Lai See

Why the secrecy surrounding Hong Kong's societies?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 August, 2013, 4:06am

Why is it that Hong Kong has such absurdly byzantine regulations surrounding information about societies?

Anyone can pay a fee and search a firm, limited company, car ownership, marriage records, land ownership, and so on. The online searchable data shows ID cards and addresses. No consent is needed from a partner, director, vehicle owner or land owner to search government records containing their names.

So why does the Societies Office have to be different. If you want to find out information regarding the members or office bearers of a registered society, you have to get their written permission. This is silly, since if you don't know who they are, you can't obtain their permission. All we can do is obtain a copy of the society's constitution, and to do that we have to go to the police headquarters in Wan Chai, even though the information is held digitally and could be easily distributed by e-mail.

The peculiarities of this arrangement came to our attention last year when a group called the Hong Kong Islands District Association suddenly showed up in the middle of the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator saga and was able to access environmental funds controlled by the Environment Bureau and take islanders off on subsidised trips to Singapore and Taiwan to look at incinerators.

The name is similar to the Islands District Council, which, confusingly, is a government body. Why should the details of societies be so guarded when information on companies and the like is freely available? The system is outdated and the rules that apply to companies should be applied to societies in this respect.


Mandarin hits a certain age

The Mandarin Oriental is treating itself to a bit of fun to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. The well-known French chef Pierre Gagnaire returns to Pierre, the restaurant he set up at the hotel in 2006, from October 12 to 19 to offer a menu of 1963 French dishes. This might seem surprising for a chef known for offending the conventions of classic French cooking. But, then again, he writes on his website that his mission is to run a restaurant which is "facing tomorrow but respectful of yesterday".

For the seven-course dinner, the hotel has followed the Peninsula in incorporating the hotel's opening date in the price. Hence, the seven-course dinner costs HK$1,963 and the four-course lunch HK$1,063. Geddit?

The Peninsula, which is celebrating its 85th anniversary, is charging HK$1,928 for what it calls a "culinary journey" - a six-course dining odyssey around the hotel's four main restaurants.

Meanwhile, we should recall that, when the Mandarin opened its doors in 1963, it was the tallest building in the city.


Barker bids Ballingal bye-bye

There has been a parting of the ways between Geoffrey Barker and Ballingal Investment Advisors (BIA). Barker, a director with the firm, has been the portfolio manager of the BIA Pacific Macro Fund since it was set up six years ago, Asian Investor reports. The fund is thought to have accounted for most of BIA's assets under management of about US$200 million. BIA, which was set up by Andrew Ballingal in 2003, also runs the BIA Pacific Fund, a pan-Asia long/short equity strategy launched in 2004, which, reportedly, has rather less than US$100 million under management.

Both funds saw negative returns last year, with the Pacific Fund down 13 per cent and Pacific Macro 3 per cent under water. However, Pacific Macro did rather better in 2008, when it returned 43 per cent. It lost 16.6 per cent in 2009 but gained 1 per cent in 2010 and 20 per cent in 2011. It is not known what Barker's next move will be. He was chief economist with HSBC Asia Pacific from 2000 to 2004 after working with Dresdner Kleinwort Benson and Schroders in Hong Kong and with Barings in Japan.


Good game

While the mainland's stock markets may be in the doldrums, the mobile games sector is sizzling. According to the magazine Caixin, in the first seven months of the year, every one of the top six mobile game developers listed in Shanghai or Shenzhen has seen its share prices at least double, with the leader Beijing Ourpalm, which debuted on Shenzhen's ChiNext board in May 2012, rising almost 300 per cent so far this year.