Carrie Lam

Hong Kong’s elite gather at city leader’s official residence to mark 101st birthday of Chung Sze-yuen, ‘godfather’ of politics

  • Chung, a successful businessman, was one of only a few to have served in both the executive and legislative arms of the colonial government
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2018, 8:26pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 November, 2018, 12:50pm

Hong Kong’s political and business elite gathered at the official residence of the city’s leader on Saturday to celebrate the 101st birthday of Chung Sze-yuen, known as the “godfather” of local politics.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor hosted Chung, former convenor of the Executive Council before Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997, at Government House in Central.

Some 30 guests who attended the closed-door luncheon were among top guns in politics and business, including former chief executive Tung Chee-wah, Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-Po, ex-chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang and his last mentee while in practice, former justice chief Wong Yan-lung.

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Chung’s long-time friend, veteran ex-lawmaker Allen Lee Peng-fei, and former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sun also showed up.

Among the luminaries, the event featured mainly those who have worked closely with Chung, a successful businessman who wielded much clout with British authorities and later, the local administration.

Lam had attended two of Chung’s previous birthday celebrations – first as chief secretary and later in her capacity as chief executive after taking office last year. She returned the favour by playing host this year at her official residence.

Her predecessor Leung Chun-ying did not show up at Chung’s celebrations in the past two years.

He said on his Facebook page on Saturday he was on a work trip to Japan so could not join the luncheon this time, but had already visited Chung at his home two weeks ago for a one-hour chat.

“SY was in good spirits and sharp, and knew world and local issues inside out,” Leung said.

He did look sharp and spoke a few words – at the end of the day he is already 101 years old
Tam Yiu-chung, NPCSC delegate

Several Beijing loyalists such as Tung, including his former finance chief Antony Leung Kam-chung, former Legislative Council president Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, and Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s sole delegate to the country’s top legislative body also attended this year.

Guests described Chung as healthy and sharp as always, although when leaving the venue, the Post observed he was in a wheelchair.

“Dr Chung was sitting throughout the celebration and did not stand up,” Tam said. “He did look sharp and spoke a few words – at the end of the day he is already 101 years old.”

Chung was one of a select few who had served in both the legislative and executive arms of the colonial government, becoming the most influential local at the time.

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He played a leading role fighting for Hongkongers’ rights when Britain and China were in talks over the city’s handover, and led a delegation to both London and Beijing.

When Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, Chung was appointed the first convenor to Tung’s cabinet, the Executive Council and held the post until 1999 before Leung Chun-ying took over.

After releasing a memoir in 2001, Chung has rarely publicly commented on local politics.

Following his birthday bash last year, Chung was asked if Beijing was increasingly interfering with Hong Kong’s affairs. “All of you can see what is happening – you can be your own judge,” he said. Pressed to comment on whether he thought the city could one day have universal suffrage, Chung retorted: “You might as well go and ask a fortune-teller!”