Lai See

Can we believe the Security Bureau on Occupy Central?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 5:57am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 6:22am

Our secretary for security, Lai Tung-kwok, apparently believes that the organisers of the Occupy Central movement will find it difficult to prevent the movement from turning violent should it go ahead with its threatened mass civil disobedience. This is the same official whose department for more than three years tried to convince us that the security risk for tourists travelling to the Philippines was on a par with Syria.

For much of this period, Syria was racked with civil war involving the deaths of thousands of civilians. The Security Bureau rightly issued a black alert for the country, meaning that all travel should be avoided. The risk in the Philippines was nowhere near this serious but the bureau nevertheless issued the same alert for the country.

As we all know, this was motivated by politics stemming from the Manila hostage tragedy in 2010. The move was a reprisal against the Philippines as the Hong Kong government tried to deflect the impression, for the benefit of the public, that it wasn't doing enough to pressure the Philippine government into apologising to the victims or compensating them. Even after the matter was resolved, Lai still tried to maintain the alert was imposed for valid security reasons.

Now, with Occupy Central, we have an even more politically charged issue. Given its record for bowing to political expediency, how much credibility are we supposed to give to Lai's recent warnings about the possibility of violence? Is he giving us a genuine assessment of the risk, or is this simply another case of obeying a political instruction? Hard to say in the current political climate.


Appealing case

Lai See may have been a little hasty yesterday in declaring that after three attempts the Securities and Futures Commission had finally nailed Andrew Mantel, the founder and chief executive of Pacific Sun Advisors.

After our report that both Mantel and his company earlier this week were convicted on four charges of issuing advertisements to promote a collective investment scheme without the authorisation of the SFC, he writes to say that he intends to appeal.

Pacific Sun and Mantel were acquitted at a hearing in March last year after arguing that the advertisements fell within an exemption that applied to sales limited to professional investors. But the SFC successfully appealed the acquittal in the Court of First Instance in January.

The court ruled the adverts did not fall within the exemption and ordered the case be returned to the magistrates for reconsideration. Mantel says an appeal against the Court of First Instance decision has been launched in the Court of Final Appeal.

On the two other attempts by the SFC to deprive Mantel of his licence, he got it reinstated on appeal. On one occasion in 2004, former SFC deputy chairman Ermanno Pascutto, speaking on behalf of Mantel at the SFC Appeals Tribunal, observed: "I have never in my 25-year career seen a revocation for such a trivial offence."

We await the outcome of these appeals with interest.


World Cup modelling

With the World Cup starting today, another analysis of the prospects of the teams has landed on our desk. This one from PricewaterhouseCoopers purports to use econometrics to determine success and failure at the event. It's all marketing really. PwC economist Dan Broadfield says: "In previous analyses of the Olympic Games, we found a strong link between medal totals and the size of the economy. But no such relationship has been found for the World Cup. Instead, key factors include the number of players available to each country, the national interest in football, long-term footballing tradition, and recent form."

After assessing these variables, PWC concludes that Brazil are favourites this year, due to footballing tradition and home advantage; but Germany, Argentina and Spain will push hard. Although England are ranked in the top eight, it will find it difficult to progress from the "group of death" given that it also contains Uruguay and Italy, which it rates more highly.

A European country has never won a World Cup held in the Americas, while Brazil - in Sweden in 1958 - is the only Latin American country to have won in Europe.


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