As the Good Book says, you reap what you sow. Suppose a group of government officials or lawmakers from the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong went on a junket to France with all expenses paid by Cathay Pacific. You could already hear the howls of outrage from the pan-democrats and their media allies.
They would demand the Legislative Council investigate. "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung or any number of radicals from People Power would have filed a corruption complaint with the Independent Commission Against Corruption. The travellers would be accused of conflict of interest.
As it is, the group that actually went on a six-day trip to France involved only two DAB members, Ip Kwok-him and Elizabeth Quat. The rest included Democratic Party heavyweights Albert Ho Chun-yan and James To Kun-sun as well as accounting lawmaker Kenneth Leung, the Liberal Party's Felix Chung Kwok-pan and independents Chan Kin-por and Ma Fung-kwok. Other travellers were Executive Council member Cheng Yiu-tong, former Airport Authority chief executive Billy Lam Chung-lun, Airport Authority board member Huen Wong, and a Baptist University academic.
Predictably, the pan-democrats and their friends have been low-key about it. The trip came at a sensitive time when Cathay is opposing an application for an air operator's licence by Jetstar Hong Kong, a low-cost airline. Was Cathay trying to influence the people on the trip? Questions are being raised, especially when Ho and To are champions of government transparency and disclosure.
The trip involved attending a ceremony in which Cathay took delivery of a new aircraft, visits to Toulouse and Paris, sightseeings and touring an Airbus factory before returning this week.
I think trips like this are for greedy public functionaries with too much time on their hands but they don't necessarily equate to conflicts of interest or corruption. However, the pan-dems and their allies specialise in nitpicking and making mountains out of mole hills to create controversies and embarrassments to discredit the government and mainland officials. They can hardly expect to be granted quarter now that the shoe is on the other foot.