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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

John Adams
Seems the private sector - or at least some good companies in the private sector ( like ours) are cleaner even than the ICAC : certainly cleaner than the govt based on the high-profile court cases coming up, not to mention D Tsang's many ****-gate escapades. The rule in our office is that if a service provider or a contract hotel even gives us a box of chocolates at Christmas or some moon cakes they are shared around all the staff and I as MD personally can never accept any such gift . If gifts cannot be shared around they go into the Christmas lucky draw ( in which I as MD am not allowed to participate)
One of the reasons our company keeps its financial HQ in HK ( rather than in China) is precisely because we have the ICAC to watch our backs. If the integrity of the ICAC itself is called into question we are really on a slippery downward and irreversible path and finally it will become one country / one system with the Mainland;s standards of corruption as the lowest common denominator.
Shirley : please do post a copy of this op-ed to CY personally and insist on an open reply to the SCMP.
hard times !
this whymak is trying his/her utmost to mislead the public by underestimating the damages of the Tong Corruption Gate which have caused Hong Kong's good image as being a clean city for decades due to the efforts of our pride:the ICAC ! Being the former head of the graft-buster, Tong himself should set a good example,as lawmaker Ip Lau Suk-yee said,' be whiter than a white paper !' yet this wine-maniac (the advisor of the so-called Friends of the Moi Tai') ,Timothy Tong is said to have spent over HK$100,000 on buying expensive wines to well-treat visiting Mainland senior officials so as to buy favours after his retirement (to pave the exit ) maybe ! What a shame ! Yet this brainless or malicious guy down below named 'whymak' is worse than Timothy Tong by attempting to divert people's attention to the local pan-democrats and even call them democracy fanatics while he/she him/ herself is definitely a blind loyalist of an autocratic corrupted ruling regime ! A slave-servant only ! Right ?
hard times !
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 ?
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.
hard times !
absolutely agree with Shirley that no guilt is heavier than being a graft-buster but bend the rules to shower someone who are in power (in order to get benefits after retirement-------it is learnt that this Timothy Tong was eyeing the post of secretary for security in 2012 when Leung administration comes into being) with goodies.Well said ! Shirley !
hard times !
In most readers' eyes,the most illerate Chinese here who keeps on barking at other writers is nobody but you ---the nastiest guy in our society who just cannot focus on the comment/ news given above and present your views but just intend to screen out others from presenting their views only ! How dare you ! We Hongkongese enjoy freedom of speech and expression ! Don't you know ? Here is Hong Kong and not Shenzhen or Shanghai which disallow freedom of speech or expresision and there is censorship on the internet as well ! Go and meet Marx or Chairman Mao the sooner the better---the slave-servant of autocratic regime !
hard times !
yeah, our chief executive,C.Y.Leung has to take bold action this time to remove the doubts cast over our once-respected and trusted anti-corruption,graft-buster:the ICAC which is well-known in the world for its fighting against corruptions either in the civil service or business sectors or public corporations.The 39-year-long institution's good fame should never be damaged by the over-greedy and corrupted Timothy Tong---a favourite (and drunkard) of former Chief Executive,Sir Donald Tsang Yam-kuen whose former residence (the Government House) was found to store cartons of Moi Tai wine (given to him ) when he and his wife had to move out before 30th June 2012. This pair of true brothers,like Donald and Mr. Rafeal **** Sze-yan's, are greedy and corrupted top civil servants (awaiting to be charged or tried ) had for a long time , envied the lives led by local tycoons and those on Mainland who used to lead luxurious lives:expensive wine,banquets,gifts and foodstuff such as cookies,mooncakes and bird's nest plus...
hard times !
I fully agree that.' no political cost is too high to pay when it comes to fighting corruption here in Hong Kong which is used to be proud of our ICAC---a 39-year-long institution which is known for its efforts in curbing corruption in town and instilling anti-corruption perception into Hongkongers' minds----------Hong Kong will never be Hong Kong again if there is no ICAC ! How proud and prestigious this institution once was ! But not now ! After the 5-year-long rule of greedy and courrupted Timothy Tong Hin-ming (who might be a Christian or Catholic) in that graft-buster ! How disappointed most Hongkongese are these days ! But where is this coward who should come out to defend himself or ask for excuses while facing all Hong Kong citizens and his past colleagues ? I wonder.
dynamco
"Your predecessor Donald Tsang Yam-kuen may not be a good example of this."
Ah yes, Donald Tsang / misconduct in public office / Macaufreeroomgate/ private jetgate/ tobacco tycoon yachtgate (2 weeks after no tobacco tax increase in the budget)/ retirement apartmentgate/ tycoongate /60k per night hotel rooms / nothing done along with Edward Yau to clean our air during his tenure ?
so it appears we now have the black pot investigating the kettle?
hard times !
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 !
hard times !
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 !
pslhk
“the most illerate (reader) here who keeps on barking at other writers is”
that person whose best argument is that opponents with different opinions
should “Go and meet Marx or Chairman Mao the sooner the better” (29Apr 8:18am)
When I have a free moment
I should comment on the average quality
of HK’s main/sole English newspaper’s readership
to compete with whymak
for the title of “the most illerate Chinese here”
Byebye
Ms Shirley Yam, your article is spot on and straight to the point. As an ordinary citizen of Hong Kong, grew up with ICAC since the 1970s and watching movies on the ills of corruption, I am definitely on the zero tolerance of corruption. My understanding of Corruption means any misuse of entrusted authority for private gain, especially in the case of the public officials or employees misuse the trust placed in them as public servants for either monetary or non-monetary gain that accrues to them, their friends, their relatives or their personal or political interests. It is time to call these people who were in news involving in such matters to task, and this I join you and others to call on our CEO for immediate action on this issue.
hard times !
there are never so-called unruly characters in this open forum of SCMP's Comments whch is meant for any readers who would like to contribute their postings here ! This 'whymak' better spends his/her time in casinos in Macau at 3:31 a.m.than making unreasonable demands from a columnist of our respectable Morning Post which this long-time reader has started to read ever since last century. Right ? There are no laws or rules disallow any contributors to use different usernames or pen-names/or so-called pseudonyms to post his/her comments here ! This so-called 'whymak' is not suitable to live in our free Hong Kong which practises freedom of speech and expresion ! He/She better goes home (across the border at Lowu ?) the sooner the better---my sincere advice !
hard times !
Shirley,you maybe greatly disappointed to know that up to this moment, our chief executive who pledged that his government would be a clean one and there will be zero tolerance towards corruption has remained silent over the scandal of Timothy Tong ! Maybe you and your colleagues have to put in more efforts to push him to do something on this case since most Hongkongers (except those blind-loyalists such as the so-called,'whymak' down below) are furious over the scandal and would like the Leung administration to launch a detailed investigation into the case so as to let us know the truth of the scandal !
whymak
Shirley, is there any way to screen out a single illiterate Chinese who uses multiple pseudonyms in this column?
In a casino or a pub, we use bouncers on unruly characters. In a family setting, we try to shame -- our Chinese way -- noisy, misbehaving children into civil behavior. What if this idiot is a bully and has no sense of shame or self-esteem? Worst, what if he is infected with rabies and biting everyone in sight?
hard times !
During this Sunday,this Old Hong Kong happened to talk with my wife about Timothy Tong's hospitality towards visiting Mainland senior officials (inviting them twice at 5-star Grand Hyatt Hotel for banquets dined with Moi Tai and X.O.brought from ICAC's H.Q.in North Point) and his precious gifts given to them (all above the cap set for our officals though noit considered as bribery or corruption in Mainland's burarucracy's angle---too cheap indeed !).I told her that Timothy Tong should not be appointed to be the 14th Commissioner of the ICAC, but should be appointed to a new post:secretary for protocol which he was much better than fighing corruption ! Sir Donald had created deputy secretaries and politcal assistants by spending quite a lot of public money(the tax-payers'), I wonder why he had never thought of creating a new post for his favourite,Timothy Tong who was known for his good habit of drinking Moi Tai with Mainland officials and those in local Liaison Office ! Sir Donald should regret that he had underestimated his favourite,Timothy Tong who is now being grilled by most people in the territory while hiding somewhere in his luxurious flat---praying to God for forgiveness or seeking redemption !
hard times !
of course Tong's case or scandal won't be so easily forgotten like C.Y.'s illegal structures as they have all been demolished.Tong's arrogant ways in over-spending public money(tax-payers') on lavish meals bestowed on visiting Mainland senior officials and offering gifts of value to them plus over 20 times' dining with local Liaison Office officials who have no business relationship with ICAC and on at least 10 occasions with his girl-friend,a Ms Chan while the meals were paid by public money are really too much ! Tony approved his own expenditure of public money by raising the cap more than once and was indeed a routine ! How could we endure a drunkard to act as our former Commissioner of the ICAC which prime job was to fight corruption and bribery while he himself was thought to be a target/symbol of corruption and bribery ? Ironic to the extreme !!
John Adams
Shirley : you are quite correct to raise this issue
These days in China our customers do not even want to be taken out for lunch or dinner, and on the rare occasions when they do agree to join me and my sales staff for lunch we go to a local hot-pot joint and drink a few beers. The bill hardly comes to more than RMB 50 / head - same as we spend ourselves when we eat during business trips
And as for business gifts : we only give out our company desk-top flip calendar (which costs us peanuts to print and actually is very useful practically )
I would have thought that THE ONLY business gift the head of the ICAC would ever give away would be a cheap plastic desk-top plaque ( or calendar) with the logo "corruption kills"
I think CY needs to take your op-ed very seriously indeed.
hard times !
now even our once trusted and respected ICAC's integrity has been brought to doubt as the prices paid for Tong's expensive cookies (bought by a senior staff who acted as his attache ever since he took up the post as Comnmissioner of the ICAC) and mooncakes (luckily there was no gold nor diamonds hidden inside as what was usually did on Mainland's gift mooncakes !) were not counted as gifts since they were considered to be foodstuffs only !
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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