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  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Updated: 6:43am
Mr. Shangkong
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 May, 2013, 1:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 May, 2013, 2:46pm

ICAC probe of ex-boss may turn into a blockbuster

The controversy over former ICAC boss Timothy Tong Hin-ming is eerily reminiscent of parts of Cold War – or is the other way around?


George Chen is the Financial Editor and Mr. Shangkong Columnist at the South China Morning Post. George has covered China's political and economic changes since 2002. George is the author of two books -- This is Hong Kong I Know (2014) and Foreign Banks in China (2011). George has been named a 2014 Yale World Fellow. More about George: www.mrshangkong.com

I’ve often remarked that all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. That may not be exactly how I phrased it, but it sums it up. Take a bow, William Shakespeare, who wrote down the enduring lines centuries before the drama I’m referring to started playing out to an enthralled Hong Kong audience.

When the news came out that Hong Kong’s anti-graft agency had launched a corruption investigation into its former chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming, many local movie fans quickly pointed out that it was eerily reminiscent of Cold War, a film that beautifully summed up the complexity of Hong Kong politics.

The movie, that won a total of nine awards including best actor, best film, best director and best screenplay at the 32nd Hong Kong Film Award ceremony in April, describes top Hong Kong police fighting local terrorists who want to challenge the authority of the police. The plot includes a subplot in which the Independent Commission Against Corruption probes a deputy police commissioner suspected of links to a series of terrorist attacks.

In fact, some trailers for the film ask a very clear question: Which is more important to Hong Kong – the police or the ICAC? Many movie fans said that intrigued them enough to watch the film when it hit our cinemas late last year.

A highlight of the movie is the cameo appearance of Alex Tsui Ka-kit, a former top ICAC official who was fired by the agency about 20 years ago for reasons that were never fully explained. Tsui played an ICAC supervisor in the movie.

Tsui was named the Best New Performer at the 32nd Hong Kong Film Award ceremony for his role, with critics describing him as “very realistic and highly professional.”

When Tsui, a former ICAC deputy director of operations, went on to the stage to accept his award at the film ceremony in April, he gave a short speech, which won much laughter from the audience.

“This award stirs up a lot of feelings for me. I spent 28 years as a civil servant and this often involved having to act well,” he said.

“But looking back, I can see that I wasn’t as good an actor as our former Hong Kong chief executive,” he added, referring to Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, whose ethics came under fire last year when his term was about to expire.

Tsang was not charged but he apologised to the public for matters involving personal entertainment and travel while he was in office.

Just one year after Tsang’s case, ICAC’s former top boss Tong is trapped in the media spotlight. Tong, 63, head of the ICAC from 2007 until last year, allegedly spent lavish sums of public money entertaining mainland officials. It’s alleged that he splashed out hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money on receptions, gifts and duty visits. Some of the spending exceeded official limits but was personally approved by Tong himself.

“Maybe in Cold War 2, the movie script writer and director should add something about how the ICAC is investigating its own former boss,” said a netizen in a posting published on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese-language real-time micro-blogging platform, which is modelled on Twitter.

The makers of Cold War are believed to plan a sequel.

In a recent interview with the South China Morning Post, Tsui expressed concern about a possible conflict of interest for officers investigating Tong, who had approved their employment contracts.

Wow! That sounds like an even more exciting plot for the Cold War sequel, doesn’t it?

Perhaps Tsui can help write the screenplay for Cold War 2, as well as acting in it. Given his background and experience, I think whatever he writes about the ICAC will immediately win the attention of local movie fans -- and perhaps local politicians as well.


George Chen is the Post's financial services editor. Like the Mr. Shangkong column about Shanghai and Hong Kong? Visit facebook.com/mrshangkong


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This article is now closed to comments

hard times !
this Old Hong Kong is eagerly awaiting 'Cold War 2' to come ! As William Shakespeare said centuries ago,the whole world is a stage and we are all players on it.Now former deputy director of operations of the ICAC,Mr.Tsui Ka-kit has pointed out that it is not appropriate for ICAC to investigate their former chief--the corrupted Timothy Tong who approved the employment contracts of some of them-----------there might be a conflict of interests. Tsui even pointed out that he was never a good actor as former chief executive,Sir Donald Tsang who was found to be involved in entertainment provided by local tycoons in his last days as the leader in town.Yet we all know that Timothy was the favourite of Sir Donald who appointed Tong to be the Commissioner of the ICAC in 2007 ! And their working styles were more or less the same-----making use of carrying out duties to spend/waste tax-payers' money ! What a shame indeed !
Actually I want to comment on the police trying to charge a taxi driver for over charging 50 cents and apparently the client was from iCAc. I think both the police and the ICAC women is ridiculous wasting taxpayer money. There is always something call "immaterial". I would not even bother to pick up 50 cents, or giving 50 cents as tips is also very " low" showing no respect for the working poor. And looks like the women did not demand on site for the 50 cents so sounds like to me is consider a "tip". I don't see the taxi driver has the intent to treat for 50 cents. If both the police and the ICAC has no judgement on whether this is treating or not, I'm shocked and doubt their judgement and professionalism. Wasting tax payer money! Shame! Can SCMP open up the discussion nth is crazy thing! This is showing how sick Hk as a city!
hard times !
This indifferent woman from the ICAC was really very disgusting to waste the police manpower and waste the time of the court as well,not to say making the taxi-driver concerned worrying for quite a long time ! Such guys now occupy the once-respected graft-buster,ICAC---what a shame indeed to have the taxi-driver brought to court for just HK 50 cents which can buy nothing at all nowadays.Whenever I take a taxi to go somewhere.If I have to pay HK$ 23 dollars,I usually pay HK$24 dollars and tell the taxi-driver not to give me any change.The one dollar is just a very small tip !
This upset me is we have no respect for people here in Hk. This poor low paid taxi driver, how much he can cheat for 50 cents a ticket? How much time the women and police spent in this case? I'm sure they can get more jail walking people in central or Wanchai! Or people likely charging a bit more in wet market for a piece of pork or something. What upset me is the poor judgement and insensitivity to the low paid workers. I'm glad the DA is not stupid and thrown out the case. Otherwise I think we have a more serious problem within our civil servants organization. And making the biggest joke in the planet!
Also this remnd me where is our good old friend from pan demo Mr. TO who is a critic of police. Why is he not coming out to challenge the police this time!? Because the police was just follow the law of charging someone for 50 cents? Give me a break! Hk people is getting to the point with zero judgement! We are getting insane! I felt sorry for this poor taxi driver.
Wasting public money seems a favorite passtime for Gov servants - and ICAC officers!


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