• Sat
  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 9:34am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 3:23am

Time for Cathay to come clean on junket

Something strikes me in a complaint letter sent to us courtesy of Cathay Pacific's corporate affairs chief, Chitty Cheung.

"For many years," Cheung wrote, "It has been Cathay Pacific's practice to invite guests to events such as aircraft delivery trips and new destination launches."

Now that's the story we seem to be missing, because we still don't know much about those lavish junkets, sorry, I mean business trips. Readers need to have a better understanding of how far they date back, how frequent and costly they have been and who was on previous trips. My guess is that past sponsored travellers would be a who's who in Hong Kong.

I suspect the reason no one anticipated the furore over the trip to France is because such trips have been, as Cheung implied, common and nothing out of the ordinary for Cathay. That may be why the 10 holidaymaking lawmakers and an Executive Council member, Cheng Yiu-tong, felt hard done by.

Of course, things are supposed to be business as usual - until it is not.

In the letter, Cheung said the trip was not a junket because that implied "an extravagant celebration that had no clear purpose other than to entertain". No doubt in Cheung's exalted business circles, two business-class round-trip tickets to France - the lawmakers had either a spouse or a child with them - costing north of HK$100,000 and an extended stay in a luxury hotel don't count as extravagant. To a guy like me, that qualifies as the trip of a lifetime.

Cheung said it was really a business trip to inform because "aviation is an important industry in Hong Kong that employs thousands of people and is a pillar of the local economy". You got that right. It's precisely because of the importance of national airlines - and CX is Hong Kong's equivalent - that they are almost always heavily regulated. Hong Kong's aviation industry is no exception.

The reverse of regulation is sometimes called "regulatory capture", the co-opting of regulators and people with policy influence through usually legitimate or legal means to manipulate regulatory outcomes. That line must not be crossed, otherwise it's called corruption.

Now is not the time for Cathay to be angry with the media, but to re-examine its practice.


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This article is now closed to comments

John Adams
Well Mr Lo, You have stirred up yet another "perfect storm"
And quite rightly so ! I fully endorse your today's 'My Take' . Well done
I am amazed at the level of detailed information that commentator dynamco has been able to dig out. Admirable !
If dynamco can do this - seemingly at the drop of a hat - why cannot the SCMP reporters do the same ?
It behooves you, Mr Lo, having raised this flag, to carry it to the end.
It is a survival issue that a lot of people seem not to know about a lot of things happening in Hong Kong be you are a judge, a lawyer, a legislator, an academic and whoever. Questionable as it may to see, hear and speak no evil. While by not rocking the boat for a safe journey heading a destination, a destination not collectively for society but some narrow defined objective, the proven safe journey suddenly has now collapsed. What Hong Kong must do to fill the void when the old way (colonial) of its flawed practices discovered?
I almost want with no hesitation to suggest all cases of collusion must be pardoned and let Hong Kong begins with a fresh start. We need not to go through an acrimonious period like the Cultural Revolution with unintended collateral damage. It will take strong leadership as well as citizens' cooperation for Hong Kong to dig itself out from many past trappings. May peace with all of us in the process while outlaw the practice of collusion.
John Adams
If what SHK and Mr Rafael H u i did is true, their cases should certainly not be dropped.
Prosecute to the full extent of the law
"All cases of collusion"? Since when and to include whom? Are Donald Tsang and Rafael **** and Sun Hung Kei to be exonerated forthwith?
The most astonishing thing about the whole story is that there exists an actual person named Chitty.

♫ We love you. ♪ Our fine four fendered friend. ♫
♫ Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ♪
Guess who has just been crossed off the list for the next trip!
Wow the comments to this article really show how immature Hong Kong as a city is. Corporate hospitality (such as attending a sports fixture at a corporate box, for example) extended to government ministers and members of Parliament is commonplace in many mature democracies. Provided that such interests are declared (e.g. on a pecuniary interests declaration) then it is up to the public to judge whether that minister or MP's actions subsequent have been influenced by the corporate gifts they have received. The answer to a functioning democracy cannot, and should not, be that government officials have to be insulated from any sort of contact with corporates.
In this case, Cathay flew the relevant government officials on their own metal to Paris and they were seated on an (otherwise empty) delivery flight on the return. The cost of providing this hospitality, from Cathay's perspective, is negligible. I believe Mr Lo in his article has hit upon why this trip is causing such a furore, with his line that he would "call it a trip of a lifetime" - jealousy pure and simple. This immaturity is why Hong Kong is not ready for the responsibilities of being a democracy and why its citizens are laughed at on the world stage. Hong Kongers may like to ridicule Mainlanders as being uncivilised, ill-mannered and crude, but the world ridicules Hong Kongers for being stupid.
The fact that Cathay had provided such junkets before is no reason for them to continue unchecked. If the offers were given to Govt ministers, they should investigated for acceptance of bribery and Cathay of the attempt to bribe. Why else do we condemn 官商勾結?if the Cathay junkets were offered to, say, select group of handicapped children, scholarship students, etc., I think that would have been more acceptable.
Chitty has made some sh#tty revelations(sorry couldnt resist). If, over the years, those invited to the trips and launches were those who held power this alone constitutesthe dishing out of advantages. She has failed to explain why Legco members were offered these trips and what feedback, if any, was given in return after these trips. Surely there must be a reason for inviting certain legislators. This is definitely a pleasure-seeking trip unassociated with work. So if this is not entertainment then I dont know what is. If the ICAC had not been burdened with so much work nowadays I believe it should conduct an investigation on the perceived 'offering and accepting of advantage'.




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