Sceptic lawyer questions actual productivity of Hong Kong police | South China Morning Post
  • Tue
  • Mar 3, 2015
  • Updated: 8:17am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 October, 2013, 2:27am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 October, 2013, 2:27am

Sceptic lawyer questions actual productivity of Hong Kong police

BIO

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.
 

Our discussions about the police in the past few days continue to attract attention. We initially pointed out that Hong Kong was the fifth-most heavily policed territory in the world by the number of police per 100,000 head of population. Some responded that we should look at the absolute number but consider the productivity. In that respect, "we get excellent value for money for our police force", one retired police officer wrote.

But not all concur. A lawyer has written to us about the use of police resources. He asks why - if we are short of police officers as some claim - the police carry out about 1.7 million stop and searches each year, according to statistics on its website, of which 99.9 per cent find nothing suspicious. Their counterparts in New York carry out far fewer stop and searches but find evidence of illegality in about 5 per cent of cases, though they are still criticised for being over-zealous. Why, he continues, doesn't the Hong Kong police stop the 1.7 million illegally parked drivers a year who are clearly in breach of the law.

In another example of how the Hong Kong police apparently wastes time and resources, he wonders why it is when he attends a police station with a suspect to take a statement and it is made clear at the outset that the suspect will not answer any questions, that the police insist on continuing with the interview, although the answer to each question is "I will not answer". "I have numerous examples of people being questioned for hours on end without answering a single question. All these statements then have to be transcribed, translated and copied. The waste is phenomenal," he says.

 

Waiting for Wu opinion

It's been almost six months and there is still no word on when the disciplinary committee of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) will report its findings on Hospital Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk. People are getting restive at the length of time it is taking to get this report out. The cynic in us has wondered whether there has been some pressure for the publication of the report to be delayed until Wu steps down from the authority next month.

However, we have been assured that this is not the case. The problem is that this is in many respects a complex case with a mass of papers, and the chairman of the committee, Kumar Ramanathan, is a highly regarded silk and is therefore a busy man. Because he is not being paid for this work, it has to be done in his free time.

The saga, for that is what it now is, is by far the HKICPA's longest-running disciplinary case and dates back to December 2009. It raises a real issue, in our opinion, as to whether this is the right way for the accountancy profession to regulate itself. What this case suggests is that people need to be paid to look into these matters so they can be expedited efficiently.

In addition to Wu, the other defendants are Ernst & Young, of which Wu was chairman until December 2005, and Catherine Yen Ka-shun, another senior figure at the accounting firm. The complaint relates to the collapse of the investment in New China Hong Kong in 1999. Wu was the financial adviser to the company and Ernst & Young was the auditor.

 

Buffett's congress solution

Warren Buffett has been prolific in recent days in excoriating the US congress over its recent performance in handling the government debt-ceiling deadlock. The investment guru, in an interview with CNBC, offers one of the more interesting solutions for curbing the debt ceiling.

"I could end the deficit in five minutes," he told CNBC. "You just pass a law that says that any time there is a deficit of more than 3 per cent of GDP, all sitting members of congress are ineligible for re-election."

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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