Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 January, 2014, 12:15am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 January, 2014, 12:15am

HKTDC's unnecessary forum does nothing for Hong Kong's image


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.

Why is it that when it comes to the Asian Financial Forum, the Trade Development Council exhibits symptoms that suggest it is suffering from an institutional inferiority complex? The forum is now in its 7th year, yet the TDC persists in holding a completely unnecessary press conference. But anyone would think they were organising an international beauty contest.

The subhead on its press statement reads: "More than 100 high-profile speakers to take part in two-day forum," and then gives a list of 16 "high-profile" speakers. This is accompanied by another page of 40 pictures of speakers that have signed up. Then we turn to the AFF booklet, which is mostly pictures of past and present speakers. Raymond Yip, an assistant executive director at the TDC, then read out another 15 or so names just in case the message hadn't sunk in.

Given that there are already a number of highly successful forums of this nature every year in Hong Kong, organised by the private sector, we asked Yip what the purpose of AFF was beyond attracting big names to Hong Kong, and what value AFF added that the others didn't provide.

"The whole purpose of this event is to reinforce Hong Kong's role as Asia's premier financial hub," he replied. He went on to say that in addition to the "star-studded" speaker list, there was a commercial element in that there was a deal flow session where supposedly deals are done. This, he believed, set the AFF forum apart from other private sector conferences. This we have to say is less than convincing. You don't need a conference specifically to reinforce Hong Kong as a hub. Only a government organisation could come up with something like that.

The fact that there are already a considerable number of finance-related conferences here every year adds to Hong Kong's status as a financial hub. Indeed the AFF is well-known to be one of the dullest conferences in town, and to suggest that it is the Davos of Asia, as someone did yesterday, is laughable. One can't help feeling that the TDC has jumped on to the financial forum bandwagon because it sees it as another way of justifying its existence.


Say no to Angora and to Gap

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) was demonstrating outside the Gap store in Central yesterday. Peta is usually associated with demonstrations against people who wear animal fur and shops that sell it. It has staged some stunning protests in other countries featuring naked celebrities. There was none of this in Central yesterday.

Senior campaigner Ashley Fruno told us she felt Peta's pictures of its recent investigation of the treatment of Angora rabbits in China were sufficiently shocking to attract attention. China is the source of 90 per cent of the world's Angora. Peta's undercover investigation of Angora rabbit farms in China shows workers "violently ripping the fur out of the rabbits' skin as the animal screams in pain." After this the rabbits are left in shock in their filthy cages only to go through the ordeal again months later.

Gap has been targeted because although it has agreed to halt production of Angora items, Peta says it has angered consumers by continuing to sell off their old stock, unlike other retailers which have ceased all sales of Angora items. In a message to shoppers Peta says to look at the label on sweaters and scarves, and if it says Angora "remember the rabbit that had its fur cruelly ripped out, and leave it on the rack."


Guardforce idling engines again

Time for this year's first moan about traffic and engine idling. We passed a Guardforce van at lunchtime parked outside the Wan Chai MTR on Hennessy Road. There was no driver but a Guardforce employee was dozing in the passenger seat. Unlike the other vehicles illegally parked in this location, its engine was running. We passed it again some 30 minutes later and it was in the same location and still with its engine running. We recall an incident last year involving Guardforce when a complaint to the Environmental Protection Department triggered an investigation. The EPD concluded that since the vehicles in question were engaged in "providing armoured protection services," they were exempt from the engine idling law. Now Guardforce drivers apparently feel they can, with impunity, park anywhere with their engines idling.


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