PUBLIC EYE MICHAEL CHUGANI

Public Eye: ‘Words speak louder than bricks’ for Zhang

Pan-democrats have said they will tell Zhang most Hongkongers don’t want Leung for another term

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 May, 2016, 5:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 2:26pm

Have you been invited to tonight’s banquet in honour of the big man? I have not. Too bad. Had I been, I would have slavishly attended to provide fodder for those who say I’m a government stooge. Never mind, maybe next time. My worry is there might not be a next time. Not if so-called radicals pierce the police ring of steel, break loose the glued-in bricks around the Convention Centre and send them flying towards state leader Zhang Dejiang. That’s why I say Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was nuts not to invite me. I can charm the brick-hurlers into poodles by spinning the banquet as a celebration of localism with fishballs as the main dish, the film Ten Years as after-dinner entertainment, and Cantonese as the required dialect.

Pan-democrat legislators are boycotting the dinner. What idiots. Political grandstanding should never supersede free food, wine, and listening to Leung wax lyrical about One Belt One Road. Four pan-democrats have agreed to attend a previously unplanned pre-dinner cocktail reception initiated by Zhang to show he does indeed want dialogue. No, I’ve not been invited to that either. Maybe next time. Will there be a next time? I think so but only if listening replaces lecturing. I’m going to say something that will send bricks my way from those who label me a lapdog. But what the heck, we have free speech, don’t we?

Zhang set the right tone immediately after stepping off his plane by saying he came here to listen. Extra tight security means he will have minimal interaction with ordinary Hongkongers during his brief stay. And yes, it was overkill by airport security to take away yellow handkerchiefs from some reporters. But the cosy cocktail reception with the four pan-democrats and a handful of other guests has become the centrepiece of his visit. He can listen to the people through them. I suggest that establishment camp invitees subtly step aside so Zhang can spend most of the 40-minute event with the four pan-democrats.

They have said they will tell Zhang most Hongkongers don’t want Leung for another term. And they will demand that Beijing allows so-called true democracy. Fine. Words speak louder than bricks. Quiet words cut more ice with mainland leaders than words hurled at them through a megaphone. Tonight’s first ever face-to-face between democrats and a top state leader offers a real chance to remove the chill. Zhang has shown statesmanship by reaching out. The democrats can either build on or burn this bridge.