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  • Oct 22, 2014
  • Updated: 7:51pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 1:40am

The Tamar Project - where did it all go wrong for government HQ?

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

Every now and then we dip into the Hong Kong Yearbook for inspiration. Generally we are not disappointed. Take this item from the 2011 yearbook under the heading Tamar Development Project, otherwise known as the central government offices. The architecture is based, we are told, on four concepts: "Door Always Open" - portrays Hong Kong as a city always open and receptive to new ideas and a city of diverse cultures; "Land Always Green" - reflects Hong Kong's aspiration for a lasting green environment; "Sky Will Be Blue" - establishes Hong Kong's commitment to combating air pollution; and "People Will Be Connected" - depicts the Tamar site as an accessible, pleasant gathering place and pathway for leisurely strolls.

Reading this you wonder where it all went wrong or what the author was smoking. The commitment to combating air pollution can only be true if blue is the new grey. As for being a pleasant gathering place, that may in hindsight be regarded as an oversight since it is rarely clear of protest groups. The piece concludes that the building "is designed to look like a prominent open gateway, or 'Open Door', with lush greenery, forming a 'Green Carpet', that runs from Admiralty to the picturesque waterfront". If anyone spots this green carpet, let us know. But it is astonishing this kind of guff finds its way into the government yearbook.

 

Clive Palmer's dreamboat

We were wondering recently about the consequences of Australian billionaire Clive Palmer's decision to sue Citic Pacific in connection with the Sino Iron project in Western Australia's Pilbara region. Palmer is suing over the issue of when Citic should begin paying him royalties. However, as we pointed out previously, suing Citic Pacific is like suing the Chinese state, and in doing so he may as well kiss goodbye to doing business with other mainland entities.

So we're wondering about the status of Palmer's plan to build a replica of the Titanic in a Chinese shipyard. He signed a first-stage agreement with Nanjing-based CSC Shipyard to build the ship as part of a planned fleet of luxury liners. His stated plan is for a maiden voyage from London to New York accompanied by mainland Navy vessels. As someone who watches these matters observed to us: "Unlike the original Titanic, Clive's dreamboat could be sunk before it even sets sail."

 

Ernest piano

We recently had the honour of spending an evening in the company of concert pianist Ernest So. He specialises in playing unusual and rarely heard scores, and has a large collection of them. We listened to him play pieces from Argentina, Brazil and Mexico at The Verandah at the Repulse Bay amidst a glittering audience of diplomats, artists, designers, even a former Miss Universe. But this was no idle indulgence of the senses. In addition to his music commitments So is a prolific fundraiser for charity and has joined, as a volunteer, the Au Kim Hung Love & Care Association. The charity makes donations to schools on the mainland to enhance education quality and to increase schooling opportunities for the less-fortunate children.

This is the third year he has performed at the dinner, which this year raised more than HK$370,000 from the auction of donated items, with the silver-tongued Andrew Wells, a former deputy secretary for housing in Hong Kong, acting as auctioneer.

 

A prize for Hong Kong Airlines

It would be hard to call this year a good one for Hong Kong Airlines. It has had to stop flying its long haul, business class-only flight to London; it's been admonished by the Civil Aviation Department and banned from increasing its flights; and it's been significantly in arrears in its payments to the Airport Authority for use of air bridges (which means it has to bus passengers to the terminal building). In addition, we have received complaints from disgruntled passengers about its practice of abruptly cancelling flights. We're delighted it's still in business but surprised. It has somehow managed to win an award from the magazine Capital CEO "for its service excellence in the aviation industry", which was apparently voted on by a panel of experts. Stanley Kan, director of service delivery of Hong Kong Airlines, said he was pleased to receive the award. He must have been stunned.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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