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

Cathay Pacific junket debacle is shamelessness at a whole new level

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.

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dynamco
Hong Kong’s flagship carrier, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, said on Thursday it has filed objections to the Air Transport Licensing Authority against giving approval to Jetstar Hong Kong Airways Limited to operate air services out of the city. Cathay said in a statement that the approval of Jetstar’s application, which has not yet been granted, would violate the territory’s Basic Law and undermine Hong Kong’s economy
www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/1303875/cathay-pacific-files-objection-against-approval-jetstar
Hollander323
The Democrats has just won a strategic game, by throwing away $100,000 and a few pretentious apologies in front of the simple minded HK people, they have kicked their political rivals off the MORAL high ground on to the floor. What if this "normal practice" was not reported and gained public concerns, all these politicians would just carry on their business as usual. If you have watched the sequence of events carefully, you would know how the gaming played out!
Hollander323
Still remember Financial Secretary Lam Kam Chung, in the so called car purchase scandal, under the forceful pursuit by the Democrats, Leung paid out a good sum of money for donation together with an apology to the public. That was not the end of the story, he stepped down. What about Ho and To? I believe what is actually on their minds are : in just half a month's time I will get all my money back through salary as a legislator, Cheers!
Hollander323
The Democrats has just won a strategic game, by throwing away $100,000 and a few pretentious apologies in front of the simple minded HK people, they have kicked their political rivals off the political high ground on to the floor. What if this "normal practice" was not reported and gained public concerns, all these politicians would just carry on their business as usual. If you have watched the sequence of events carefully, you would know how the gaming played out!
oslaue@gmail.com
h
mercedes2233
Paying back and making donations are suitable gestures, but those involved still show great stupidity in accepting the junkets in the present climate when the public are very critical about ministers' activities. Whatever the result, the people concerned have lost all their credibility with me.
the sun also rises
these days, this Old Hong Kong's views on local issues coincidently are more or less like what Alex Lo thinks ---both Exco.member Cheng Yiu-tong (who has the power to approve issuing a new licence to a rival budget airline of Cathay Pacific and the construction of a third runway which willl be beneficial to the operation of the huge fleet of Cathay Pacific.) and the DAB lawmaker,Ip Kwok-him are shameless enough to a new level indeed.And Albert Ho Chun-yan has deliberately hidden his identity of a board member of the Airport Authority ! So his acceptance of the luxurious offer from Cathay Pacific might have breached conflict of interest ! His inquiry of the Legco Secretariat about whether such hospitality had received any complaints before was meaningless at all ! His donation of just HK$ 50,000 is really too little.Instead, Albert Ho should donate all the expenses spent on him and his spouse during the trip paid by Cathay Pacific to demonstrate his innocence !
Camel
How about letting CY pay 1 million HKD to charity to clear him clean from his allegations?
XYZ
With respect, I don't think this is merely a matter of "conflict of interest". I think it is a matter of offering and accepting an advantage (bribery). Just because a public official "declares" acceptance of a bribe doesn't make it right and shouldn't make it legal. Every one of these public officials should resign immediately and every one of them should be prosecuted for accepting an advantage. Cathay Pacific should be prosecuted for offering an advantage.
mercedes2233
Agree wholeheartedly.
dynamco
RTHK News
'Exco's declartion system stringent' 27-08-2013 Tony Flores reports The acting Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, has said the operation of the interest declaration system within the Executive Council is stringent and healthy.
She said Exco member Cheng Yiu-tong had met all of the necessary requirement before embarking on a Cathay Pacific junket to France more than a week ago.
But the trip led to speculation that there might be conflict of interest and forced many of the legislators who took part in the trip to donate money to local charities as
reimbursment.
Mrs Lam said it was up to Mr Cheng to decide for himself whether he should donate money to charity as reimbursement for the trip.
Mr Cheng has already refused, saying he did nothing wrong.
However, Mrs Lam said Mr Cheng would be reminded to make another declaration to Exco, if it were to discuss airline-related issues.
It would then be for the Chief Executive to decide if there was any conflict of interest, and whether Mr Cheng would need to be absent from the discussion.
pslhk
Thank you for your comment, honger
-
I feel no qualm using my Master and Visa
in trips which I flash AE to gain access to VIP lounges
I pick up Metro, Standard, Headline News …
without having to buy any of their ads and editorial opinions
-
I’ve more confidence in our legislators
that they won’t feel obliged to tv broadcasters
after enjoying their free programs
-
Legislators are representatives of their constituents
That’s why you don’t but they do, sit and speak in the legislature
where they have an office where they (supposedly) read consultation papers
and work according to established regulations
Voters can't expect same tretment of a legislator - simple democratic reality
That’s why they and not you
are invited to “education” trips
-
Trust may not be the issue
but neither is regulation
For legislators who declared
there is no question of violation
-
Those who doubt legislators' integrity may raise questions
but criticisms must be reasonable and in proper proportionality
Legally, acceptance of the invitation is not a strict liability
Morally, they shouldn’t be denied reasonable doubt
-
There are in our midst unreliable agitators
those with ulterior motives to stir up troubles
by fabricating unrealistic moral standards
for retrospective application in HK
moral standards higher than they could understand
and can’t be found anywhere in the world
John Adams
Hum ! If the Court of Public Opinion is anything to go by ( as sampled by the SCMP comments these past few days) Messrs Ho, To and all of the junket jolly group should be locked up for life.
On second thought, that's not sufficient for Ho and To, they being leading pan-dams and now leading hypocrites.
Bring back the gallows !
amenka
this is a joke. giving money to charity doesnt change anything
Camel
Meaning paying money will clear you from your sins?
Ok, they declared the trip. But if it where government officials who would have joined this trip and not the Pan-Democrates, they would already have taken the streets for days, yelling and demanding the resignation of those officials. Long Hair would have causing trouble and chaos in the Legco next to throwing fruits.
If they would live up to their own high standard they laid out for the authorities, politicians (mostly from the pro-government) in HK they "monitor", they would have taken the consequences already to resign from their posts, or never dare to critisize another lawmaker from the enemy party for their wrongdoings again.
daniel18
What if CY Leung takes the free trip this time, I am quite sure the pan-DAMN will take it to the street until Mr Leung step down! How about Mr Leung donates some money to the charity? Not a chance because the pan DAMN will bite him like a crocodile until he die. Jame To and Ablert Ho is a lawyer. They should understand it is not about the question of paying back or not, but it is the misdeed the offenders committed that really matters. So, you two chubbies is not only ill concept but also shallow! Cheng Yui Tong is the same greedy folks. Ablert Ho is taking government money or taxpayer money to rent a office that is owned by his wife. I donno why he still can remain unfazed! They just wanna scramble for as much taxpayer money as they can!
caractacus
Accepting advantages when one is in a conflict of interest is unacceptable and paying back the money doesn't erase the fact.
The worrying thing with these and so many of our so-called leading citizens is they do not seem to have the slightest inkling of the meaning of conflict of interest. Did their parents teach them any ethical values at all? Or are ethics and integrity another mystery to them?
Hong Kong's administration and institutions are filled with people who cannot conceive that holding public office is for any other purpose than to benefit themselves. Abuse is an accepted norm.
One can only hope that Legco votes to allow free competition on the airline routes where Cathay Pacific's cartel rigs sky high air fares at the expense of passengers.
sipsip1238
The way these ministers "repent" by donating money just emphasis the idea that "money buys everything" in Hong Kong society.
How is it that you can get away from corruption and abusing power via your position and then gain social acceptance again after giving a small donation.
Cheng probably doesn't have a budget to repay, can't expect someone to cut back on their luxurious lifestyle
tennisboy
Good job Alex in biting on to his story like a pit bull! Albert Ho and his colleagues would not let any conflict of interest dealings die down when is the case of a government official; and so we should not until he comes out in public to explain his actions, apologize, and resign. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
chaz_hen
"pro Beijing unionist"? Isn't that an oxymoron like "military intelligence" or "business ethics"?
Byebye
May I, a small potato, ask some questions:
~ what is the main purpose / agenda of Cathay Paific when they invited these people?
~ On what merit these prople were chosen to merit this free-all-paid trip?
~ At what level within CX that this trip was approved - Chairman, Board, CEO, MD? Surely there is a recorded minute.
Obviously something is wrong!
honger
Dear AL,
Bravo for the series of articles. For me, this is a good wake-up call for all those naive people who have never heard of Orwell's Animal Farm. Since this Orwellian nightmare is still unravelling, could you please check how many junkets CX have offered in the past to EXCO/Legco/ Airport Authority members?
Keep up the good work!
chuchu59
You arent a small potato. You are intelligent to ask these valid questions. Cathay Pacific needs to answer.
Dai Muff
Well said. That's the simple fact. Cathay Pacific did not pay for this junket because they thought it would have no effect. They clearly had a reason.
dascaldasf
AL has once again focused on the lawmakers for their 'misdeeds'. Please note that Cathay Pacific is the real devil behind it all! There should be something or someone to deal with them. Haven't you seen the ICAC ads?
John Adams
Correct !
CX gave an "advantage" to the lawmakers ( and it was a very big one in monetary terms for the lawmakers by comparison with their salaries, but not much for CX to spend)
I assume that CX wants to get "advantages " in return otherwise CX would have chosen a random selection of regular CX economy class passengers to inspect the new Airbus, economy passengers making up the great proportion of CX's customers.
.
So what's CX's advantage ?
1. No budget airlines in HK
2. A 3rd runway at HK taxpayers' expense.
.
Hey ..! That's a mighty big financial advantage for CX, and it seems that the people paying for it are HK tax-payers and air travelers.... LIKE ME !
chanaa
both cx & the lawmakers are despicable. Why has there been no investigation / icac yet ? Mr.Ho is the worse considering hisseat in Airport Auth. Whiter than white huh ?
aplucky1
this is absolutely 100% a crime
to not investigate and prosecute is yet another crime
pslhk
Readers of Moneypenny
should be familiar with Edinburgh’s Festivals
Five US legislators from both houses
members of the "Friends of Scotland Congressional Caucus”
would visit the party this year at Scottish government's expense
-
After Abramoff scandal, US law requires pre-approval
of any travel by ethics committees.
and limits the duration of trips to seven days foreign and four domestic
-
In the US, junkets are not legally forbidden
According to LegiStor, by mid summer this year
1,363 privately financed trips taken by US legislators
at a total cost of usd $3.2 million to their hosts
-
Junket Jack illustrates the British scene
accompanied by Lord Laird, P Mercer MP …
HK’s CX and French tour is nothing
compared with the norms in UK and US
-
Anglo-American practice isn’t a model
but a factor to balance proportion
which seems lacking in HK
-
If integrity means commitment to principle
thought thru beliefs and not fickle opinions
Who showed integrity
CYt who refused to budge
or those who coughed up when queried?
-
Is acceptance of the tour invitation a strict liability?
Even if we were to set up new regulations
for retrospective application
let’s be clear what they’re
-
For matters like the 3rd runway and cheap flights
how likely would CYt and AH vote CX because of the tour?
-
Again AL, you copy undigested news report
and throw it to left-behind pack
of holier-than-thou, jealous, schadenfreude wolves
then enjoy their howling.
honger
I feel sorry for you, pslhk, since you obviously can't see the issues involved here.
It is high time the Airport Authority/Govt stop pandering to CX. ALL our Asian neighbours have budget airlines - Singapore has more than 3 - not to mention Europe and the US. The advent of budget airlines will bring much benefit to HK.
donniemcm
So shameless, paying after enjoying the free trip and because you have public pressure won't wash away your greediness.
Dai Muff
I note the democrats have at least apologised. The DAB has not.
XYZ
The greedy public officials who were caught with their grubby paws in the cookie jar and who have offered to pay to charity a portion of the cost of the bribe should take their arrogant empty gesture and shove it. Every one of these public officials should resign immediately and every one of them should be prosecuted for accepting an advantage. Cathay Pacific should be prosecuted for offering one.
Dao-Phooy
This is what I posted yesterday:
"These people simply do not understand there is a conflict. Too long in the job and too used to the perks without any thought of accountability. I want to thank you for showing your true character - you feel a sense of entitlement because of your position. You are showing the true face of those at the top - you are arrogant and venal. These junkets should stop. The outdated cosy rules must be completely overhauled by Legco. We need to clean house but I fear it's way too late as the system is corrupt."
This incident simply increases the sense of malaise in our Government and in Legco. CY is a total disappointment. He is politically inept for somebody who has eyed the top job for the last 30 years. Legco is full of too many people who postulate but don't have a clue of their responsibilities as legislators - and now these 'old hands' who openly pig at the trough and say they have done nothing wrong! I sincerely hope the public outcry over this will lead to a review of the Lego rules but somehow I doubt it. Donald was caught and shed crocodile tears and instigated a review - Legco members need to do something before they losevwhat little reputation they have left and disappear completely into the sewer.
chuchu59
Correction: They understand there is a conflict but simply wont admit there is one. In CHENG's case, its worse because he didnt want to pay up. So I ask the CE whether the ICAC should investigate this and if they are not found guilty of anything whether the complainants have to apologise for lodging complaints to the ICAC.
impala
Yes, shameless. Yes, outrageous. Yes, just the tip of the iceberg.

But when will Mr Lo connect the dots of the sheer endless stream of mini scandals involving corruption, cronyism and self-servicing by our top bureaucrats, and LegCo and ExCo members? When will he see the bigger picture here?

These aren't just isolated cases of shamelessness, of individuals' mistakes or little errors of judgement. These are mere symptoms of the underlying, slowly creeping. ever more pervasive rot called 'f the people, line your pockets while you can.' It is the system, stupid.

And that is why we need more accountability at the polls, more transparency and much more competition in our politics. And yes, the strive for CE (and LegCo) elections based on simple and pure universal suffrage is part of that. Will Mr Lo finally begin to understand that the only way to keep rulers honest is by encapsulating them in a system of constant checks and balances?
likingming
We have not yet reached the levels of collusion & corruptions matching to the standards of India and the Philiphines unless we have universal suffrage in place.
johnyuan
It is a colonial culture of collusion (you-scratched-my- back-and-I scratched yours) that has turned from tacit to shamelessly open. There should be a reform nailing collusion as corruption and to be punished by law. Expand ICAC, get more help.
johnyuan
Point missed, Civil Servant (below): tacit become open. A Chinese saying – three-foot ice doesn’t form in a day. Besides, do you take pleasure if we have more collusions now than in the colonial days as your protest may have implied? Are you actually really a civil servant that is telling us the truth? Then, I really worry if you are for your sense of right and wrong. Do you like to take back your comment?
johnyuan
Point missed, Civil Servant below: tacit become open. A Chinese saying – three-foot ice doesn’t form in a day. Besides, do you take pleasure if we have more collusions now than in the colonial days as your protest may have implied? Are you actually really a civil servant that is telling us the truth? Then, I really worry if you are for your sense of right and wrong. Do you like to take back your comment?
johnyuan
Point missed, Civil Servant below: tacit become open. A Chinese saying – three-foot ice doesn’t form in a day. Besides, do you take pleasure if we have more collusions now than in the colonial days as your protest may have implied? Are you actually really a civil servant that is telling us the truth? Then, I really worry if you are for your sense of right and wrong. Do you like to take back your comment?
Dai Muff
What nonsense. The amount of corruption and collusion in this government has rocketed over the past 16 years.
johnyuan
Point missed, Civil Servant: tacit become open. A Chinese saying – three-foot ice doesn’t form in a day. Besides, do you take pleasure if we have more collusions now than in the colonial days as your protest may have implied? Are you actually really a civil servant that is telling us the truth? Then, I really worry if you are for your sense of right and wrong. Do you like to take back your comment?
johnyuan
Point missed, Civil Servant: tacit become open. A Chinese saying – three-foot ice doesn’t form in a day. Besides, do you take pleasure if we have more collusions now than in the colonial days as your protest may have implied? Are you actually really a civil servant that is telling us the truth? Then, I really worry if you are for your sense of right and wrong. Do you like to take back your comment?
johnyuan
Civil Servant,
Point missed: from tacit to open. A Chinese saying -- 3-foot ice dosen't form in a days.
.....
Besides, are you happily jusifying what we have now? Your understanding or grapsp of right and wrong worries me if you are really a civil servant as your name want us to believe. I suspect, you are one and you are telling us the truth with your experience. Use your real name perhaps.
babyhenry
o really? Because we all know those property developers and big business only became powerful after 1997. So when Chris patten come back to HK for a short visit, ironically his first stop is to visit his old buddy - Li Ka Shing.
Dai Muff
The litany of fallen ministers, including a CE, speaks for itself.
John Adams
"... 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 scrutinize a licensing application that might create a rival airline to Cathay or approve the budget for building a third airport runway".
.
Me neither, Mr Lo, even though I have flown CX or KA almost every week for over 25 years and therefore should be an expert on assessing the economy class seats on CX's new airbus (alas, I know nothing about business class seats, still less first class)
And even though my hard-earned taxes help build HKIA , and now subsidize the super-low landing slots that CX and KA enjoy.
And even though now it seems CX wants even more of my tax money to build a 3rd runway and on top of that block Jetstar who might allow me some affordable local holidays.
.
So it's very strange that CX didn't choose me to join with Cheng Yiu-tong to socialize en route to Paris. I would loved to have given him and all the others on the junket a piece of my mind ... like about pigs with their snouts in the trough, the meaning of the word 'advantage' and the importance of the ICAC to HK's international standing as a World City.
.
But maybe that's precisely because why CX didn't invite me or you Mr Lo, just maybe.
dynamco
So 2 x 59k airfares + 30k's worth of hotel, food & coach trips etc = $148k per couple. (more for those who went to Frankfurt & to UK first)
The ICAC must be happy that the legislators have shown them the way forward:
Any person accepting an alleged advantage from now on & who gets found out can just pay 34% of the value of the advantage to an unnamed charity & voila, everything is fixed , no need for courts & charges & wasting ICAC's time. After all they really did not need the CE's consent to take the junket - or did they ? because they never expected to be found out.
Or they can just claim they did nothing wrong accepting the advantage & did not have the funds to repay 34% of the received advantage & that's OK so ICAC can rest easy .
But was it an advantage ? was the trip offered as a sweetener to people who would be voting through different Legco subcommittees on the funding or like decision for the 3rd runway or EXCO deciding on Jetstar's licence or HKEX becoming an LCC or did CX randomly pick these names out of a hat for the freebie ?
See:
www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-26/cathay-pacific-says-entry-of-jetstar-to-hurt-hong-kong-aviation.html
'Cathay Pacific Says Jetstar Entry to Hurt Hong Kong Aviation'

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