For pan-democrats, a Paris flight is a long way to fall

Michael Chugani says the pan-democrats' junket to Paris has exposed their hypocrisy in accusing others of official misconduct

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 4:08am

Here's my tip to Franklin Lam Fan-keung: follow the stench. It'll lead you to a bunch of hypocrites. You can then look them in the face and say you forgive them even though they weren't man enough to say sorry for having wronged you. You have the moral authority to take the high ground now.

Lam became a punching bag for pan-democrat legislators when phoney claims surfaced that he had used insider information as an executive councillor to profit from property sales. His accusers demanded an ICAC investigation. They made themselves out to be saints, saying those in public office should be whiter than white. It turned out Lam indeed was; the Independent Commission Against Corruption cleared him of any wrongdoing.

But it turns out his accusers are anything but saints. They were among eight legislators who took a six-day trip to France with their family, compliments of Cathay Pacific. Talk about conflict of interest. Didn't pan-democrat legislators blast former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen for taking free rides on the private yachts and planes of tycoons? Didn't they slam former ICAC commissioner Timothy Tong Hin-ming for taking his girlfriend to official dinners? And here they are, going on luxury junkets with their family.

Cathay opposes a licence for competitor Jetstar Hong Kong but Democratic Party member Albert Ho Chun-yan, one of the pan-democrats who took the free trip, insisted there was no conflict of interest since the government, not the Legislative Council, issues aviation licences. Wake up and smell reality. Would Cathay fly legislators to Paris and put them up in top hotels for no reason? Why doesn't the airline do that for families in subdivided flats who deserve such junkets far more than our overpaid legislators?

Some of those who accepted the junket justified it by saying they needed to understand the impact of Cathay buying Airbus planes. What nonsense. Even if that were true, what's it got to do with their wives and children? Why include them in the junket?

Legislators have no direct role in granting aviation licences but they have loud mouths. If they shout out loud enough against a licence for Jetstar, the government would at least have to listen.

Legislators have no direct role in granting TV licences but that hasn't stopped them from slamming the government for delaying the granting of licences to three applicants. If the applicants lavished free trips to Paris on the pan-democrats - who all support the early granting of new TV licences - would that not be a conflict of interest just because legislators can't issue the licences?

The Paris trip has made the pan-democrats reek of double standards. They have since apologised but that means nothing. They used the ICAC as a tool to smear political foes. The ICAC has cleared Lam and former Exco member Barry Cheung Chun-yuen. But the jury is still out on Tsang and others. They should do what their pan-democrat accusers had done to them: march to the ICAC headquarters with TV news cameras rolling to demand an investigation into the junket.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host.