I’ve often remarked that all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. That may not be exactly how I phrased it, but it sums it up. Take a bow, William Shakespeare, who wrote down the enduring lines centuries before the drama I’m referring to started playing out to an enthralled Hong Kong audience.
When the news came out that Hong Kong’s anti-graft agency had launched a corruption investigation into its former chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming, many local movie fans quickly pointed out that it was eerily reminiscent of Cold War, a film that beautifully summed up the complexity of Hong Kong politics.
The movie, that won a total of nine awards including best actor, best film, best director and best screenplay at the 32nd Hong Kong Film Award ceremony in April, describes top Hong Kong police fighting local terrorists who want to challenge the authority of the police. The plot includes a subplot in which the Independent Commission Against Corruption probes a deputy police commissioner suspected of links to a series of terrorist attacks.
In fact, some trailers for the film ask a very clear question: Which is more important to Hong Kong – the police or the ICAC? Many movie fans said that intrigued them enough to watch the film when it hit our cinemas late last year.
A highlight of the movie is the cameo appearance of Alex Tsui Ka-kit, a former top ICAC official who was fired by the agency about 20 years ago for reasons that were never fully explained. Tsui played an ICAC supervisor in the movie.
Tsui was named the Best New Performer at the 32nd Hong Kong Film Award ceremony for his role, with critics describing him as “very realistic and highly professional.”
When Tsui, a former ICAC deputy director of operations, went on to the stage to accept his award at the film ceremony in April, he gave a short speech, which won much laughter from the audience.
“This award stirs up a lot of feelings for me. I spent 28 years as a civil servant and this often involved having to act well,” he said.
“But looking back, I can see that I wasn’t as good an actor as our former Hong Kong chief executive,” he added, referring to Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, whose ethics came under fire last year when his term was about to expire.
Tsang was not charged but he apologised to the public for matters involving personal entertainment and travel while he was in office.
Just one year after Tsang’s case, ICAC’s former top boss Tong is trapped in the media spotlight. Tong, 63, head of the ICAC from 2007 until last year, allegedly spent lavish sums of public money entertaining mainland officials. It’s alleged that he splashed out hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money on receptions, gifts and duty visits. Some of the spending exceeded official limits but was personally approved by Tong himself.
“Maybe in Cold War 2, the movie script writer and director should add something about how the ICAC is investigating its own former boss,” said a netizen in a posting published on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese-language real-time micro-blogging platform, which is modelled on Twitter.
The makers of Cold War are believed to plan a sequel.
In a recent interview with the South China Morning Post, Tsui expressed concern about a possible conflict of interest for officers investigating Tong, who had approved their employment contracts.
Wow! That sounds like an even more exciting plot for the Cold War sequel, doesn’t it?
Perhaps Tsui can help write the screenplay for Cold War 2, as well as acting in it. Given his background and experience, I think whatever he writes about the ICAC will immediately win the attention of local movie fans -- and perhaps local politicians as well.
George Chen is the Post's financial services editor. Like the Mr. Shangkong column about Shanghai and Hong Kong? Visit facebook.com/mrshangkong