Cambridge University has produced the father of modern physics (Newton), the man who figured out evolution (Darwin) and the author of Paradise Lost (Milton). And this weekend the famed UK institution added to its distinguished alumni list a Miss Hong Kong.
The victory of Cambridge law graduate Louisa Mak in the annual beauty pageant caused something of a stir both in Hong Kong and in mainland China. Not only did Mak graduate from an elite university – the highest-ranked in the UK and among the top five globally – she also told reporters that she planned to become a politician and eventually lead Hong Kong as its Chief Executive (CE).
The 23 year-old has clearly been grooming her ambitions from an early age. For example, when she was just 11 she was one of the kids selected to meet and greet China’s astronauts during their promotional trip to Hong Kong. En route to Cambridge she aced all 10 subjects in the HKCEE (equivalent to GCSE for British students), and then studied at Wellington College in England. She later gained entry to the all-female Cambridge college Newnham, which poet Sylvia Plath and actress Emma Thompson had also attended.
Her focus on a future political career was also evident during her time at university. She became president of the University of Cambridge Hong Kong and China Affairs Society, a body whose patrons include former Hong Kong governor Lord Wilson of Tillyorn.
As WiC readers will know, the attempts to reform Hong Kong’s electoral process this year badly unravelled, much to Beijing’s chagrin. Ironically, the way Miss Hong Kong was picked looks somewhat akin to the attempted reform. A panel of judges pre-screened and shortlisted the contestants, and a popular vote followed. Around 231,000 voted for Mak.
(The 2017 contest for the CE of Hong Kong will be decided by an electoral college of just 1,200 voters; Beijing had proposed it pre-screen candidates and then allow a popular vote; local politicians opposed the pre-screening and instead voted down the reforms.)
As one netizen in China pointed out: “It’s funny, Miss HK is the result of a general election, but the Chief Executive isn’t.”
Many of the online comments in China focused on Mak proving you can be not just beautiful, but also smart and talented. One netizen even thought the publicity around Mak had saved the pageant, with her “Cambridge background” giving a positive buzz to a format that many consider tired and anachronistic.
Mak’s profile in Hong Kong has definitely now been raised, but whether that will eventually steer her to power is doubted by many. Just participating in the pageant is enough to sour the naysayers, who reckon it displays her lack of political judgement. “If she really wants to be CE, she wouldn’t take part in this type of show,” was one dismissive verdict. Still, Mak won’t have too much time for politics anytime soon. She will be representing Hong Kong in the upcoming Miss World pageant, which will be held in Sanya on China’s Hainan island.
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