Lawyer's tourism candidacy via private travel agency challenged

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 August, 2008, 12:00am

Questions have been asked about the eligibility of Paul Tse Wai-chun to contest the Legislative Council's tourism constituency after he admitted the business through which he gained his candidacy was neither profit-making nor for public use.

At election forums, Mr Tse has conceded that his company is not an orthodox travel agency and that he has used it merely to gain a better understanding of the industry.

The solicitor told the South China Morning Post yesterday his business was intentionally non-profitmaking, as he did not want to compete with the industry and cause a conflict of interest. His candidacy has been validated by the Electoral Affairs Commission, but the Civic Party candidate contesting the seat, Paul Zimmerman, who runs Jebsen Travel, has asked for a review.

In a letter sent late on Monday to commission chairman Mr Justice Pang Kin-kee, Mr Zimmerman said Mr Tse's Superman Travel Consultants appeared to be 'no more than a door with a small room within the business of the candidate's partner, and without the minimum of two staff present'.

'As the only other connection between the candidate and the tourism constituency is some pro bono legal advice to some electors or organisations, he lacks a substantial connection to our industry,' said Mr Zimmerman in the letter.

Chairman of the Travel Industry Council Ronnie Ho Pak-ting said he had already requested a reassessment of Mr Tse's membership status. He said a council member must employ a minimum of two staff.

A visit to Superman Travel Consultants, in a commercial building in Central, shows a closed door bearing the company name. The consultant is not listed in telephone directories but is on the government's travel agents' registry.

A search of the Companies Registry shows the consultant to have one corporate director, Mutualbest Ltd, which itself has two corporate directors registered in Samoa. Mr Tse said the offshore companies were owned by himself and his partner, Pamela Pak Wan-kam.

Mr Zimmerman said Mr Tse's candidacy was an indication of why the tourism functional constituency, with only corporate votes, was known as a 'rotten borough' and gave rise to concerns as to how easy it was for people without genuine connection with the industry to register and influence the election.

Council members are eligible to vote in the constituency and stand as candidates.

Mr Tse said of Mr Zimmerman: 'He has accused me of having a fake company. This is a very serious allegation since he is challenging my integrity, and my company is not fake, it is fully licensed. I have never claimed to be an orthodox travel agency, I am just a consultant.'

He was confident he fully satisfied the requirements. He cited a record of service to the industry, mostly as a legal adviser, stretching back to 1990.

Liberal Party candidate Joseph Tung Yao-chung, the council's executive director, said the matter should be followed up, although he had no qualms over Mr Tse's candidacy.

Mr Zimmerman said Mr Tung's 'indifference' to the matter was disturbing given there would be a clear conflict of interest for him to turn a blind eye to 'dummy' companies.