Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 April, 2014, 12:56am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 April, 2014, 12:56am

Henry Tang's basement an engineering miracle

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.
 

We have been musing over the recent acquittal of the three who were charged in connection with the construction of Henry Tang Ying-yen's basement.

In delivering his verdict on the two building professionals and a contractor, magistrate Clement Lee Hing-nin said there would have been obvious signs, such as irregular steel and deep trenches around the site, if the basement had been built before the occupation permit was issued in 2007. But he said that there was simply no objective evidence to prove that such signs existed before the permit was issued.

Hmm, so what are we to conclude from this? That the 2,400 square foot basement under the Tangs' existing home was built without the services of an architect, engineer or registered contractor? This is no mean achievement. So impressed are we by the technicalities of this, we would happily find space in this column for a presentation of how they overcame the challenges this project must have presented.

Our interest, you understand, is purely technical. The fact that they were able to do this on their own as lay people is inspiring. One architect told us: "I am astounded at this miracle of engineering. It is a miracle that ranks right up here with the Immaculate Conception". This achievement puts Tang in a new light. It is possible that we underestimated him.

 

Dr Quat, I presume?

We see that the academic credentials of Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong legislative councillor Dr Elizabeth Quat, as she describes herself, are attracting some media attention. She is the proud owner of a Bachelor in Business Administration, Master of Administration and PhD in Management - obtained, respectively, in 1993, 1994, and 1996 and through part-time study. This suggests an unusual, though not impossible, level of diligence.

These degrees were all obtained from Greenwich University - not to be confused with the University of Greenwich, which is in London. Greenwich University is, or was when Quat obtained her degrees, in Hawaii. However, the university was never accredited by a body recognised by the US Department of Education. "That makes it a degree mill by our measure," observes David Webb on webb-site.com

Some months ago we asked Dr Quat's office if we could see her PhD dissertation, but that request has yet to be granted. In 1998 Greenwich University moved to Norfolk Island, one of Australia's so-called external territories and set up shop courtesy of a loophole in Australian legislation that allowed the island to provide accreditation for Greenwich University, although it never received Australian academic accreditation. However, when in 2002 Australia tightened the use of the term "university" throughout its territories, Greenwich shut down.

Election material tells us that "Dr Quat's versatility and passion for life began at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts where she majored in dancing. To equip herself in her pursuit of excellence she received her degrees in BBA and MBA in Marketing, and a PhD degree in Management through part-time study. She is currently a Master student of the Hong Kong University's Family Institute major in Marriage and Family Therapy".

Calls to her office were not returned. Clearly, if these qualifications did not come from an accredited university, she should not be using them.

 

Sign of the times

Our picture was taken by a reader at Central Station and shows the passenger information displays with an unusual message: "I've reached the end of my service life. The new display will give you even more information." The message reads like something that could have been said by Yutu, the unmanned talking lunar rover that forms part of the Chinese Chang'e 3 mission to the moon.

The new displays are flat screens which say when the next three or four trains will arrive. The old displays are being progressively changed along the Tung Chung and the Airport Express lines. One of the features of the old screens is that they indicated when the train in the station is leaving. This is useful when deciding whether to run for the train but, alas, has been removed from the new displays. Such is progress.

 

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

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