777: A lesson in numerology for those who hate Hong Kong’s new leader Carrie Lam

Yonden Lhatoo breaks it down for those who are fixated on their unflattering nickname for the chief executive-elect and will not give her a chance

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 March, 2017, 3:34pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2017, 9:00pm

So, Hong Kong has a nickname for its newly elected leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. It’s “777” – stemming from the number of ballots she secured from a small circle of 1,194 voters.

Never ones to miss the slightest opportunity to play with phonetics and sexual innuendo, the sparkling wits about town have pounced on the number with absolute glee. The pronunciation of the word “seven” in Cantonese matches the slang for male genitalia.

Forget the fact that, at the end of the day, we’re still talking about a highly accomplished person of integrity, sincerity and dedication to public service, a top administrator in one of the most efficient and corruption-free governments in the world. Forget about taking pride in the prospect of a woman leading Hong Kong for the first time in history. Let’s just wallow in the gutter of negativity and resort to vulgar name-calling.

A devout Catholic like Lam could welcome the nickname, given its religious connotations

The irony of it all is that, out in the wider world, beyond the limited scope of Cantonese semantics, the number seven is and has always been considered auspicious, lucky, mystical or magical.

A devout Catholic like Lam could welcome the nickname, given its religious connotations.

In the Judeo-Christian world, seven is a number that denotes perfection and completion. The Bible is loaded with references to it.

The Book of Genesis, for example, postulates that God rested on the seventh day after creating the universe – hence the Jewish tradition of observing the Sabbath on the last day of the week.

In Christianity, 777 is projected as the numerical representation of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Ghost – and the antithesis of 666, the devil’s number.

Other religions, too. The Koran has repeated references to seven heavens, and Muslim pilgrims in Mecca walk around the Kaaba seven times. When the Buddha was born, the story goes, he walked seven steps portending his achievement of the seven stages of enlightenment.

If religion is not your thing, the everyday occurrence of the number seven in a positive context should help you elevate your opinion of it. We all follow seven-day weeks. We marvel at the Seven Wonders of the World. There are seven colours in a rainbow, seven notes on a musical scale. And humans need an optimum seven hours of sleep a day. Still think it’s a dirty number to be sniggered at?

Can Carrie Lam steer Hong Kong to greatness again?

Back to Lam, Hong Kong’s reluctant “saviour”. Let’s not forget that she never wanted the chief executive’s job, but was simply not allowed to go gently into the night. The powers that be in Beijing decided she was the one they trusted the most and it had to be her in the hot seat, a torture trap that no one in their right mind would otherwise want.

Watch: Carrie Lam talks to the Post about her bid to be chief executive

When I spoke to her recently in a one-on-one interview, I found her to be very different from the aloof, elitist technocrat we had imagined her to be over the years. She was friendly, chatty, lucid and sincere. She came across as a person of conviction, but still willing to listen.

Maybe she’s been arrogant in the past and upset a bunch of administrative officers, the pillars of the civil service, but she’s clearly learning lessons in humility during her transformation from career bureaucrat to politician. Out of touch with the person on the street? Again, she’s learning, and we’re all teaching her the hard way, aren’t we, vulgar nicknames and all.

Keep calm and Carrie on: no honeymoon for Lam after Hong Kong election win

Hong Kong should seriously give her a chance. Let her prove what she can do for us, and let’s be realistic in our expectations. Until then, he that is without sin among us, let him cast the first stone at her.

For the rest of us, here’s a lovely thought: “If women ruled the world there would be no wars, just a bunch of angry countries not talking to each other.”

Yonden Lhatoo is a senior editor at the Post