My Take

Cathay Pacific junket debacle is shamelessness at a whole new level

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 10:51am

Poor Cheng Yiu-tong! I don't mean this rhetorically. It turns out the Executive Councillor really is poor. When asked whether he would cough up the money after being exposed for taking a luxury, all-expenses-paid trip to France by Cathay Pacific along with a group of lawmakers, he flatly refused.

He said he did nothing wrong as he had already declared the trip, adding: "I won't give it back, and I have no budget to give it back."

That ought to be the political quote of the year.

The long-time head of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, now its honorary president, Cheng apparently doesn't make enough money to cover the business class tickets for himself and a family member. Or, more likely, the pro-Beijing unionist is unrepentant because he thinks such junkets are perks of the job. The media and other politicians, he said, have for many years accepted junkets. Yes, that's true, though no one ever paid a lavish overseas trip for myself and my wife. No corporation would bother with small fry like me who have no power to scrutinise a licensing application that might create a rival airline to Cathay or approve the budget for building a third airport runway.

No doubt fellow traveller Ip Kwok-him felt the same way as Cheng. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong member said the trip was just for socialising.

Both men take shamelessness to a new level. All but one of the other lawmakers on the trip have promised to pay back a part or most of the costs.

Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan has been hiding his role as a board member of the Airport Authority and so is most exposed to charges of conflict of interest. But at least he promises to pay back HK$50,000, as does fellow Democrat James To Kun-sun. Elizabeth Quat, another DAB member, would donate part of the cost of the free ticket to a charity. Chan Kin-por, of the insurance sector, would give HK$80,000 to the Hong Kong Red Cross. The Liberal Party's Felix Chung Kwok-pan said he would make a charity donation but didn't say how much. Pro-democracy lawmaker Kenneth Leung, of the accounting sector, has said he would donate HK$100,000.

But independent lawmaker Ma Fung-kwok has said nothing so far.