Chinese slang and famous Canto-pop song feature in Xi Jinping’s speech at Hong Kong banquet

President was guest of honour at a dinner also attended by nine pan-democrats

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 10:08pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 11:51pm

Chinese state leaders have a reputation for solemnity in the spotlight and careful use of words and phrases, so President Xi Jinping both delighted and raised eyebrows among his audience when he used Chinese slang and quoted lyrics from a Canto-pop song in his speech at Friday night’s banquet in his honour.

The president started his speech by lauding Hong Kong’s achievements over the last 20 years.

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“While such achievements would not have been possible without the strong support of the central government and the mainland, they are primarily attributed to the unity and hard work of the Hong Kong SAR government and the people of Hong Kong,” Xi said.

“Here, I wish to give you a ‘like’, to the people of Hong Kong and all those in Hong Kong who have made such achievements possible,” he added, using Chinese slang commonly used by mainland social network users.

Just before he ended his 16-minute speech, Xi also made the rare gesture of citing the song Creating Fate, which was sung by local Canto-pop star Alan Tam Wing-lun in the early 1980s.

“A popular song in Hong Kong has this line: ‘Self-confidence is so important. Open up your mind and your dream will come true.’ We should have full confidence in ourselves, in Hong Kong and in our country ... We can certainly deliver an even brighter future for Hong Kong!”

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Apart from Xi and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, other VIPs sitting at the head table were Leung’s successor Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, former leader Tung Chee-hwa and the spouses of the four.

After the banquet, Lam’s husband, Lam Siu-por, looked relaxed and was humorous in answering questions from journalists.

Asked what role he would take up after his wife is sworn in on Saturday and whether he would be travelling a lot, he said: “I will be the man behind her ... I will rarely travel now as she is busy. It’s not much fun without her.”

According to a photo of the menu sent to the Post, there were 10 courses, including a double boiled pork soup with conch, Chinese yam and wolfberry, stewed sea cucumber with vegetables and shrimp roe sauce, and steamed grouper fillet with ginger, spring onion and soya sauce.

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Glaringly missing were Chinese delicacies such as abalone and bird’s nest soup, which one would expect at an event of such significance.

Chef Chow Chung, who was not involved in the banquet, said while the dishes were considered rather “ordinary” for Chinese cuisine, they were still presentable and would give face at a banquet for the country’s leader.

“There is fish, sea cucumber and conch ... These are considered more valuable,” he said.

Chow believed the more humble menu was in line with Xi’s crackdown on lavish spending at the Chinese government level. He estimated the meal cost around HK$700 per person.

Nine pan-democrat lawmakers were seated at the corner of the ballroom. Among them, Roy Kwong Chun-yu said there was a notice on each table reminding guests not to move around in the room to make toasts.

But the Civic Party’s Dennis Kwok said he did not feel too restricted in the ballroom.

Before the banquet, Xi had a meeting with about 200 business and political leaders, during with he shook the hand of the city’s richest tycoon, billionaire Li Ka-shing, for about 10 seconds.

Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung and Jeffie Lam