• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 6:41pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2014, 1:11am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2014, 1:11am

Security Bureau shoots itself in the other foot over Philippines

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.
 

Commenting on the recent statements by the Security Bureau recently is not unlike shooting fish in a barrel. Last Wednesday the Hong Kong government announced it had resolved its differences with Manila over the August 2010 Manila hostage crisis. A few hours later the Security Bureau lowered the black travel alert it had assigned the Philippines since August 2010. This more or less confirmed what everyone had been aware of: the black alert was a political decision rather than an indication of the risk to Hong Kong tourists travelling to the Philippines, a point we made last week.

However, remarks by the Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok on Saturday make a bad situation worse. According to press reports he says the black alert was not downgraded as a result of last week's agreement but tried to maintain the farce that the decision to lower the black alert was owing to changes in the security situation within the Philippines. He tries to finesse the downgrade by claiming it was in line with alerts issued by other countries. But no other country had ever advised, "Avoid all travel", which is what a black alert means.

Even if we go along with the bureau's line, it was still seriously misaligned to alerts issued for other countries. Despite the rioting in Bangkok where many people Hong Kong visit, Thailand was assigned a red alert, mean while the Philippines was supposed to be as risky as Syria. People in the Security Bureau must think we are as deranged as they appear to be, if they think people believe this guff.

 

Quay West licence restored

We see that another bar that has been given a rough ride by the Liquor Licensing Board has been thrown a lifeline by the Municipal Services Appeal Board. The appeal board yesterday said it had overturned a decision by the liquor board, which in November had withdrawn the liquor licence of Quay West bar in Kennedy Town.

The bar has been granted a six-month liquor licence instead of the normal one-year licence and would be required to close its doors and windows after 6pm, stop selling liquor after 12am and no customers can stand outside the bar after 11pm. The bar lost its licence in November though was granted a temporary licence a month later pending the outcome of its appeal to the appeals board.

At the hearing last Friday Adrian Halkes, counsel for the bar owners, said that "it was almost inconceivable" for the liquor board to refuse a licence at a hearing where neither the police nor residents of the building nor others had made complaints about the bar.

The bar owners said after the decision that they had lost their licence as a result of the unsubstantiated complaints by the local district councillor, Chan Hok-fung, a member of the DAB. One of the directors, Alan Piper, said: "The police haven't complained, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department didn't complain, and none of the residents complained at the hearing. Our customer base has been eroded, we have run up large legal bills, and we have lost a huge amount of revenue. The whole process has been a farce."

 

Two cows economics

The Samui Lifestyle Magazine has a diverting account of how to understand politics using two cows. You know the sort of thing. Communism: You have two cows; the government will take your cows away and give you only the milk. European Capitalism: You have two cows, The EU subsidies you in the first year to buy the third cow, it sets a quota in the second year and fines you for overproduction. In the third year you get a subsidy to kill the third cow.

When it comes to Hong Kong capitalism, its more complicated. You have two cows. You sell three cows to your company's shareholders using a claim letter drawn up by your brother-in-law in your bank. Then you go for a public offer, and you finally get four cows in operation, but claim tax relief for five cows.

The rights to six cows are transferred by a Panamanian intermediary on to the bank account of a company registered in the Cayman Islands, owned illegally by a shareholder who resells them to your company, which has the right to the milk of your seven cows. Meanwhile, you kill the original two cows for their unfavourable horoscope. Convoluted but an outside perception of how some people do business here.

 

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

rpasea
Lai Tung-Kwok and other principal officials are nothing more than propagandists spouting the official govt line. And protecting their golden rice bowl.
dienw
The editing of this piece is non-existent.
dynamco
he has been rubber stamping all his overpaid life
Mr. Lai joined the British Hong Kong Government as an Assistant Immigration Officer in 1973. He was promoted to Immigration Officer in 1980, to Senior Immigration Officer in 1986, to Chief Immigration Officer in 1990, to Assistant Principal Immigration Officer in 1992, to Principal Immigration Officer in 1995, to Senior Principal Immigration Officer in 1997 & to Assistant Director of Immigration in 1999. He was promoted to Deputy Director of Immigration in 2001. Lai was appointed Director of Immigration in 2002. He ceased Director of Immigration in 2008 + retired in 2009, succeeded by Simon Peh. In 2009, he was appointed to the Under Secretary for Security. In July 1, 2012, Mr. Lai was promoted to Secretary for Security of Hong Kong, as head of the Security Bureau of Hong Kong, he is responsible for overseeing most of the Hong Kong Disciplined Service entities god help them
ianhuayensee
It is public knowledge that our civil servants are well paid, perhaps overly so and at the taxpayers' expense. What is the point of Lai "defending" something which is obviously linked to the "understanding" reached between the HK and the Filipino governments on the hostage crisis. It does not add value to the relationship, it does not add value to our perception of HK's civil servants. Does it add value if I told you my mother was female? If you compare the civil servants of two competing economies, Singapore and HK, you wouldn't disagree with me if the Singaporeans get 9 out of 10 and the HK counterparts get, eh, may be 6? It's time we all woke up and face the challenge. To quote old Lee (Kuan Yew), we must always have a sense of crisis to succeed. We have political secretaries, ministers and even the chief executive bathing in inappropriate luxury bestowed by connected persons or making inappropriate decisions (remember the ICAC chief and the maotai?). Do we see this in Singapore? Perhaps not. I am not a Singaporean but there are obvious strengths we can learn from the other economy.
 
 
 
 
 

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