Never was so much bureaucracy employed with so little effect | South China Morning Post
  • Wed
  • Jan 28, 2015
  • Updated: 2:20am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 April, 2013, 4:05am

Never was so much bureaucracy employed with so little effect

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.
 

The Sai Kung District Management Committee clearly has too much time on its hands. We see that it has established a working group comprising the Lands Department, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, the police, the Transport Department and the Sai Kung District Office. It must surely be a matter of some weight within the community for these bodies to come together. It transpires the problem is the vexed issue of illegal parking of bicycles, which according to a letter from the District Lands Office, Sai Kung, is "causing obstruction on the street and posing risk to public safety". The problem has become so great that in 2011 no fewer than 41 bicycles were seized in six operations (netting an average of 6.8 bicycles per raid), followed by 63 bicycles in six operations in 2012. Unsurprisingly, these operations have been a source of irritation. In the first place, none of the residents have found illegally parked bicycles to be a problem, nor are we aware of harm inflicted by a parked bicycle. Despite pleas by the Friends of Sai Kung, there is only one bike park with 12 parking slots. The organisation also believes the manner of the seizure of the bikes by the Lands Department, which does not allow the owners to reclaim their bikes even through payment of a fee, is an abuse of the law. Previously, when the police used to deal with illegally parked bikes, it did so under a law dealing with obstruction of public places that allowed the bicycles to be retrieved on payment of a fee or a fine following prosecution. Currently, bikes are being seized under a law designed to deter hawkers - unlawful occupation of unleased land. It seems extraordinary that five departments can join to deal with a problem that hardly impinges on the consciousness of the community, but the bureaucracy is unable to deal with a problem like illegal car parking, which really does annoy people.

 

A question of digital IQ

Observers of the mainland's luxury fashion market have been intrigued in recent days by the divergent fortunes of Louis Vuitton and Burberry and the implications for what is now the world's largest luxury market. Louis Vuitton reported lower than expected sales recently as a result of weaker sales on the mainland, which prompted comments that this market was weakening. Burberry, on the other hand, reported strong Asia sales, boosted by double-digit sales growth on the mainland. The answer to this conundrum is that big spenders in the country are tiring of conventional luxury brands and looking for uniqueness and exclusivity. As the website Quartz notes, Louis Vuitton has been selling its distinctive goods on the mainland for about 20 years, whereas Burberry has only been selling there since 2010 and is therefore not as overexposed. Louis Vuitton has responded by stating in January that it would not open boutiques in second- and third-tier cities to avoid becoming "too commonplace". Quartz also makes the point that Burberry has a better social media strategy and apparently does better than Louis Vuitton in something called "digital IQ".

 

Milking the system

Online shopping is booming on the mainland with the central government reporting sales of US$190 billion last year, according to the government's report on e-commerce known as the China Internet Network Information Centre. This compared with about US$200 billion in the United States and US$130 billion in Europe in 2011. The number of people buying online on the mainland was rising sharply, with 242 million last year, compared with 194 million in 2011. Interestingly, the report shows that almost 12 million people bought goods online from overseas. About six million people bought clothing, three million bought cosmetics and almost two million bought milk powder.

 

On mismanaging mistresses

It's a tough old life being a local party boss on the mainland. Take the case of Yang Jie, Xuwen county's deputy party boss. According to the website The Nanfang, Yang had a mistress but made the mistake, as it turns out, of dumping her. She didn't take this lying down, and he was subsequently beaten up by six young women. The case eventually came to the attention of senior officials and he is now being investigated. As one netizen observed, "a party boss who can't manage his mistresses is not a good party boss".

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