Back In The Spotlight

Tin Pei Ling returns, again with controversy in tow


20-06-10-15-17-02-847_decoTin Pei Ling during a speech in parliament on 4 June. Screen grab: CNA

Yellow may not be MP Tin Pei Ling’s lucky colour. Nine years ago, during the 2011 general election, Ms Tin shared on social media a photo of a delighted her holding up a Kate Spade box, presumably containing a bag. Netizens saw red. In parliament last week, she drew their ire again with a particular content in her lengthy speech to other MPs. Bag was not the issue, back-of-the-envelope calculations were. On both occasions, she wore the colour of ancient Chinese emperors: yellow.

The latest was in the form of what appeared to be a capelet, with a batik-ish print of orchids smudged to the left side of the shoulder. Held together by one pearl button in the centre of the collarless neckline, the garment looked very much like what one might find at Design Orchard. This is a style favoured by women MPs or spouses of MPs, and is considered fashionable, with a touch of local flavour—championed by designers such as National Day favourite Phuay Li Ying.

Tin Pei Ling

Tin Pei Ling and her Kate Spade in 2011. Photo: Tin Pei Ling/Facebook

Back in 2011, in that expressive photo, Ms Tin wore something that could not be clearly made out. It could be a T-shirt top and a bottom, or a dress, but it certainly had a top half that was yellow. This could be what, in present times, we know as loungewear. That photograph is back in circulation this past week. When the controversy broke at that time, Ms Tin told Yahoo News that it was a digital “keepsake”. Almost a decade later, such online mementos too ushered an editor and his editorial team into unwelcome spotlight.

Ms Tin’s outfit in the photo was upstaged and obscured by that massive, blue Kate Spade box. Her yellow top was barely noticed or remembered. But through the years, she made many public appearances attired in yellow, from polos to blazers. A quick Google Image search will reveal enough yellow outfits to encourage the assumption that yellow is her favourite political-office colour.

Yellow, for many of the electorate and Ms Tin’s constituents, is probably a positive colour, full of the warmth of sunshine, not a dirty-fellow-yellow with stigmatic potential. It recalls Bengawan Solo’s kueh ambon and Van Gough’s sunflowers, rather than unpleasant and negative memories, such as those related to the “yellow star” issued by the Nazis during World War II to persecute Jews or the jaundice in some patients suffering from the viral infection yellow fever. Despite yellow’s imaginable zing and zeal, many now remember the blue of that Kate Spade box. After her appearance on parliament, Netizens started sharing that particular Tin Pei Ling photo online with incredible speed. If an elephant’s memory is good, so is the Internet’s.

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