My Take

Call me crazy, but it’s time for all of us to try to be politically correct

Furore over columnist Chris Wat’s use of the words ‘mentally ill’ to describe pro-independence party is a bit rich considering others, including pan-democrats, use similar terms to label their rivals

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 1:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 1:01am

We all make mistakes and say the wrong thing in public. Comparing our adversaries to mental patients seems to be a recurrent one for local politicians.

Since both sides of the political divide have made the same kind of politically incorrect comments, I suggest the Democrats refresh their memories and get off their high horses.

The latest furore was triggered by provocative columnist Chris Wat Wing-yin after she called the emergence of a pro-independence party in Hong Kong “a revolution launched by a group of mentally ill patients”.

“Patients could not control their own strange acts and speeches,” she wrote. “But the reactions and interpretation of the normal people around them could definitely affect the condition of patients, thus affecting the overall safety of the public.”

I agree it’s insulting – to mental patients. The remarks so incensed Democratic Party member Ramon Yuen Hoi-man, a Sham Shui Po district councillor, that he not only demanded an apology but wrote to the Equal Opportunities Commission asking for an investigation into the incident.

Hong Kong’s equality watchdog urged to step in after columnist attacks ‘mentally ill patients’ of pro-independence party

Recently, pro-Beijing lawmaker Ann Chiang Lai-wan also got into hot water for comparing her pan-democratic rivals to a bunch of crazies.

But where were Yuen and his fellow critics in July last year when People Power lawmaker and filibuster extraordinaire Albert Chan Wai-yip said of the chief executive: “Leung Chun-ying, that mental patient...”

Levelling similar criticism on the same occasion, Alan Leong Kah-kit, of the Civic Party, said: “Mr Leung ... appears to be suffering from psychosis.”

I am not concerned that they insulted the chief executive. But I do object to such language being directed at mental patients.

Funny that I couldn’t name a single pan-democrat objecting to the comparison at the time.

The truth is that the Cantonese vernacular is full of negative references and insults to insanity like calling someone chee seen and cursing someone as belonging in ching shan yuen, as in the Castle Peak psychiatric hospital. If someone is confused or not thinking clearly, he is “delusional” or “psychotic”.

It’s so easy for Cantonese speakers to lapse into such negative curses that clearly neither pan-democrats nor Beijing loyalists are immune to such old speech habits.

But we live in politically sensitive times. So let us all try to be politically correct.