The Corner

‘Let Them Be Sheep’

C.Y. Leung, the chief executive of Hong Kong, is largely regarded as Bejing’s stooge, a man tasked with tamping down pressures for more democracy in the prosperous, free-market enclave of 6 million people. He certainly has no sense of PR. In a speech marking the beginning of China’s Year of the Sheep, Leung actually said sheep-like behavior was what the people of Hong Kong should engage in.

“Last year was no easy ride for Hong Kong,” he noted with reference to the massive street demonstrations that swept the former British colony. “In the coming year, I hope that all people in Hong Kong will take inspiration from the sheep’s character and pull together in an accommodating manner to work for Hong Kong’s future.” Leung noted that sheep are to be admired because they are “mild and gentle animals living peacefully in groups.”

Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy member of the legislature, dismissed Leung’s comments, saying his actions in suppressing dissent made it clear he was Bejing’s “wolf.”

Others have compared Leung’s insensitive remarks to the infamous line “Let them eat cake” that has been attributed to the French queen Marie Antoinette before the revolution that toppled her.

But there is no evidence that the queen ever actually said such a thing. However, Zhu Muzhi, president of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, asserts that there is historical evidence that something similar was said by Chinese Emperor Hui of Jin in the 3rd Century A.D. upon being told his subjects had no rice: “Why don’t they eat meat?”

Leung should know life did not end well for the emperor. Wikipedia reports he was a bad ruler and “throughout his reign, there was constant internecine fighting.” He was ultimately poisoned and killed by his adversaries, who were clearly not sheep.

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