'. Earlier yesterday, executive councillor Ronald Arculli acknowledged ministers were still ill at ease lobbying the public on the streets, but such communication was better than nothing at all.