The Impossible Dream


Our Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying has made many hundreds of decisions over the last seven months, some good, some bad and some indifferent.

And no doubt he will make many thousands more in the remaining 53 months of his first term.

But there is already a strong candidate for best decision of his time in the top slot, and that is his resolve not to make Lew Mon Hung a member of the Executive Council.

Lew – whose Chinese nickname is "Dream Bear" – is the person who attended a high profile dinner together with core Leung team member Fanny Law and an alleged local triad, the so-called "Shanghai Boy", in the middle of the Chief Executive election campaign.

The sight of a former ICAC Commissioner dining with a top gangster certainly grabbed the headlines.

No doubt it was out of gratitude for helping generate all this favourable publicity that, according to Lew, candidate Leung promised him a seat on the Executive Council if he won.

Following his arrest by the ICAC in early January this year in connection with corruption allegations involving his listed company Pearl Oriental Oil, Lew allegedly appealed to Leung to intervene and halt the investigation.

When Leung made no response to this reported appeal, Lew went public with the Exco promise and also made other allegations in an interview with a local magazine iSun Affairs. For example, he claimed that Leung's campaign manager Barry Cheung had confessed to him that the three professionals who "cleared" Leung's house on the Peak of having unauthorized building works did not exist.

To call Lew a loose cannon would be very unfair – to cannons. They are after all pretty accurate these days.

Notwithstanding the sheer improbability of much of this and in some cases plausible evidence to the contrary -- Cheung for example denied having said any such thing, and pointed out that two of the three had been publically named – newsrooms throughout Hong Kong decided that these mildly barmy ravings were the top news item of the day.

Some of our LegCo Members, not willing to miss the fun, quickly joined in the circus and proposed special powers be invoked to investigate these matters, now promoted to the status of allegations.

There is a famous character in American literature called Walter Mitty. According to the Wikipedia entry relating to this James Thurber creation, he is a person with a vivid fantasy life, an ineffectual dreamer, an "ordinary person who indulges in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs."

The same entry goes on to say "In the brief snatches of reality that punctuate (his) fantasies the audience meets well-meaning but insensitive strangers who inadvertently rob (him) of some of his remaining dignity".

Does this description remind you of any of the parties involved in our own drama?

As he surveys the train wreck of his public life – Lew has now lost his position on the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee, and the ICAC case rolls on – presumably the dream is now being replaced by a rather dispiriting reality.

The most striking aspect of the whole affair is the eagerness with which some in the community are willing to use any stick at all to beat the Chief Executive. The one-sidedness of much of the media coverage, the suspension of critical faculties by otherwise intelligent people, is this the level to which our political life has stooped?

As another columnist on this paper has pointed out, if the supposed deal on an Exco seat were true, then Lew himself would have committed a criminal offence. No doubt he will be taking some legal advice on this before his next interview with our anti corruption agency.

But when all is said and done, we should not think too badly of Lew. In his own mind no doubt he genuinely believed he was in line for high office.

I am told that up to now there has been no equivalent in Chinese folklore of a Walter Mitty-like character. Well now, in the person of our very own "Dream Bear", there is.

 
Mike Rowse
email: mike@rowse.com.hk