• Thu
  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 10:56am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 4:39pm

Observatory blows it again with late lifting of No 8 signal


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.

Yet again we must take the Observatory to task for its dilatoriness in lowering the No 8 signal yesterday.

It had been obvious for some hours that Usagi, the "world's worst typhoon this year", was not going "to slam" into Hong Kong as previously thought. Last month the Observatory also lowered the No 8 signal needlessly late in the day in the wake of Typhoon Utor.

Yesterday the signal could easily have been lowered at 7am, or possibly earlier, allowing everyone to go to work as normal. Looking at the wind speeds on the Observatory's website, at the different locations around the territory for 7am, the wind was at most 20 kilometres an hour, with exceptions such as Green Island, where it was 40 kilometres an hour and Ngong Ping, 50 kilometres an hour. In some cases, the wind was stronger later in the day after the storm signals had been lowered. Indeed the No 8 was lowered at just before 9.30 am, and then all signals were lowered at 10.25am, which is a rapid deceleration.

This over-caution does nobody any good and reminds us of the Aesop's fable The Boy Who Cried Wolf. There is a danger that the Observatory's caution will lull people into a false sense of security, until we all get caught out by a big one that really does some damage and is a threat to life.

As we have said before, there is no need for the city to come to a grinding halt because of 100km/h winds. We should do what everyone else does, and get on with everyday activities as best we can.


CLSA independent-minded

Twenty years ago when CLSA was not much more than a blip on Hong Kong's financial landscape, the fledgling firm held its first financial forum. It attracted 225 fund managers, compared with the 1,600 that are showing up this week.

In the intervening years CLSA has grown and cultivated an image as an independent boutique brokerage whose research was not conflicted by the prospect of big IPO deals. Coincidentally, CLSA earlier this year was acquired by state-controlled Citic Securities. So does this mean the end of the "independent tag" for CLSA? "Absolutely not," says CLSA chairman and CEO Jonathan Slone, speaking to the press yesterday.

The senior management, he says, has the same kind of ownership deal it held under its previous owners, French bank Credit Lyonnais, which was subsequently taken over by Credit Agricole.

Citic understands and values CLSA's reputation as an independent operator, though some will be wondering if it will be able to maintain it in practice. Ownership by a mainland financial institution was foretold by CLSA co-founder Gary Coull back in 2006, six months before he died.

Slone, who has been with the firm for more than 20 years, says he expects the future to be "as exciting as the past 20 years". "You ain't seen nothin' yet," he says talking about both CLSA's and the region's future. Asked how long he intends to stay, he says: "I'm not planning on leaving the firm anytime soon."


Heroic expectations for art price

The price discovery process of the art market has always been something of a mystery to Lai See . So it is with some interest that we see that Sotheby's is anticipating a price of between HK$45 million and HK$60 million for Red Flag 1 by Chen Yifei as part of the Sotheby's Hong Kong 40th Anniversary Evening Sale on October 5.

It is the first time the painting has appeared at auction, though it has been viewed at many exhibitions. It comes from the collection of Baron and Baroness Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten, who are well known collectors based in Switzerland.

The painting depicts soldiers of the People's Liberation Army raising a red flag inside a trench. It reflects the gritty realism of warfare and is in stark contrast to many of the paintings of the period showing worker heroes with faces flushed with revolutionary zeal. According to a commentary by artdaily.org the painting is "steeped in Russian Socialist Realism style, which exerted a dominating influence over the Chinese art scene at the time".

We can't help feeling there is a certain irony between the subject matter and the whopping price expected at auction for the iconic depiction of the subject. One of those quaint contradictions of capitalism and the art world.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

The cut-off time for schools was 5:30, so, even if the signal had been lowered at 7:00, schools would still have been closed, and children would require supervision at home.
The Observatory and Government has a responsibility to everyone in HK, not just sedentary office workers who forget how much they depend on outdoor people and infrastructure.
"There is a danger that the Observatory's caution will lull people into a false sense of security, until we all get caught out by a big one that really does some damage and is a threat to life." Usagi WAS a threat to life, and killed 25 people just north of Hong Kong. This could have easily been us, if not for Usagi's last-minute swerve. Why not spend some time looking at Hong Kong's deadly typhoon history before bleating about 'over-caution' and whinging about the Observatory lowering signals 'needlessly late'. Experience dictates that you wait to ensure that all is safe based on a number of quantifiable, scientific factors. With all due respect, a writer looking at figures on a website and saying 'it's just not that windy' is not one of those factors. The Observatory staff were doing their job. You, on the other hand, were not: an experienced writer should know better than to embarrass himself and his paper by offering up an opinion on a topic he clearly knows nothing about.
I do not wish to quibble with the HKO's decisions on raising or lowering the typhoon signals; they are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Erring on the side of caution is understandable. However, the single piece of information that most Hongkongers want, employers and employees alike, and which the HKO does not provide in its regular updates on its website, is the predicted time that the No. 8 signal will be raised, and subsequently lowered, which could be presented with the clear understanding that it is only a predicted time that may change as conditions warrant. Would that be so difficult?
And that's exactly what they have done for at least the last 12 months.
Well, if you say so, then I must be wrong, but I was unable to find the information anywhere on the "My Observatory" app, and I looked repeatedly. Maybe there's a difference between the mobile app and the website. If so, then there shouldn't be.
The typhoon could still turn its course, then what, Mr Winn?
For you and yours ensconed in your glass towers, a No 10 is nothing. But spare a thought for those who have to take public transport - including sea vessels - and those who have to work outdoors.
You don't measure human lives vs dollars and cents, do you?
And, enough of your PR pieces on the leading firms in this town - today, it's CLSA...........how we miss the days of your predecessor.
here we go again, complain complain cimplain. Raised too early, too late, why at all.
Its the weather stupid. Get a real job Howard
Ohhh, aren't we sooooo smart - after the typhoon has passed!
In short, the Observatory is not fit for purpose. It needs a thorough review and overhaul and a good start would be its website which is a complete dog's breakfast.
I disagree. I like the way it provides the information I require without unnecessary animation. I particularly like the way that moving the mouse pointer over the menu does NOT pop up a huge sub-menu over the article I'm trying to read... are you listening SCMP?




SCMP.com Account