Deng Xiaoping was the 'most recognised peacemaker' and should have been the first Chinese to win the Nobel Peace Prize instead of dissident Liu Xiaobo, Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying says. The remark by Leung - widely tipped as a hopeful to be the next chief executive - stirred immediate controversy because of Deng's role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square military crackdown and bloodshed. He made it after delivering a speech themed 'Establish vision, narrow differences, seek consensus - the responsibility of political leaders' to 1,400 students at Chinese University yesterday. Asked by a social work student for his view of Liu being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Leung said: 'I know more about Mr Deng Xiaoping than Liu Xiaobo. I also know a bit more about President [Barack] Obama than Liu Xiaobo. When Obama won the prize last year, many people in and outside his country thought the award should not go to him.' He continued: 'There is one thing I don't understand. If a Chinese was to take the Nobel Peace Prize, why was the first one not Mr Deng Xiaoping?' He stopped short of commenting on whether Liu - who was jailed for two years for supporting the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and is currently serving an 11-year sentence for subversion after drafting the Charter 08 democracy manifesto - deserved the award. During his 40-minute speech, Leung mentioned the name of the late paramount leader eight times. He also extensively cited Deng's speeches and his design of the 'one country, two systems' principle to illustrate the qualities of a political leader. Expounding on his ideas of leadership, he also stressed that political leaders were 'not ballot boxes', 'not vote-counting officers', 'not just executors' and should stand firm on their beliefs even when these were contrary to the voters' will. 'Political leaders cannot just drift with the tide. They must have their own ideas, thinking and clear values on issues.' He explained after the event why he thought Deng should have been awarded the peace prize. 'Mr Deng Xiaoping was a great man. He lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. He contributed directly and indirectly to the peace and prosperity of the people of China and also people living in neighbouring countries, and by extension to the world as a whole. He's the most recognised peacemaker and also contributor to the development of the country in a prosperous and stable manner.' Deng, chairman of the Central Military Commission at the time of the 1989 bloodshed, was a key figure in the crackdown, according to various accounts. While hailing him as a great peacemaker, Leung said he would leave history to decide Deng's role in the military suppression. 'June 4  was certainly a tragedy for Chinese people. The truth of June 4 has not yet been completely made clear. We can still discuss the issue.' When taking a separate question on the imprisonment of Zhao Lianhai , a mainland father who organised a support group for parents with children affected by melamine-tainted milk, Leung said he thought the sentence should be reviewed. 'I sympathise with any parent with young children whose health had been affected by tainted milk,' he said. 'Under such circumstances, any parent might act too emotionally.' The moderator of the session, Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a senior instructor in politics at the university, said he was surprised to hear Leung link Deng with the peace prize. 'I believe most Hongkongers would not agree with him. Deng was the man in control of the military forces who ordered a crackdown which resulted in such massive bloodshed. 'I can't see how Leung could convince people Deng deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.'