Media and lawmakers have no excuse for indulging fantasies of Lew

Mike Rowse says the chief executive was right to keep away from Lew

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 11:41am


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Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has made hundreds of decisions over the past seven months, some good, some bad and some indifferent. No doubt he will make many thousands more.

But there is already a strong candidate for the best decision of his time in the top slot, and that is his resolve not to make Lew Mon-hung a member of the Executive Council.

Lew - whose Chinese nickname is "Dream Bear" - is the person who attended a high-profile dinner together with a core member of Leung's team, Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, and an alleged local triad member in the middle of the chief executive election campaign. The sight of a former chief of the Independent Commission Against Corruption dining with a top gangster certainly grabbed the headlines.

No doubt it was out of gratitude for helping to generate all this favourable publicity that, according to Lew, candidate Leung promised him an Exco seat if he won.

Following his arrest by the ICAC this year in connection with corruption allegations involving his listed company Pearl Oriental Oil, Lew allegedly appealed to Leung to intervene.

When Leung made no response, Lew went public with the Exco promise and also made other allegations in an interview with a local magazine, iSun Affairs. For example, he claimed Leung's campaign manager Barry Cheung Chun-yuen had confessed to him that the three professionals who "cleared" Leung's house on The Peak of having unauthorised building works did not exist.

To call Lew a loose cannon would be very unfair - to cannons.

Notwithstanding the sheer improbability of much of this, and in some cases plausible evidence to the contrary - Cheung, for example, pointed out that two of the three had been publicly named - newsrooms throughout Hong Kong decided that these ravings were the top item of the day. Some of our legislators quickly joined in the circus and proposed special powers be invoked to investigate these matters.

There is a famous character in American literature called Walter Mitty. According to the Wikipedia entry relating to this James Thurber creation, he is a person with a vivid fantasy life, an "ordinary person who indulges in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs". The same entry goes on to say, "In the brief snatches of reality that punctuate (his) fantasies, the audience meets well-meaning but insensitive strangers who inadvertently rob (him) of some of his remaining dignity".

Does this remind you of any of the parties involved in our own drama?

As he surveys the train wreck of his public life - Lew has now lost his position on the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and the ICAC case rolls on - presumably the dream is now being replaced by a rather dispiriting reality.

The most striking aspect of the whole affair is the eagerness with which some in the community are willing to use any stick to beat the chief executive. The one-sidedness of much of the media coverage, the suspension of critical faculties by otherwise intelligent people; is this the level to which our political life has stooped?

As another columnist for this paper has pointed out, if the supposed deal on an Exco seat were true, then Lew himself would have committed a criminal offence. No doubt he will be taking some legal advice on this before his next interview with our anti-corruption agency.

But when all is said and done, we should not think too badly of Lew. In his own mind, no doubt he genuinely believed he was in line for high office.

I am told that up to now, there has been no equivalent in Chinese folklore of a Walter Mitty-like character. Well, now, there is.

Mike Rowse is the search director of Stanton Chase International and an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.