HK's so-called rival closed for business

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 June, 2006, 12:00am

I write to offer a fresh view on the fundamental differences between conducting business in Hong Kong and Shanghai, which is apparently set to surpass its southern rival in business competitiveness ('Shanghai is expected to hold the edge in five years' time', May 5).

Your readers may be interested to note that, due to the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation summit in the city on June 15, our office has just been advised by the local Public Security Bureau and the building's management that the entire property must close from June 14 to 18 for 'security' reasons.

Our office is in Tian An Centre, opposite the JWMarriott Hotel Shanghai. This is a grade-A building packed with prestigious international companies. I understand that many other offices, hotels, restaurants and bars are also to be forcibly closed while dignitaries attending the summit are in the city.

Additionally, managers in every building have had to sign personal guarantees that no one will attempt any 'shootings or terrorist activities' from their offices during this time (presumably indicating it is all right on other occasions).

While the closures may be great for those staff who will get a holiday, it has a major impact on businesses operating in Shanghai's city centre and on both sides of the Bund.

It seems that government interference in operating sustainable businesses in Shanghai is increasing, with costs in lost time and revenue mounting. Despite the inconvenience to businesses, no compensation is offered or granted. Shanghai is closing itself down for five days - with 10 days' notice to all concerned.

Perhaps in increasing - rather than curtailing - interference in business, the Shanghai government has given up any hope of competing with Hong Kong, which does quite the opposite and keeps interference to a minimum.

Can Hong Kong residents imagine closing all businesses in Central at the insistence of the authorities merely because a motley crew of Central Asian government leaders happens to be in town? Hong Kong can rest easy for decades yet when it comes to serious competition from Shanghai as a services hub.


The case for secrecy

In tune with your editorial 'Parties must open up; law must protect them' (June 3), the pro-Beijing political parties have already trumpeted their feat of championing 'the rule of the law' by making their membership lists public. They feel protected by the law as they support the Article 23 national security legislation.

The pan-democrats, however, oppose Article 23 and their leaders are therefore banned from visiting the motherland. Once the identities of members of the Democratic Party are revealed, they may also be banned.

Many members depend on their association with the motherland for their livelihoods. They would definitely not like to risk these relationships by revealing that they belong to the Democratic Party.

Unless the law is changed to accommodate them, their leaders will become the pall-bearers of the democratic movement. In politics this is called 'cannibalism of the opposition'.

D. KAMLESH, Tsim Sha Tsui

Hollow stardom

So where were the city's so-called pop stars and celebrities on Sunday? They certainly weren't at the June 4 candle-light vigil, probably the most significant civic event on Hong Kong's calendar.

Celebrity endorsements are a powerful way to raise support for important causes and, in so doing, help to force change. All over the world, celebrities have the courage to offer their star status to important political issues. Except in Hong Kong.

Why is that? Are they all so busy, as Canto-pop singer Joey Yung suggested recently in 'Don't call me diva' (April 23)? Her claim that playing 30 concerts in seven years constitutes hard work is ludicrous and insulting to people who do work hard. Or is it, as Yung also made clear, that Hong Kong's pop stars are slavishly following orders from their record companies and staying away from politics so as not to offend their labels' mainland investors?

Whatever the reason, their absence is sickening and reveals the hollowness of the entertainment industry here. Hong Kong should be ashamed of these so-called talents for not having the courage to stand up and be counted on this important issue facing their nation.

MARK McCORD, Lamma Island

Wynn's worthy gift

K.M. Nasir's letter criticising casino boss Steve Wynn for donating a rare Ming vase to Macau ('Wynn's waste', June 6), reminds me of an old story.

A father and son decide to walk to the market with their donkey. Passing through a village, they hear people criticising them for not riding the animal. The son climbs on the donkey but, passing through the next village, he is criticised for not letting his elder ride. So father and son switch places. This time, they provoke criticism for expecting a weak donkey to carry a grown man. So the pair load the donkey on their shoulders and carry it.

Mr Nasir criticises Mr Wynn's $78.5 million gift as 'giving back clay to China', arguing it should have been donated to United Nations relief funds. Well, first, Mr Nasir, what do you know of Mr Wynn's charitable donations? Second, what if he had decided to keep the money, as he was perfectly entitled to do?

Mr Nasir writes that US$200 billion is needed to help the victims of natural disasters but, even if the money could be put on the table right now, I doubt it would bring an end to human misery and suffering.

The best investment a country can make is in education and beauty. People will be able to admire this rare porcelain treasure embodying the best of Chinese art and history for generations to come. Macau is far richer for the donation.


Quite so, Mr Tang

The opening paragraph of your story 'Don't be selfish, Henry Tang warns Hong Kong' (June 5) quotes the financial secretary urging Hong Kong people 'not to put narrow interests above community and national ones at the expense of the city's long-term competitiveness'.

For some strange reason, the word 'Tamar' came to mind.