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  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 4:30am
Column
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 5:22am

Panel needed to look into former ICAC chief's spending

Plenty at stake if zero tolerance of corruption is not shown and if doubts over expensive banquets and gifts to mainland officials are not cleared

Dear Leung Chun-ying,

You promised us a clean government upon your victory in the Chief Executive's election.

You have told us many times the stories of your policeman father, a man so clean that as a boy you and your mum had to make plastic flowers to make ends meet.

Yet, more than a week after the public has been told of expensive banquets and gifts showered on mainland officials by our former top graft-fighter Timothy Tong Hin-ming, you have not said a word.

For the good of yourself and Hong Kong, this silence must end.

Put together a high-level committee to investigate this accusation and review the internal controls of the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Show zero tolerance of corruption.

It won't be an easy call.

Your advisers are not short of conspiracy theories behind the detailed revealing in the media of Tong's misbehaviour.

Tong has been retired for almost a year now so what took the whistle-blower so long to act? Why didn't the media say anything until Tong was appointed to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference by Beijing last month?

Who is the "boss" of Tong in Hong Kong and Beijing? Who and what is the real target of the whistle blower?

Is it a plot by the liberal camp to undermine Beijing's authority? What role does the chief executive of the Democratic Party, who happened to have worked at the ICAC during Tong's tenure, play in this?

You must have heard some of these questions, I know I have.

They said Tong's HK$1,200 per head banquet, HK$4,100 worth of stone sculptures and mooncakes for mainland officials were too "cheap" to be considered bribes on the mainland. Mooncakes are cut up not to be eaten but to check for gold and diamonds, so the saying goes.

Or as one of your allies put it: "You can't buy a CPPCC seat with a piece of stone. It costs millions of yuan."

In short, the political stake at risk is too high while the "guilt" of Tong is too trivial to justify any action.

We have heard Zhang Xiaoming, the director of the Central Government Liaison Office, saying that "it's normal" for Tong to buy his staff more than 22 banquets over five years with public money.

This is only a month after Zhang issued a directive to his staff of going to fewer banquets and accepting no gifts as part of President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive.

We have heard legislators with Beijing affiliation saying they "saw no urgency" in discussing the scandal in the legislature and in setting up a select committee to investigate it as proposed by the liberals.

This measurement of cost and guilt cannot be more erroneous.

No political cost is too high to pay when it comes to fighting corruption in Hong Kong. This is the last competitive advantage Hong Kong has and the last thing our men and women are proud of.

No guilt is heavier than a top graft-buster bending the rules to shower someone with goodies.

Who benefited from them, how much did they cost, and whether Tong gained any advantage in return does not matter.

Tong had been able to buy banquets, mao-tai liquor and gifts for "business contacts" in the name of the commission of his own free will. He had them paid for with public money by playing with the numbers.

The spending on bird's nest and cookies was withheld from legislators' scrutiny by the commission because "they are not classified as gifts".

This has brought into doubt not just the integrity of Tong but that of the ICAC as well as your promise to keep Hong Kong clean.

Unlike the illegal structure at your home, this will not be forgotten as the media gets busy.

It will be raised by the men and women in the commission when asked to stay another hour to go through more documents.

It will be raised by a young accountant when offered a handsome bribe to sign off on a cooked-up book.

It will be raised by a young fund manager when asked to buy some stakes in a faulty mainland firm in return for a rebate.

It will be raised by our competitors who will not hesitate to portray us as just another corrupted mainland city.

Only bold action from you can remove the doubt and help young men and women to say no to temptation.

It takes courage to put politics aside. It takes courage to fight corruption. Your predecessor Donald Tsang Yam-kuen may not be a good example of this.

Yet, he had the decency to ask retired chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang to head an independent committee to look into his own wrongdoing and advise on further scrutiny when caught receiving favours such as the yacht trip and a cheap flat.

That is the least you could do.

 

shirley.yam@scmp.com

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This article is now closed to comments

hard times !
Ms Shirley Yam has rightly pointed out that our former chief executive,Sir Donald,though greedy enough to enjoy luxurious enjoyment provided by his super-rich friends,like Sing Tao's Ho Chu-kwok, Lau Yuen-hung or Shenzhen's Wong Chor-pui or ...yet being a devoted Catholic,he still owns certain sense of shame to ask retired chief justice,Mr.Andrew Li Kwok-nang to head an independent committee to look into his own wrongdoings ( accepting luxurious services at very low prices/costs or buying a luxurious flat in Shenzhen at a low price with furnishings provided as well) and advise on further scrutiny when caught receiving favours such as the yacht trip (from Macau to Hong Kong) and a cheap flat (in Shenzhen).Certainly, that is the least our present chief executive, a self-proclaimed clean chief executive,Mr.C.Y.Leung could do and should do ! Right ?
hard times !
the suspected corruption case of Timothy Tong is never 'a mountain out of a molehill 'but a serious setback to our anti-graft efforts accomplished by our respected and trusted ICAC ever since its establishment in 1974 when a senior British superintendent,Mr.Godber was soon extradicted back to the Colony due to his corruption of up to HK$ 4 millions and this guy was later put into jail !Now the good public image of ICAC has been tarnished by this greedy and selfish Timothy Tong (maybe a Christian too).I suggest the government should devoid him of his pension as a kind of punishment towards the damage he caused to the core values of our beloved Hong Kong ! And his post as a CPPCC member should be suspended as well so as not to tarnish the image of other CPPCC colleagues and our great mother country's fame !
hard times !
agree with pslhk that the so-called 'whymak' a group member of a team sent from the North to monitor the local postings in the internet and have them attacked or even trying to mislead the readers of this Comment and elsewhere on other websites such as Ming Pao Daily News.How malicious and evil-minded these guys are ! Shame on them and their words ! Being hired to write something against conscience and righteusness is itself a big sin and can never be excused even after their death while meeting Karx Marx or the devils in the underworld ! Right ? This 'whymak' wiil sure win in the contest of 'the most illerate Chinese here' ! Who could compete with them ? Nobody at all ! ha ! ha !
whymak
Good for you! It's nice to hear positive comments like yours. Maybe China is finally making some headway under Xi Jinping to tackle its runaway corruption, which rivals colonial Hong Kong's in the 60s and 70s.
whymak
Eine kleine Predigt
Shirley is right. At the root of her litany of complaints, which at the least are improprieties, and worst, graft at the highest level of government, is crony capitalism, a perpetual human condition that exists in any systems and "isms."
That said. We must understand administration is a necessary overhead cost -- or evil -- in any society. Understand also that administrative resources are always scarce and they must be deployed productively and wisely.
We need top government officials to focus on strategic and urgent issues while overlooking their petty transgressions. A happy society is one where individuals do their own thing and not constantly indulge in ideological witch hunts for the rich and the famous, the high and the mighty.
Sorry to be preachy. I can’t overstate the need for positive acceptance of an imperfect world with its never ending tragic human conditions, which have existed since H-omo Sapiens first walked this earth.
Here is the key measure. As citizens, are we doing our productive share to improve ourselves and government, and to help alleviate tragic social conditions? Or are we giving in to Democracy fanatics’ cynicism, nihilism, anarchy, intransigence and self-destructiveness under the universal suffrage banner?
whymak
Hong Kong political morons could easily make a mountain out of a molehill.
Many years ago, I was trying to raise financing for my ventures. After my dog-and-pony show, someone took me to a wonderful dinner. I was treated to a bottle of Domaine Romanee Conti 1990. That was the only time in my life when I tasted that vintage. Do you know how much this sells for in a restaurant?
But I couldn't convince him to invest in my financial products. If someone suspects corruption, one must first find a quid pro quo. With 20-20 hindsight, that bottle of Bourgogne grand cru was in fact just an expensive honorarium. Was he splurging on himself with company expense account? Nope, he practically owned that outfit.
whymak
Like Shirley, you are correct that corruption must be dealt with. As usual, there are malicious comments by one person with multiple names. His profile is obvious: a self-hate illiterate Chinese.
Let's keep this civilized dialogue to ourselves.
whymak
"Is it a plot by the liberal camp (you mean self-hate bananas) to undermine Beijing's authority?"
You've got it, Shirley!
If I ever got into the headlines and you wish to interview me, let me warn you not even buy me a Starbucks latte grande. Hateful Hong Kongers are morphing fast into the Jacobins during Robespierre's reign of terror. Our media now run amok of Inspectors Javert.
Fair disclosure: Mr. Tong Hin Ming and I never crossed paths. Nor did I receive from him a single moon cake or a bottle of mao-tai.

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