Send in the clowns: Hong Kong chief executive-elect gets advice from an unlikely quarter

Hong Kong funny man Kenneth Ng gives out advice to Carrie Lam at World Clown Association Convention in Bangkok

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 4:19pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 11:28pm

As Hong Kong’s new leader reflects on a baptism of political fire and ponders the stark reality of making good on a campaign pledge to heal a divided city, advice has arrived from an unlikely quarter.

In the week that saw Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor elected the first woman to run the city of just over 7.3 million people on a mandate of 777 votes from an electorate representing less that 0.2 per cent of the population, it has been suggested that she, quite literally, “send in the clowns”.

‘Clown doctors’ in Hong Kong prescribe laughter as medicine for sick children

The advice comes from 36-year-old Tuen Mun resident, Kenneth Ng – who doubles as “Ken Ken the Clown”, a senior member of the 50-strong delegation representing the city at the World Clown Association Convention in the Thai capital Bangkok last week.

As a part of the Chinese nation, Hong Kong’s presence on the international convention circuit is normally limited, but not so at this global gathering where the SAR made up the biggest single delegation.

More than 200 funny men and women from 16 countries and jurisdictions as diverse as Puerto Rico and Malaysia came together to compete in competitions, generally clown around and spread some joy to the disadvantaged of a country still in an official state of mourning following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej half a year ago.

“At 50 our delegation is the biggest single group at the convention,’’ said Ng who holds the distinction of being the first-ever Chinese balloon twister to strut his stuff for US theme park giant Disneyland.

And Ng, for whom clowning is a serious business, wasn’t kidding with his message about sending in the men and women with big shoes, red noses and a penchant for falling over.

I really think clowning and the fun and happiness it brings is something that can help put a smile back on the faces of Hong Kong people
Ken Ken the Clown

“These past couple of years Hong Kong people, who are already super busy with the stresses and strains of work, have had all the political and government problems to make them even more stressed and unhappy,” said the man who has been a professional clown for 16 years, including his four-year stint at Hong Kong Disneyland.

“I really think clowning and the fun and happiness it brings is something that can help put a smile back on the faces of Hong Kong people,” Ng said.

“Despite the doom and gloom of the economy and politics, interest in clowning is growing every year in the city. At the moment, through my company, I have 150 students who are learning how to become clowns.

“The great thing about Hong Kong people is that they like and are able to combine all the disciplines of clowning – juggling, costumes, face painting, magic tricks, balloon twisting, you name it – into the whole clowning package,’’ he added.

‘King of Clowns’ happiest when working at Christmas

While Hong Kong made up the biggest single group of convention-going funsters in Bangkok, not far behind was Malaysia with 33 clowns and the United States – which is home to the World Clown Association - with 39 pranksters, tricksters and twisters at the four-day convention.

For Ng, the ability Hong Kong people have to retain their inner child alongside the seriousness of adulthood makes them ideal candidates for clowning.

“Years in this business have made me sure that this is the case. We all need to laugh and we all need the simple pleasures in life. I think Hong Kong people – and probably Asian people in general – can still laugh like kids, no matter how old they are,’’ he said.