Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s refusal to meet the Occupy protesters had set him apart from Li Peng, who as China’s premier held a televised meeting with students in the lead-up to

the Tiananmen Square crackdown, a high-profile Hong Kong businessman said on Thursday.

In a rare speech on “Hong Kong’s future” at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, David Tang, founder of fashion brand Shanghai Tang and the China Club, said the city’s prospects would rest better on a leader more representative of Hongkongers.

With half of his speech questioning Leung’s suitability for the top job, Tang said a leader who was not strong enough would turn himself into “a puppet on a string dancing obsequiously to the tunes and echoes of Zhongnanhai”.

The solution for the problems facing the city would require Hongkongers to stand up for the freedoms they have been enjoying and make their voices heard, Tang said.

He added the government also needed to tackle not just social and economic disparity, but also political polarisation.

“It is only when the stinging palpitations of our political polarisation are defused that we can once again return to a marvellous and civilised legislature that had served Hong Kong well,” he said.

Whoever wrote that for the chief executive ... must be a comedian or perhaps a monkey who accidentally typed up those words on a typewriter
David Tang on Leung Chun-ying’s policy address

Comparing Leung to the ex-premier, whom democracy activists branded a murderer in the 1989 military crackdown, Tang said: “Throughout the Umbrella Movement our chief executive steadfastly refused to meet the protesters. We should remember that even Li Peng – even Li Peng, the hardcore, hardline Chinese premier at the time received Wu’er Kaishi, and, what’s more, in full view of national television.”

Tang also criticised Leung’s policy address speech in January, saying the mention of how the government had focused its efforts on promoting democracy was “a silent contortion of the truth”.

“Whoever wrote that for the chief executive ... must be a comedian or perhaps a monkey who accidentally typed up those words on a typewriter,” he said.

Leung also mentioned close to 50 times the “one belt, one road” initiative in his policy blueprint, saying it would be necessary for Hong Kong’s future.

But Tang questioned: “Quite apart from the embarrassing unctuousness towards the Chinese president, what on earth would an ordinary resident of Hong Kong care or understand about ‘one belt, one road’?”

Tang also claimed that at least two businessmen had refused to go to the mainland to assist criminal probes in the wake of bookseller Lee Po’s disappearance, with mainland officers refusing to conduct questioning in Hong Kong in the presence of lawyers and police.

While Lee’s case led Britain to conclude there had been a “serious breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Tang – who received a knighthood in 2008 – said the document remained in good shape.

Browse photography at Denver.Gallery.