Ka Ting should clarify or apologise for the totally inappropriate comparison of Abdullah with  Hai Rui, a Ming dynasty official famous for his incorruptibility but was removed from office by a corrupt system after a short tenure, immortalized by Chinese drama “Hai Rui Dismissed from Office” (Hai Rui  ba guan)

Tanjong  DAP Chinese New Year 2004 celebration
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangWednesday): The MCA President Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting should clarify or apologise for the totally inappropriate comparison of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi with  Hai Rui, a Ming dynasty official famous for his incorruptibility but was removed from office by a corrupt system after a short tenure, immortalized by Chinese drama “Hai Rui Dismissed from Office” (Hai Rui  ba guan). 

At the joint Gerakan-MCA Chinese New Year in Penang, Ka Ting praised Abdullah and likened him to Hai Rui, which the New Straits Times described as “a politician of China’s Ming Dynasty, who abhorred corruption and had enforced discipline, redressed mishandled cases and checked local despots in a successful attempt to boost public morale”. (New Straits Times 24.1.04) 

This is a “terrible” comparison for two reasons: 

Firstly, although Hai Rui is famous for his incorruptibility, he never rose to the highest echelons of officialdom, and was removed from office after a short tenure, himself falling victim to a corrupt, decadent and oppressive system of governance. 

This was why he was immortalized in Chinese stories and operas by the episode “Hai Rui Dismissed from Office” (Hai Rui ba guan). 

Hai Rui’s moral courage was described by one historic work as follows: 

“Hai Rui (1515-1587) began his career as an instructor at a government school. He worked his way up the ladder of officialdom, eventually becoming Secretary of the Ministry of Revenue. Blunt and fearless, in 1565 he wrote a scathing memorial to the reigning emperor, Shizong.  The memorial charged the emperor with neglect of government, excessive interest in unusual religious ceremonies, and misuse of state funds to build extravagant palaces and mansions for himself. Hai Rui even compared the emperor unfavourably with certain infamous rulers of past dynasties.

“Enraged upon seeing the memorial, the emperor ordered guards to make sure ‘Hai Rui’ did not escape. The guards answered that there was no need to worry. Hai Rui was calmly waiting outside and had even brought his own coffin along. The emperor realized that having Hai Rui killed immediately would make him a martyr, and all his accusations against the emperor would ring true to other officials, who might then cause trouble. So the emperor had Hai Rui thrown into prison while the court manufactured evidence against the courageous official. Hai Rui was tortured and sentenced to death, but Emperor Shizong died unexpectedly, before sentence could be carried out.  The next emperor realized that he could use Hai Rui to enhance the imperial image by appearing to heed criticism and favour honest officials. Hai Rui resumed his official career.”  

Two years later, however, the virtuous Hai Rui fell foul of the corrupt, decadent and autocratic system and was impeached and removed from office for the next 15 years. 

Is it appropriate to compare Abdullah, the Prime Minister with the most powerful office in Malaysia with Hai Rui, who never reached the highest echelons of office under a corrupt and decadent  Ming emperor? 

Hai Rui was a tragic character and failure because he was a virtuous and incorruptible cog in a corrupt and decadent wheel!  Abdullah as Prime Minister is the wheel which must ensure that all the cogs, from Cabinet Minister downwards, are honest, clean and incorruptible. 

This brings us to the second objection to Ong’s comparison of Abdullah to Hai Rui, whether the MCA President was intentionally or intentionally, consciously or unconsciously, suggesting that Abdullah would fail like Hai Rui to clean up the corrupt system of governance? 

DAP supports Abdullah and wants him to succeed  in his pledge for a “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” administration which is efficient, people-oriented and committed to hear the truth from the citizenry, and we do not want Abdullah to end up like Hai Rui with the tragic episode of “Hai Rui Dismissed from Office”! 

This is why the MCA President should explain why he compared Abdullah to Hai Rui.  Ong Ka Ting also compared Abdullah to the former Chinese premier Zhu Rongji in his battle against graft and corruption in China. 

When Zhu Rongji became Prime Minister in 1998 with his call for reform and anti-corruption drive, elevating  corruption as the number one problem in China, he also demanded a hundred coffins, 99 for the corrupt in high places and one for himself. 

Is Ong suggesting that Abdullah should be launching such a courageous  anti-corruption drive to attack the “big fishes”, although it is fraught with grave consequences, starting from the very top of the political and government leadership, especially the Cabinet? 

Is Ong prepared to take the Cabinet lead with all Ministers pledging to be a modern-day  Hai Rui, starting with five   fundamental conditions for a system of national integrity: 

  • Leadership by example by Cabinet Ministers in publicly declaring their assets;
  • Elevation of Anti-Corruption Agency to an independent body answerable only to Parliament and not as at present, to the Prime Minister;
  • Strong and effective Parliament to play a leading role to monitor and wage a campaign against corruption, which it is totally incapable of doing at present;
  • An independent judiciary to fight corruption, whether “ikan yu” or “ikan bilis”;
  • Free and independent Press, backed up with freedom of information laws, to fight corruption.



* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman