Hong Kong's chief executive circus may have a new leading man
The chief executive election has descended into such a farce that we now have actor Andy Lau fending off suggestions from online users and fellow celebrities that he should run in the chief executive race.
The idea gained traction following an online poll. Those urging him to have a go include actor Ng Ka-lok and Macau tycoon Stanley Ho's daughter Florinda Ho Chiu-wan.
Lau's, ahem, experience amounts to having played the role in the film Golden Chicken 2.
But his cause did not command universal support, with some internet users fretting that maybe he wouldn't be completely upfront as a politician, noting that he had secretly married his Malaysian wife, Carol Choo - leaving his fans in the dark about it.
But we think this is a little harsh given that he didn't do anything illegal, unlike some actors turned politicians we know. Ronald Reagan was a popular US president, though the Philippines' Joseph Estrada was less successful.
But if Henry Tang Ying-yen is in contention, why not Lau? At least you could count on the actor to act the part when it counts.
Lau seems to have a better sense of his own limitations. 'I feel that this is really not quite possible,' he told his fans at an event in Beijing recently. You get the sense this is what somebody may be telling Tang in the not-too-distant future.
A tale of two Citis
We hear of high-fives all round at Citi recently - at least in Asia, where it has recently been awarded the accolade of best bank for 2011 from industry trade magazines IFR Asia, FinanceAsia and The Asset, in their recently announced annual best bank awards.
Earlier last year Citi picked up best bank from Euromoney in Asia, making it an Asia-Pacific clean sweep for 2011 and marking the first time the bank has picked up all four in a single year since 2004.
'Citi has had one of its most successful years on record in Asia,' one of the magazines wrote. True, but unfortunately Citi is a bank of two halves: Asia and emerging markets are by far the brighter half, while Europe and the United States continue to languish.
Curbs for illegal parking
We continue to get reports on the strange ways the police and traffic wardens deal with illegal parking. A reader writes to say she observed six policemen preventing cars from parking on Ice House Street at 2pm one day earlier this week.
When she suggested that two of them might like to take a look at nearby Duddell Street and another two at Bank Street (which as usual had tycoon-mobiles double parked), the police told her: 'We know what we are doing.'
However, they left Ice House Street together, and even before they had reached the end of the road, cars started to park illegally.
It would appear that a more strategic approach is necessary. Steeper fines are needed and the authorities need to actually give tickets to people when they break the law. This 'softly, softly' approach towards the well-heeled sends a bad signal. They get away with illegal parking and then the next thing you know, they're building illegal basements.
Missing the empire
'Hong Kong Was Better Under the British.' It's not the kind of thing you expect to read in a publication in Hong Kong these days, but it's the headline on an opinion piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal Asia.
The paper's editorial page editor, Hugo Restall, writes that the British created 'a relatively incorrupt and competent civil service to run the city day-to-day'. He adds that 'slavish adherence to bureaucratic procedure helped to create respect for the rule of law and prevented abuses of power'.
He goes on to say that things have changed since Hong Kong returned to China, particularly in land and real estate development, which is a major source of public revenue and also of discontent.
Mistakes made by the Lands Department that resulted in windfall profits for developers, together with the steady trickle of senior civil servants that have gone to work for developers, have '... bred public cynicism that Hong Kong is sinking into crony capitalism'. This is why, Restall suggests, the public is so upset with Henry Tang and his illegal basement.
The piece ends by quoting from an article written by former Far Eastern Economic Review editor Derek Davies shortly before the 1997 handover, in which Davies says: 'I can only hope and trust that a local Chinese will never draw a future British visitor aside and whisper to him [that] Hong Kong was better ruled by the foreign devils.' Restall concludes, 'Fifteen years later, that sentiment is becoming common.'