• Thu
  • Jul 10, 2014
  • Updated: 2:48pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 4:31am

Time to drop 'Independent' from ICAC's title


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.

Chief Executive C.Y. Leung has made another poor political decision in setting up a committee to look at regulations surrounding government entertainment.

Oh yes, and the committee is also going to look at claims that the former ICAC commissioner Timothy Tong Hin-ming spent hundreds of thousands of public dollars entertaining mainland officials. This is a classic fudge. So instead of an investigation where Tong's overspending is the focus, we get a more general inquiry into "government entertainment" in which Tong's activities are a subplot.

This is a very serious matter which hits at the very core of the values which are supposed to be central to Hong Kong public life and institutions. The "I" in ICAC, less we forget, stands for "independent". The Independent Commission Against Corruption for decades has been the bedrock which has kept Hong Kong's institutions, and particularly its civil service, relatively free from corruption. So if the government wants to maintain the perception that it values a truly independent ICAC, then it should have set up a body that was empowered to get to the bottom of what Tong was up to, rather than one that is going to come up with recommendations about government entertainment.

Setting aside potential issues of corruption and misconduct in office, what was Tong doing hobnobbing with the Liaison Office officials? It has been suggested that one reason for this work-around investigation is to avoid embarrassing the Liaison Office. It is an open secret that after 1997 the ICAC was one organisation it was particularly interested in securing significant influence over. Indeed, both Leung's action, in the form of the investigation he has set up, and Tong's activities reinforce the widespread perception that the Liaison Office is the de facto government in Hong Kong. It makes a mockery of the "one country, two systems" set-up that is supposed to be operating here. Maybe "independent" should be dropped from the ICAC's title, just so that we are no longer fooled.


Sir Ka-shing goes to Oxford

Li Ka-shing was rubbing shoulders on the podium with British Prime Minister David Cameron at Oxford University yesterday to mark the launch of the Li Ka-shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery. Sir Ka-shing Li, as the Hutchison Whampoa press release refers to him, has donated £20 million, or rather the Li Ka Shing Foundation has, for the centre, which will "put the UK at the forefront of revolutionising healthcare through big data".

The statement goes on to say that the potential of "big data" to revolutionise health research and offer patients "better, safer and more personalised treatment will be a major focus of the centre, which will be unique worldwide in providing a dedicated centre of excellence in the emerging field of big data in medicine." That said, it is unlikely that Hutchison's dockworkers, currently on strike for a pay increase, will see it this way.


Diamond: 'Money not my goal'

Bob Diamond wasn't in banking for the money, he has told The New York Times Magazine: "I never set money as a goal. It was a result." He must have been one of the few. He goes on to tell the NYT's Andrew Ross Sorkin: "I think we have lived well, but it hasn't been about accumulation or anything like that."

That said, Sorkin points out that Diamond's current residence is a US$37 million penthouse on the 40th floor of 15 Central Park West, which he bought under the pseudonym Novgorod, to make it seem that he was a Russian oligarch. It looks like the reinvention of Bob Diamond is going to take a while longer.


Buffett calls for more women

On the face of it Warren Buffett appears to be in favour of having more women on corporate boards. The billionaire investor exhorts fellow males to get on board with the idea in Fortune magazine. "The closer that America comes to fully employing the talents of all its citizens, the greater its output of goods and services will be." But then again like a lot of men that speak out in favour of this, it seems to be mostly lip service.

Buffett's flagship, Berkshire Hathaway, was described in a report from Calvert Investments earlier this year as one of the least diverse companies in the S&P 100. Voting this weekend will determine if it elects its third woman to its 13-strong board.


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This article is now closed to comments

the sun also rises
To seek the truth and nothing but the truth of Timothy Tong (who is now hiding outside the territory for fear of being recognized by the public and be insulted or humiliated maybe) who was suspected of breaching the Bribery Ordinance of the ICAC which he led during 2007-2012, the best way for the Leung administration and our Legislature to do is to appoint/set up a high-level independent committee (preferrably led by an experienced retired judge) to fully investigate the accusations/allegations against this corrupted and cowardly Timothy Tong ! Right ? By doing so the ICAC can get rid of being accused of 'investigating oneself !' and the results can be trusted and our trust and respect towards this graft-buster can be restored. So does the good fame of the ICAC--our pride in the past decades and the cream of our administrartion as well !
the sun also rises
Many thanks to writer named Caractacus who pointed out that the line,'.......for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.' was written by an English poet John Donne.Now the knell will toll for whom in this city ? I wonder. Maybe you and me---most of us Hongkongers who have been hidden from the cruel truth that our society's core values:a clean government and a trusted ICAC have both been tarnished/polluted in the last decade (starting from 2003 after the 500,000 people grand march when Hong Kong started to be closely monitored by Beijing and lots of cadres have been sent here who began their lavish dining and wining with our top officials especially those who worked in the Liaison office which made Leung adminstration dare not set up an independent committee to look into Tong's scandal for fear of affecting that Office and more scandals will be disclosed ! Right ?
Howard Winn poses the right question: "what was Tong doing hobnobbing with the Liaison Office officials?" Our new C. E. is displaying either breathtaking complacency or staggering duplicity. Is the new system of government about covering the backs of one's cronies?
The majority of Hong Kongers are dangerously unaware how far honest government process has been subverted by abuse of power and implied corruption which have insinuated themselves in to the highest levels of administration over the last decade - mainly led by the insidious influence of big business special interests. President Xi Jinping has warned that corruption is the greatest threat to the survival of the CCP. It is also the greatest threat to Hong Kong's freedoms and prosperity. Has HK become a crony capitalist oligarchy ruled by a favoured few? Are our much vaunted core values merely a sham?
Tung Chee-hwa wanted to drop the I in July 1997 saying it was in keeping with the Basic Law. The Chinese name has no independent in it. The ICAC is a rogue beast as far as Beijing are concerned. Watch it now slide into oblivion. The knives have been out for years. Tong has handed the boys up north the weapon.
the sun also rises
i wonder why the Liaison Office has been so interested in our ICAC after the Handover in 1997. The graft-buster used to be independent and the investigations it is carrying out remains secret even to its head---the Commissioner.So Tong's close contacts with a deputy director of that Office and the head of Police Liaison Dept.of that Office have no significance to the Office as even Tong didn't know the details of certain big cases under investigations by his subordinates (the Operation Dept.headed by the deputy commissioner).Besides,our ICAC is well-known for its secrecy----never revealing anything to the outside world.So Tong's close contacts (through meals at least 4 times a year---paid by public money) can be explained that he was just trying to buy favour from that Office to pave way after his retirement such as now he has become a member of the CPPCC which members from the territory have to be recommended by the Office. Of course, it is said that Tong eyed the post now held by Mr.Lai Tung-kwok---the secretary for security. How ambitious this old drunkard Timothy Tong was !
I applaud the truthfulness of the article - what a classic fudge! CAC means Con All Chinese.
the sun also rises
agree that the 'I' in 'ICAC' should be dropped as our former Commissioner of the graft-buster had so close contact with the Liaison Office which once described as the real ruler of the territory ! To be independent,the ICAC senior staff should stay away from that Office which functions are to be the bridge between the Central authorities and Hong Kong people and its government.It represents the Central authorities here yet as the current head of the Office,Mr Zhang claimed, the Office won't rule over Hong Kong but just reflects views here to Beijing.To observe 'One country, two systems'---the Liaison Office should keep a distance with our ICAC so as not to influence its functions and impartiality and fairness.Tong' case is an omen already ! For whom the knell tolls ? For you and me (all those Hongkongers !)
Dear friend, the correct quotation is an extract from a poem by the English 17th century poet John Donne:
"And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."
Is the demise of Hong Kong greatly exaggerated?
"I think that a particle must have a separate reality independent of the measurements. That is an electron has spin, location and so forth even when it is not being measured. I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it." ~ Albert Einstein




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