Game changer: former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang revels in film based on pioneering baseball team he helped to establish

Sha Tin Martins, the first youth team with Chinese players, epitomised city’s can-do spirit in 1980s, former chief executive says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2016, 12:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2016, 12:23am

Thirty-four years after he helped set up Hong Kong’s first baseball team of Chinese youth players, former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen still treasures the can-do spirit that contributes to Hong Kong’s success.

In 1982, the Sha Tin Martins were launched with funding allocated by Tsang who was then Sha Tin district officer.

At the time, baseball in Hong Kong was a sport dominated by the Japanese and no one thought the ragtag team of more than 20 disadvantaged youngsters could be successful.

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Yet the Sha Tin Martins – founded by Leo Lu Kwong-fai, then principal of Kei Kok Primary School in Sha Tin – went on to win matches against strong foreign rivals.

In 1983, against all the odds, the team won the Hong Kong Little League championship after beating a powerful Japanese team.

On Saturday night, Tsang embarked on a sentimental journey when he and his friends watched the film Weeds on Fire, or 0.5 Step in Chinese, at a cinema in Taikoo Shing. The film is loosely based on the team’s exploits.

“In the 1980s, district officers wielded wide-ranging power. We could get things done if we had the determination and courage,” he said. “The can-do spirit is the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s success.”

Tsang, who was then in his late 30s, proposed that Sha Tin District Council named a bridge on Sha Tin Rural Committee Road over the Shing Mun River Channel the Sand Martin Bridge to commemorate the team’s victory.

It was one of my happiest and memorable moments in my public service career
Donald Tsang Yam-kuen

“It was one of my happiest and memorable moments in my public service career,” Tsang said. He once compared his sense of accomplishment in leading the youth baseball team to the success of his bold move to deploy HK$118 billion to intervene in the stock market in 1998 to fend off speculators.

In February 2007, Tsang paid a visit to Sha Tin to see a practice session of the baseball team as part of his electioneering activities to seek a second term as chief executive.

But Tsang, who became chief executive in 2005, lamented that many people and media were now inclined to criticise the government and were not interested in playing up positive news.

Weeds on Fire chronicles the fictional lives of two teenage members growing up in one of the district’s oldest public housing estates. The HK$2 million low-budget production was funded by the Film Develoment Fund, which was set up by the government in 1999 when Tsang was financial secretary.

The fund aims at providing funding support to projects conducive to the long-term development of the Hong Kong film industry.

Tsang, now 71, cast his ballot at a polling station in Causeway Bay in the Legislation Council elections on Sunday.