• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 1:57pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 April, 2014, 12:56am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 April, 2014, 12:56am

Henry Tang's basement an engineering miracle


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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This article is now closed to comments

John Adams
Unpopular though CY may be in many circles, I think we are much better off with CY than with Albert soft-p o r n Ho and Henry blatant-liar* Tang
*or architect-of-miracles if one prefers a less offensive moniker
a case of 2 pints do not make a full Quat?
When is Govt /ICAC going to do something about this situation which has been known for some time?
Did she obtain her public servant position as a Govt paid Legco member, as a paid District Councillor+ as a JP based on her supposed 'doctorate' and degrees, which are most doubtful & from an unaccredited Degree Mill in Hawaii that ran off to Norfolk Island before being forcibly closed, still unaccredited? why could she not provide a link to her dissertation?
Hence her 'degrees' are + remain seemingly unaccredited.
Is that obtaining pecuniary advantage in her current Govt remunerated positions by deception ?
Has she obtained bank or other credit loans based on her supposed 'degrees'?
As LaiSee says, if her 'degrees' are unaccredited she should not be using them to try & fool people
so the Dr? & Honorable? should disappear from her titles & she should be ousted from Legco and Shatin District Council + removed as a JP
I see she just flew on a freebie to Europe to see incinerators then the DAB voted for the Govt landfill/incinerator plan + that the DAB was responsible for shooting down the Govt plan to save children's lives by finally increasing tobacco tax this year by 50%
John Adams
Who or why or which or what
Is the not-so-honorable
Elizabeth Quat ?
BBA, MA and Ph..D
She is certainly not !
Let me try to say it very politely but honestly, ie from my gut. When Tang was the chief secretary of Hong Kong, I just found his smile unreal (it's all so "put up") and his demeanour insincere. Then he campaigned for the HKSAR chief executive and his palatial basement was exposed. He got his wife to be the scapegoat (and I admire her for being loyal all along) and was fined pittance. He has been telling lies all along about the basement saga and I felt that he was clearly uncomfortable with his body language/nuances, whether about the basement or when campaigning for the chief executive position. The wisest decision he made was to withdraw from the CE race but unfortunately he did not have the wisdom to own up on the basement issue. This basement, at 2,400 square feet, can house about five average Hong Kong families. For him, it is a MERE basement for wines and home theatre.
the wife's fine was a derisory 2 bottles of 'fine' wine
the fairies actually built the basement + the wife got Kay lied on wine each day without telling the oaf
anyone who saw the freely posted original excavation photos could see the base was excavated 18 feet below ground level
the basement was there from the outset as was the obvious intent to cheat
the BD inspectors should be under investigation
let us not forget as a result of the oaf's tenure making HK a duty free area for wine he sold one wine lot alone for HK$49 million recently
any police investigation would have got a result of when, by whom, how much and who paid by simple police work and bank account searches
this stinks & needs to be fully investigated
Did the BD request police help in their investigation into Tang's basement? The contractors and sub-contractors would have been identified and their payrolls examined to produce workmen as witnesses.
As a Hong Kong taxpayer, I am entitled to demand that "Doctor" Elizabeth Quat cease forthwith the use of all her academic credentials in her dealings with the public. Her actions, which I am sure were deliberate (she knew where she obtained her degrees from), are tantamount to misrepresentation and cheating. Who did she cheat? The HK government and the public. Did the HK government vet her credentials? What does the ICAC do in such a situation? Is this too small a fry? Does Ms Quat have the courage and humility to own up to her dishonesty and apologise and/or resign from all her public positions? For a HK public figure to have resorted to such measures speaks volumes about human greed. The sky is the limit.
Lai See: pls find and publish the photos showing the excavation. Time for an ICAC investigation into the Buildings Department? Who else besides Henry received preferential treatment?
John Adams
Yes indeed !
If this flagrant transgression of BD rules is so "impossible" one wonders that HK prosecutors failed to find the smoking gun.
It seems there are only two explanations behind Henry Tang's basement :
1) He ( and/or his wife) illegally built it when the building was originally constructed and then somehow (goodness knows how) hid the illegal underground construction from the BD - and even from the original architects and building engineers who have have been cleared of misdemeanour.
If so - who were the actual architects and engineers behind the whole scheme?
Only HT ( and/or his wife) knows
2) HT (and/ or his wife) shovelled a whole basement load of dirt through their front gate after they got BD approval ... what was it estimated at ? 80-90 truck loads ?
??? !!!
So ICAC - please get to the bottom of this scandal , and Laisee Do Not Stop Pushing.
Bottom line , I'm only so grateful that H Tang is not our new CE otherwise blatant lying would be his order-of-the-day . And if so, then Heaven help HK !
John Adams
I do agree !




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