And the icon of 2013 is … the Angry Hongkonger | South China Morning Post
  • Sun
  • Feb 1, 2015
  • Updated: 6:25am
PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 January, 2014, 10:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 January, 2014, 10:22pm

And the icon of 2013 is … the Angry Hongkonger

Michael Chugani says the results of an online poll on Hong Kong icons should ring alarm bells about the depth of anger in society


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

Who should you admire more - a schoolteacher who hurled the "f" word at police or a blind and deaf student who can only read Braille with her lips yet scored top marks in exams? Go ahead, say it's a no-brainer question, but you'd be wrong. Hongkongers idolise the foul-mouthed schoolteacher more.

RTHK's Icon of the Year poll named teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze Woman of the Year. She's the one who famously swore at policemen over their handling of a Falun Gong protest. The 21,071 voters who took part in the online poll chose her over 20-year-old Tsang Tsz-kwan, who scored within the top 5 per cent in the Diploma of Secondary Education exams despite her disabilities.

It tells us that the great disconnect between the government and the people has bred so much social discontent that Hongkongers are using defiance to vent their frustration. If there is any message in the poll results, it is that of the people telling the Leung Chun-ying administration to go to hell.

Ricky Wong Wai-kay, whose application for a TV licence was rejected by the Executive Council, clinched three awards, including Man of the Year and Quote of the Year. Wong's feisty fightback against Exco's snub turned him into a people's hero. The tens of thousands of admiring supporters who joined a protest march did so not because they wanted to watch more television but to give the government the finger.

Wong got 51.5 per cent of the votes compared to whistle-blower Edward Snowden's meagre 27.4 per cent. That alone shows the depth of public animosity towards the current leadership. Wong's staff and supporters won the People of the Year award. Student group Scholarism, whose mass protests forced the government into a U-turn on national education, was runner-up.

The quote that won Wong the award was: "Who rules - the law, the policies or the chief executive?" It's a great sound bite but a nonsensical one. Of course, the chief executive rules under the rule of law and, as leader, he has a right to implement policies he sees fit, as long as they are lawful. But Wong was implying that Exco's snub of his TV bid amounted to rule by man. The people bought this despite Wong's legal right to challenge the Exco decision in court - which he has done, and which shows Hong Kong has rule of law and not rule by man.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah's "I am also middle-class" quote won runner-up prize, but that was a vote intended to mock rather than show admiration. Given the bitter social discontent, who else would win the Gaffe of the Year award but Leung? He beat even disgraced former ICAC commissioner Timothy Tong Hin-ming, who used public money to finance his lavish entertaining of mainland officials.

It's just a poll, you say, and 21,071 online voters cannot accurately reflect public sentiment. Wrong again. I've said before, a silent revolution is festering against the old order. Don't expect the burning of tyres or hurling of petrol bombs, but people are angry. That anger was clear in the poll. Leung would be foolish to dismiss it.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host.


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