Donald Tsang

Observers have their say on who did best

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 June, 2010, 12:00am

Former civil service secretary Joseph Wong Wing-ping:

Audrey Eu won hands down. Her content and how she said it were a notch above Tsang's. He was in an inherently difficult position to win since just before the debate, he and his colleagues' 'Act Now' campaign had been poorly received. Polls by universities showed that more people have come to support the pan-democrats and fewer supported the government as a result.

This was an opportunity for him to explain to the people how he would work out his plans, but he failed to seize that. Everything he said had been said previously.

I believe this debate will not influence people's opinions about the government. But on the other hand, Eu may have swayed those who supported the government into supporting her camp.

Tsang's ending would have touched people's hearts if he had had better popularity ratings. But the fact that his ratings were low cast doubt on his claims about representing the wishes of seven million people. The only point he scored was, perhaps, one which came out of sympathy. Some people may think Eu holds a certain intellectual superiority.

On the other hand, Eu's ending was something new: she convincingly said standing still was better than making a false step. That was a pleasant surprise which stood in contrast to Tsang's uninspired discourse.

Christine Loh Kung-wai, chief executive of the think tank Civic Exchange:

Tsang started this war, so it makes sense to think he has what it takes to win, but unfortunately he did not. One of the conditions he had to fulfil to win the debate was to convince the public that the government's position was clearly explained and supportable. But I think what he did was simply repeat what he had already said.

And he did not debate Eu. Within each session we expected to see questions and answers, but he did not challenge at all. He should have taken her on. And he was not able to do that. To start this debate as the challenger means having the ability to take on and destroy Eu's arguments. If you have not done that, then you have not achieved your objective as a challenger.

As an ending, hers was more appealing. You can understand what she says. And she looked you in the eye while saying it. Whereas I think for the chief executive, he was still trying to read from a script, being more hesitant than he should have been.

Dr Dixon Sing Ming, political commentator at the University of Science and Technology:

The chief executive's performance was exceptionally disappointing. It was like he was there to read out the old stuff that everybody already knew.

He tried to attack the Civic Party and criticise Audrey Eu as being radical. And he tried to link her and the party with those protesters he faced during the 'Act Now' campaign. But it was obvious that not all of those protesters were from the Civic Party.

Ms Eu appeared more persuasive and won the debate.

One outcome may be that more people will not trust Beijing. And more post-80s young people will not trust the government.'

Independent lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee:

Tsang lost by a wide margin, in terms of both the attractiveness and persuasiveness of the arguments he put forward. It was a landslide victory for Eu. I think he tried very hard. But what I found most disappointing was that he kept glancing at his script. People around him really should have reminded him. Even when Eu was speaking he was seen looking at the script, which was again very disappointing.

Politicians go into the battlefield with sound bites, but also with something that comes from their hearts. And Tsang did not do the latter. What comes across as convincing has to come from your heart. If you appear as though you are reading lines prepared by your staff, it won't be convincing and sincere. And he lost a lot of points on that front.

It persuaded more people not to accept the package, and more people to yearn for the liberalisation or abolition of functional constituencies. For the government, it was an unfortunate outcome.

It was an error of judgment for him to have started this war while not bringing any new weapons. A lot of the questions from Eu and the public should have been expected, so I was surprised he gave an uninspiring performance.

His ending was good, but it came too late. He had already lost many points earlier in the debate. Eu, on the other hand, sounded more convincing than he did. She put up a very good performance.

Dr Ivan Choy Chi-keung, political analyst at Chinese University:

There was not much surprise. Actually, neither Donald Tsang nor Audrey Eu brought up any new points. Many of the points raised have been discussed in the months since the reform package was out.

But Eu was more persuasive. Tsang was only repeating what had already been said.

But in a sense, the Hong Kong government has done something positive because it has set a precedent. In the future when we have a public policy with great impact, say, the [proposed] Article 23 [security bill], it will be very difficult for the government not to hold an open debate with the opposition.

It is a great breakthrough in the political development of Hong Kong.

For Eu, her participation in the debate and her winning against Tsang will brush up her image and personal glamour. She has shown she can debate face to face with Tsang on the same platform.

Dr Ma Ka-fai, cultural critic and public affairs observer:

I would give Audrey Eu 90 marks out of 100. I have to deduct 10 marks because she did not cry. If tears had been seen on her face, her performance could have been perfect.

For Donald Tsang, I would give him 50 marks. In short, I would say he asked for trouble and got it. Having said that, I have to say that he did well in not losing his temper during the debate.

Overall, Eu undoubtedly outperformed Tsang, in terms of her reasoning and her on-camera performance.

There were many occasions when Tsang just did not look at the camera when he was expressing his points. That gave the audience the impression that he was not confident enough and he did not quite believe what he was saying.