Tycoons, politicians, officials line up for city's top awards
Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen will announce today honours for more than a dozen current or former top officials, politicians and tycoons.
But the annual honours list has brought accusations of favouritism as several leading pro-Beijing figures and a close ally of Tsang line up for gongs.
The Democratic Party, because of its role in backing the government's reform proposal, declined any honours to avoid being seen as receiving political rewards.
A total of 306 people will be honoured this year - and seven will get the city's highest honour - the Grand Bauhinia Medal. Only three were awarded last year.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, and Executive Councillors Ronald Arculli and Leong Che-hung, will receive Grand Bauhinia Medals in recognition of their service to the government and community.
Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun will also get one - earned for his 'outstanding contribution to charity and community service' and the 'important role' he has played in education, sports and the welfare of young people.
Nobel physics laureate Charles Kao Kuen will also be honoured with a Grand Bauhinia Medal.
The city's second-highest honour, the Gold Bauhinia Star, will almost exclusively be awarded to current or former officials, politicians and businessmen. They include Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing and Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
But news that former lawmaker and radio talk-show host Albert Cheng King-hon, a close friend of Donald Tsang, will receive a Gold Bauhinia has drawn criticism.
Cheng is to be honoured for being a 'well-respected figure in the media sector' and for founding the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association, which pioneered a personal emergency service for the elderly.
During Tung Chee-hwa's tenure as chief executive, Cheng was a prominent critic of Hong Kong's administration and the central government as host of Commercial Radio's talk show Teacup in a Storm.
Cheng's tune changed after Donald Tsang stepped into Tung's shoes in 2005 and he backed Tsang in the chief executive race that year. Critics point to his widely known role as adviser to Tsang, which earned him the nickname, 'Bowtie's sting', among pan-democrats.
Other controversial figures who are honoured include outspoken Lew Mon-hung (Bronze Bauhinia Star). He is a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate known for his love of placing full-page newspaper advertisements criticising pan-democrats. David Lie Tai-chong (Silver Bauhinia Star) - another CPPCC delegate noted for his role in the breakup of the Liberal Party - is seen as a thorn in the side of the Tsang administration.
Cartoonist Alice Mak Kar-bik, creator of McDull the pig, will get a Medal of Honour.
Several pro-government lawmakers and district councillors will also be honoured.
But no pan-democrats - and certainly no members of the Democratic Party, which provided the government with the crucial votes ensured safe passage of its reform package - are featured in the honours list.
Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said receiving such honours was not something to be proud of. 'For us who walk the path of democracy, we don't get our mandate from medals,' he said.
Democrat Cheung Man-kwong said the party had rejected government offers to honour members.
A person familiar with the government's position said officials understood the party's concerns about the 'sensitive timing' of the awards.
Lawmaker Wong Yuk-man, of the League of Social Democrats, said the honour system had become a mechanism of political remuneration.
'Taipan's [Cheng's other nickname] help for Donald Tsang's administration has earned him this reward,' Wong said. 'How many of these people have really done any good for Hong Kong?'
Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the increase in the number of Grand Bauhinia Medal awards would give people the impression that there had been a 'deflation' in the value of such honours.
'Awarding people like Stanley Ho, whose comments often cause controversy in society, and Taipan, who is a close friend of Tsang, will only enhance the public impression that these are only political rewards for a small circle,' Choy said.
Separately, last night Cheng denied he was the person who advised Tsang to engage Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee in an unprecedented televised debate on constitutional reform last month - which Tsang was seen to have lost.
'Originally I didn't want to receive the medal,' Cheng said. 'I should have been given a Grand Bauhinia Medal way back.'
The presentation ceremony will be held in October.