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An agent of change

The politics of banana throwing

A banana has transformed Hong Kong’s politics. A banana was hurled in the direction of chief executive Donald Tsang while…

By Aaron Tam , in A Lighter Shade of Red: Hong Kong politics , on January 29, 2009 Tags: , , , , ,

A banana has transformed Hong Kong’s politics.

A banana was hurled in the direction of chief executive Donald Tsang while he was giving his annual policy address in October 2008.

An agent of change
To some, the banana is a tool for change. Photo courtesy: Jason Gulledge

The man who threw the banana peel was Raymond Wong Yuk-man, a legislator and chairman of the radical and newly formed League of Social Democrats (LSD).

Nicknamed “Mad Dog” because of his extreme and aggressive criticism of the Hong Kong and Chinese administrations, Wong is well known for his work as a radio host and for his anti-communism views.

Wong was elected to one of the five seats within his constituency of Kowloon West in 2008.  He amassed 37,553 votes, which was the second highest amount of votes received within the constituency.

Did the people of Kowloon West vote him in because they wanted to see political change by the way of flying fruit?  The answer is a mixed one.

The Ming Pao Daily wrote, “the actions of the League of Social Democrats is the most concrete evidence of the deterioration of the Legislative Council.”

Wong’s actions were generally seen as a blemish on Hong Kong’s legislative culture by the members of the executive council.  There however, were signs of support for Wong’s actions from some legislators.

Though praising Wong for having the courage to throw the banana, legislator Margaret Ng wasn’t sure how the action was received in public.  “I don’t suppose the community really believed throwing bananas was the fast track to problem solving.  Otherwise, the price of bananas would have rocketed.”

Chan Wai-yip, legislator and co-founder of the LSD provided justification for Wong’s actions.  “Pan-democrats have failed to gain democracy over the past 20 years and therefore, a path of political resistance is necessary.”

This action and the many more that will follow will calculate “the bottom line” of the citizens’ tolerance to extreme actions according to Chan.

To Wong, throwing the banana was exactly the sort of thing he thought voters would want him to do.  “To oversee the government and to check the advance of the unholy alliance between bureaucrats and business tycoons, these are the clear mandates we receive from our voters.”

For better or worse, Wong’s actions has changed and added intensity to the politicking within the Hong Kong Legislative Council.