A PICTURE TELLS a thousand words, they say, and I certainly read at least that many in the front page picture we published yesterday of our government leadership lined up for a lecture by the latest big-name visitor from Beijing. There in the front rank we had our Chief Executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, right beside the most important man in our government, Secretary for Hidden Affairs Henry Fok Ying-tung, and a big grin featured on our Donald's face as Vice-President Zeng Qinghong bestowed so-so praise on the gathering. Now, as we all know, a big welcome grin is almost as much a trademark of our chief executive as that bowtie is and perhaps he had reason to be smiling. The last time the group was called together for a lecture it was delivered by President Hu Jintao and that one was a ticking off. Our chief executive at the time, Tung Chee-hwa, lost his job soon after. But while Mr Zeng may hold a very senior position in Beijing, a question needs to be asked of him. What experience of Hong Kong affairs, or anything remotely related, puts him in a position to lecture our political leadership on how well it has done for the people of Hong Kong? Let us look at his career a little more closely. First of all he has princely connections. His father was a Red Army veteran who became vice-mayor of Shanghai and minister of internal affairs. His mother was a survivor of the Long March. Aristocracy goes a long way in a people's republic. His educational credentials consist of graduating from the Automatic Control Department of the Beijing Institute of Technology. He is, in short, a production engineer and that is exclusively what his job history says he remained until he was 40 years old. Then in the mid-1980s his political career began to rise swiftly as he rode the coat-tails of former president Jiang Zemin. In quick succession, he held a series of ever more important jobs in the Communist Party culminating with his appointment as vice-president two years ago. I am sure he could never have gone so far without showing real competence in the tasks he was assigned by the party but in Hong Kong we have a trading and financial services economy that has once again been rated the freest in the world by international think-tanks. There is a yawning gulf between this and anything in which Mr Zeng has any record of experience. And while this may not have been his first visit here, the other two, one at the handover in 1997 and one a year later for the first anniversary of the handover, were only brief ones essentially made to beef up the applause chorus representing Beijing. His priorities on this stand-alone visit were noteworthy. First order of the day in his line-up of meetings on Sunday was a private breakfast with tycoon Li Ka-shing and then he was off to the racetrack in Sha Tin where he proclaimed 'the horses have kept on racing throughout the eight years since Hong Kong's reunification and the more they race the more the happiness'. Okay, we shall dial up some more races then and all become as happy as Minnie Mouse. As to other profound thoughts, there were none, just the usual lip service to one country, two systems and Beijing's commitment to stability and prosperity in Hong Kong. Perhaps it is just as well. Given his career record, Mr Zeng had to be as much at sea here as if his plane had overshot Hong Kong and touched down 200 miles south of us. What could he possibly tell his audience in that picture other than that, ignoring the particulars, they had done well but could do more? It is a good way of saying nothing when you really have nothing to say. What I cannot understand, however, is why Mr Tsang should have grinned so broadly at this pat on the back. It was almost as if he had been handed his report card on the final day of school before summer break - 'Oh golly gee whiz, I got a B-plus. What did you get?' The point, dear Donald, is that you have seven million people in Hong Kong who will concede that you have to keep Beijing happy but want you first of all to govern them with their interests in mind. It strikes a slightly false note when you then give them the impression that only Beijing's approbation really counts. I concede that this may very well be the political truth of the matter but it would still be more fitting for the sake of those seven million that you keep a straight expressionless face when you are required to stand to attention for lectures by visiting lords and masters from Beijing.