Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 October, 2010, 12:00am

Travel alert on Philippines starting to look like spite

The Hong Kong government's maintenance of the black outbound travel alert on the Philippines is beginning to look vindictive rather than a measure of the real threat to Hong Kong travellers.

There are three levels of threat: black - severe threat, avoid all travel; red - significant threat, avoid non-essential travel; and amber - signs of threat, exercise caution. The Philippines is the only country on the black list, and was put there following the deaths of Hong Kong tourists in Manila in August after their bus was hijacked by a gunman.

On the amber list is India, Indonesia, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and Thailand.

However, a cursory glance at global crimes statistics based on local statistics and those used by the UN show that - for example - on the basis of homicides, the Philippines is much safer than countries like Russia. According to the latest available figures, Russia has 15 homicides per 100,000 people. Mongolia has 11.94, Thailand has 7.94 and the US has five.

We know there are problems with comparing crime rates and the relative efficiency with which crime is reported, but it would take a very wide margin of under-reporting to change the Philippines' position relative to other countries.

Turning the travel advisory into a political tool is irresponsible, since it gives the false impression that the Philippines is more dangerous than some other countries Hongkongers frequently travel to.

Bloody nose for Deripaska

Our friend Oleg Deripaska has received a bloody nose at the hands of the Norilsk Nickel shareholders, who defeated his attempts to overturn the board that was elected at the company's AGM last June. Deripaska is CEO of Hong Kong-listed Rusal, which owns 25 per cent of Norilsk, the world's largest nickel company.

He alleged foul play in the June election when he lost parity with Interros, also a 25 per cent shareholder controlled by rival oligarch Vladimir Potanin. Rusal called for the AGM but its motion to overturn the board was defeated, with 47 per cent of shareholders voting in favour and 38 per cent against.

Interros has the support of the Norilsk management, and it appears the voting was won with the use of company-owned treasury shares, which is highly unusual and contrary to accepted corporate governance practice. Norilsk treasury shares, according to its latest annual report, account for 8.5 per cent of the company's shares.

What happens next is unclear. Some say Rusal will sell, though it says it may fight the vote in the courts. Other observers argue that the vote could not have happened without Kremlin support. Analysts say Rusal is a much better-run company than Norilsk, with its one problem being the baggage surrounding Deripaska.

China opens window on world

China has launched its own version of Google Earth. It's called Map World. It's free and lets users search for two- and three-dimensional images across the globe, according to China Daily.

'In the near future, Map World will grow to be a famous Chinese brand for online map services with proven reliability,' Xu Deming, director of the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, boasted. Check out and

Be warned: the service is expected to update its geological data twice a year, while Google Earth can update every couple of minutes. But we confidently expect the service to show you things unavailable on Google Earth, like the real borders between China and India and China and Vietnam. And who owns what in the South China Sea.

In vino veritas

Good to see that that Yvonne Choi Ying-pik is not wasting her time in her role as permanent secretary for commerce and economic development.

She has just signed a memorandum of understanding on co-operation in wine-related business with the presidents of the Regional Council of Burgundy, the chamber of commerce of Burgundy, and the Burgundy wine board.

The upshot of this is, according to the government's press release, closer co-operation between Hong Kong and Burgundy over various wine industry activities.

'We stand ready to organise, with Burgundy, functions such as gourmet dinners and wine-tasting events targeting higher-end buyers,' Choi says.

This is indeed a mouth-watering prospect, but is it really the work of government to be signing deals like this, which have all the hallmarks of being signed after a longish lunch? But nice work if you can get it.