Peng Liyuan

Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan trades ‘punches’ and Cantonese with Hong Kong elderly residents

Resident of home for the elderly ‘spars’ with President Xi’s wife, who responds with a burst of the local dialect

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 10:02pm

Even the velvet glove can throw a punch, as Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan demonstrated by trading fake blows with an elderly woman during a visit to a Hong Kong home for the elderly on Friday.

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While her husband, President Xi Jinping, was inspecting the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong at the biggest military parade since the city’s handover in 1997, Peng went on a charm offensive to win over the elderly residents.

Watch: first lady visits home for the elderly

As she toured the Sunshine Complex for the Elderly in Wong Chuk Hang, Peng witnessed a resident doing boxing exercises as part of her health regimen, according to a video released by the Hong Kong government.

“Nei hou,” Peng said, using the Cantonese phrase for “hello”.

The woman, her hands in red boxing gloves, sportingly threw three fake punches at Peng.

A smiling first lady responded by pretending to throw some of her own.

Peng then watched others working on their drawings, describing one woman’s work as “hou leng” – the Cantonese phrase for “very beautiful”.

She then made paper flowers with a group of elderly residents. One of them told Peng that she was beautiful, to which the first lady put on a big smile and replied “do ze” – Cantonese for “thank you”.

Peng, who is in town with Xi for the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China, toured the centre for about half an hour accompanied by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s wife, Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee.

On Thursday, the first day of her three-day trip, Peng opted for a classic Chinese look, sporting a beige striped jacket with a Mandarin collar, paired with a pencil skirt.

On Friday, she continued the classic Chinese theme, wearing a black silk dress with a cheongsam collar and butterfly buttons matched with a thin brown leather belt and a floral brooch.

Local designer Kay Li said the look was less formal but more approachable, calling it “a style that would make people want to talk to her”.

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The centre’s senior supervisor, Helen Fong Wai-mun, said Peng met with more than 10 residents.

“They interacted in a relaxed manner. The first lady chatted with the elderly people, made some handicrafts and took photos together,” Fong said.

Peng also asked the residents, who were about 80 years old, about their lives at the centre and what they usually did there. “They were very happy to meet the VIP,” Fong added.

The Labour and Welfare Bureau said in a statement that Peng viewed the facilities inside the centre accompanied by Secretary for Labour and Welfare Stephen Sui Wai-keung and Director of Social Welfare Carol Yip Man-kuen.

“At the rehabilitation room, Peng was briefed by an occupational therapist on the use of innovative rehabilitation devices in therapeutic training for the elderly,” the statement said.

“She then proceeded to the complex hall to watch the drawing and making of handicrafts by the elderly residents. Peng mingled with them and took part in the making of pop-up cards. To express gratitude for her visit, two elderly representatives presented her with their drawings.”

Peng gave the centre a high-tech scale and a television set as gifts before leaving.

As she left, she waved to journalists across the road before getting into her vehicle, but did not say anything to them.

Peng, president of the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Art, enlisted as a soldier of literature and arts in Shandong in 1980. She studied at the China Conservatory of Music and graduated with a master’s degree in 1990. She has toured the world as the country’s top soprano to promote Chinese opera and music.

Additional reporting by Viola Zhou