• Sun
  • Apr 20, 2014
  • Updated: 5:39pm
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

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.
the sun also rises
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 !
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.
the sun also rises
this whymak should stop talking nonsense here to defend not Tong Hin-ming but his offers of lavish meals to visting Mainland officials (who used to dine luxuriously and received expensive gifts while paying visits elsewhere from their home cities/towns) and giving them gifts above the limits set by the ICAC iftself ! Rampant corruptions and corrupted lives led by cadre officials are no news to all the world with better knowledge of Mainland situations ! I myself heard from my relatives living in a coatal small city and even from retired cadres or working cadres themselves !
the sun also rises
yeah,at least the Leung administration should promptly set up a committee (as he used to do during the past nine months) to look into the case of Timothy Tong whose acts had seriously damaged the good reputation ot ICAC and tarnished Hongkongese's confidence in it which used to be the pride of our society and our last thing to be different from other major cities on Mainland.How could the head of a graft-buster himself be a corrupted one ? it is just incredible and beyond any wild imaginations ! Right ?
the sun also rises
agree with Shirley Yam that our chief executive,Mr.Leung Chun-ying who (during his election campaign) claimed that his late father was so clean while working as a cop in the British Colonial Police Force that as a kid, he and his mother (who had bounded feet) had to take plastic flowers home to make the ends meet.Yet not a word was uttered by C.Y. after the suspected corruption acts committed by former Commissioner of the ICAC were disclosed ! How weird it is !
austinjosa
Well said, Shirley. What's really needed however is a root-and-branch investigation into corruption/misconduct. Donald, Henry, Rafael, Timothy etc etc - the rot needs to be stopped before it's too late.

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