Pan-democrats hypocritical in outrage over Jimmy Lai's donations

Michael Chugani says the pan-democrats' overblown reaction to revelations of Jimmy Lai's donations does not pass the smell test

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 July, 2014, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 July, 2014, 2:01am

If Jimmy Lai Chee-ying's Apple Daily muckrakes against his political foes, it's called media freedom. If his political foes dig up dirt against him and his democracy camp cronies, it's white terror. Well, to hell with that. New revelations that Lai gave millions to the so-called democracy camp confirm what many have long known: the pan-democrats are in his pocket. It's immoral, but such donations are a part of politics.

What sickens me is not so much the furtive way the money was given but the repugnant stench of hypocrisy from the democracy camp when it became known that even Anson Chan Fang On-sang, Martin Lee Chu-ming and Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun were on Lai's pay list. Chan angrily wondered on radio why the donations made headlines.

They made headlines in the same way that democracy-camp papers such as Apple Daily would have splashed the news if the leftist Ta Kung Pao had donated millions to the pro-establishment camp. Has Chan forgotten about the democracy camp's outrage when liaison office boss Zhang Xiaoming raised millions for the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong at a fundraiser? At least that was openly done.

Both Chan and Lee denounced the disclosure of Lai's largesse to the democracy camp as white terror. What about Apple Daily's dirt on Mak Chai-kwong, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's first choice for development secretary? And on current development secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, who was crucified for owning New Territories land and for his wife's subdivided flats, neither of which is illegal?

Remember how the media hounded Franklin Lam Fun-keung, who was wrongly accused of using insider information as an executive councillor to profit from property sales? He was innocent yet had to resign from Exco. I don't recall Chan or Lee denouncing that as white terror.

Chan insists Lai's money came with no conditions. Yet she has been a virtual spokesman for Lai's Apple Daily many times, most recently in the British media. An unspoken condition, maybe? Pro-democracy lawmakers have demanded numerous Legislative Council probes to target their political foes. Yet they now label as a smear campaign demands for a Legco investigation into why they did not declare the donations they received from Lai.

Lai insists he had nothing to hide by donating staggering sums to his cronies yet hid behind his aide in making the donations. When the story broke, he hid behind Li Wei-ling, the sacked Commercial Radio talk show host who now works for him, talking only to her and no other media.

No doubt I will be castigated as a Beijing stooge for writing this. I could call that white terror, but I won't. You see, I believe in freedom of speech.

My democratic credentials are a matter of public record. I was advocating democracy for Hong Kong well before the handover, when the word democracy was hardly mentioned by people such as Anson Chan, who was a bureaucrat with a fat salary. I sleep with a clear conscience, but I sometimes wonder how the so-called democrats sleep at night.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and talk show host.