Bus Uncle: Identity and Politics
No, this won't be a post-colonial deconstructive analysis of the cultural icon known as Bus Uncle with respect to self-identity and sub-altern political stances.
First, we deal with the question of identity of the person known as Bus Uncle. It has been reported in The Bus Uncle Interview in Next Magazine that Bus Uncle is a fifty-something-year old man named Roger Chan living in Yuen Long, New Territories, Hong Kong. The other media are also accepting that as true.
Based upon what Roger Chan told Next Magazine, he has an interesting personal 'history' that included
Now, I have noted that while it was a tremendous coup for Next Magazine to find this person first, this was not necessarily good journalism. You can read through the list of career highpoints above and it should be clear that some of the items could have been verified but were not (in the interest of timeliness?). The Next Magazine article contains a fair hint of skepticism about some of those claims. To wit, Ma Ying-jeou moved from Hong Kong to Taiwan when he was one year old, and therefore could not have gotten into a schoolboy fight in Hong Kong as claimed.
At MetaFilter, there is a link to the following Hong Kong government web page dated June 3, 2005:
Mr Chan Yuet Tung handed in a nomination form for the Chief Executive Election at the office of the Returning Officer today (June 3).
To qualify as a candidate, a nominee must be a Hong Kong permanent resident aged 40 or above, a Chinese citizen with no right of abode in any foreign country, and has ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than 20 years before the polling day. A nomination of a candidate shall be made by not less than 100 members of the Election Committee.
As the MetaFilter commentator noted, it would not be easiest piece of accounting to reconcile twenty years of continuous abode in Hong Kong with all the listed sojourns. Chan is fifty-one years old. In 1997 (which was his first run at CE), he was forty-two years old. Subtract twenty years of continuous abode and we get twenty-two years left. Subtract four years in the Brugge prison and we get eighteen years left. Subtract one year in the German prison and we get seventeen years left. Subtract one year as a jewelry store worker/compulsive gambler and we get sixteen years left. By age sixteen, he was supposed to be in Australia already where he won the HK$20 million lottery and then promptly gambled it all away. We are rapidly running out of years because we haven't got around to how he got married twice and brought up a daughter in Hong Kong until she was five years old.
But here is the most damning piece of information. He said that in 1990, he was arrested in Belgium for heroin smuggling and served in the Brugge prison until 1994. Therefore, he could not have "ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than 20 years before the polling day." Either he lied to Next Magazine or he lied to the office of the Returning Officer (which may have been negligent in verifying the information). Most likely, this political career is based solely upon a proclamation of wanting to run in the Chief Executive election, but he never got anywhere. If Chan wants to insist on this fantastic personal history in Belgium, he will be barred from the Chief Executive election in 2007. The media do not have to take his claim seriously anymore.
In moliuOLOGY, there is a challenge over the identification process:
Here are some screen captures from the original video:
From Next Magazine:
At issue is whether the receding hairline in the video is as discernible in the Next Magazine photos? Conversely, where did the batch of hair hanging in the back in the magazine photo go in the original video? What do you think?
The other piece of evidence is the voice: the original video is at 巴士阿叔, Bus Uncle and the Next Magazine re-enactment is at 巴士阿叔陳乙東事件重演. What do you think?
If the wrong person had stepped forward to lay claim to the title of the Cultural Icon of the Year, then to what purpose? Money grubbing is one reason, of course. But this is Hong Kong and we love our political conspiracies. Did this man came forward (either of his own accord and/or encouraged by others) in order to create trouble in the Chief Executive election next year? The point is not to going to try to win, but to cause great embarrassment to the other candidates (either the incumbent Donald Tsang or any challenger) and build up a brand name for Bus Uncle.
Here is an excerpt from The Hong Kong Chief Executive Election at the ESWN blog in 2005:
How many people were officially entered as election candidates?
Everyone knows that there are three people -- Donald Tsang, Lee Wing-tat (chairman of the Democratic Party) and Chim Pui-chung (independent Legislative Councilor). The correct answer is SIX, including Donald Tsang. Furthermore, Lee Wing-tat and Chim Pui-chung were not even among the six, as they only declared their intent to the press and waited until the last moment to see if they could get the 100 nomination papers.
Who are the other five? The press has decided that the people of Hong Kong don't need to know. Well, except for one of them who made himself known. Since the man did not see daylight in the English-language press, I am going to recount several of his more famous appearances for you.
(Oriental Daily via Yahoo! News) On June 8, there was a forum on behalf of senior citizens. Donald Tsang, Lee Wing-tat and Chim Pui-chung were invited. Lee and Chim appeared, but Tsang did not show. Unemployed citizen Chan Yuet-tung presented himself to the organizers as an "already registered candidate" to participate. Lee and Chim really had nothing new to say, so the forum was dominated by Chan who proposed: increasing the "monthly candy money" to senior citizens to HK$1,000 per month; capping government officials' salaries at HK$50,000 per month; demolishing all prisons in order to build hospitals for senior citizens; paying families to adopt senior citizens into their homes; and so on. Chan was laughed at by the audience, and the organizers were sorry that they invited him on stage.
(L-R) Chim Piu-chung, Lee Wing-tat and Chan Yuet-tung
(Ming Pao via Yahoo News!) On June 11, Chan Yuet-tung applied for a judicial review of the legality of the Election Committee, which is supposed to have 800 members according to the Basic Law. There are only 796 members right now, and the status of about 30 of them may be subject to challenge because they are no longer in their original constituency. However, on this day, he was unable to come up with the HK$1,045 filing fee, so he intends to file an application of fee waiver next week.
(Ming Pao via Yahoo! News) On June 15, Chan Yuet-tung appeared at the campaign office of Donald Tsang. Previously, Chan had filed a lawsuit against then-Chief Secretary Donald Tsang for exceeding his authority in seeking an interpretation from the Chinese National People's Congress Standing Committee on the length of term of the next Chief Executive. The court had just decided that it would not hear Chan's case, and ordered Chan to pay court costs of HK$15,000. On this day, Chan came to see Donald Tsang with a 'letter of surrender' that included a request for Tsang to pick up his court fees.
Donald Tsang had made it know that he would not attend forums until after the nomination process has ended, precisely to avoid dealing with people like Chan Yuet-tung and their side-shows.
Donald Tsang will have nothing to fear from Chan because he will adopt the same tactic -- no public debates except with the formally nominated candidate(s) (note: that means getting the nomination by 100 or more of the 800 Election Committee members). The other major candidates should now take note that Chan Yuet-tung made it onto the stage in 2005 solely through a claim of being an "already registered candidate." Based upon his own presentation, Chan cannot qualify because he does not have twenty years of continuous abode in Hong Kong before the polling day. Therefore, Chan's political sideshow is over. Or it should be if the media is paying any attention. (P.S. Expect to see Chan mount a judicial review paid for by legal aid -- after all, this is Hong Kong)