Public Eye

Get your soda and popcorn ready for Hong Kong’s high political drama: the Wang Chau slugfest

The best part will be the body language between Leung Chun-ying and John Tsang when they sit next to each other at today’s press conference

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2016, 10:33pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 5:57pm

Get your soda and popcorn ready. Showtime starts today at 3.30 pm. Guaranteed political high drama. Maybe you should skip the soda and go for something stiffer. But stay alert. Don’t miss the best part. It’s not in the plot but between the lines.

I’m talking about the body language between Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah when they sit next to each other at today’s press conference. When was the last time these two top leaders rubbed shoulders in front of the TV cameras? Maybe my memory is getting fuzzy but I don’t recall them ever facing the Hong Kong media together. That says a lot.

Actually, rubbing shoulders is the wrong way to put it. It’ll be more like hiding their mutual contempt when they sit next to each other. Political cans of worms that suddenly explode in full public view are a government’s worst nightmare.

Hongkongers have seen so many worms crawl out of the Wang Chau public housing project that it’s impossible to convince them the government didn’t collude with rural leaders to scale down and move the development to another site. How then can two government leaders who loathe each other change this public mindset after having openly blamed the other for “Wang Chau-gate”?

But miracles do happen. Leung and Tsang could bear hug or wrap arms around each other’s shoulders in a show of unity.

Maybe they can’t stomach that even for a photo op but how about a handshake? After all, both crave televised handshakes with President Xi Jinping. On behalf of Hongkongers, could I implore that both at least smile at each other? Even contestants smile or shake hands before a bout. Tsang, as a fencer, should know that. His words and body language of late show he is gearing up to slug it out with Leung in next March’s chief executive election.

If reporters ask the right questions, how the two men respond will tell us more than just what part each played in the Wang Chau affair. It will give Hongkongers a first glimpse of how dirty a slugfest we can expect for the chief executive election.