• Tue
  • Sep 2, 2014
  • Updated: 4:38pm
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

chuchu59
Thanks. What I would like to know is how these trips benefitted Hong Kong.
honger
Can Cheung disclose who was involved?
dynamco
you will see them all tomorrow no doubt in this newspaper
chuchu59
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'.
kctony
Thanks, Alex. I was going to respond to Ms Cheung's cliched letter. I am a retired cargo forwarder.
I thought Cathay ran into hard times as I heard from my former colleagues on how CX cut its entertainment budget even to its top cargo customers the past few years. "Dubai golf trip? Taipei tennis trip? You are dinosaur. They haven't even served bottled water at the Cathay Box in the Hong Kong Stadium for a few years for crying out loud!"
And now this.
I am not disappointed by Cheng Yiu-tong's high profile claim. It is consistent with the DAB members' lack of political sensitiveness, deliberate or otherwise. They all have difficulty in comprehending what "appears to be" means. Poor acting chief executive Mrs. Carrie Lam had to meet the press yesterday morning clarifying the possible action the executive council might need to take
However, Albert Ho Chun-yan, although not an executive council member, is a lawyer. He should understand the apperance of conflict of interest better.
chuchu59
Again, the Government has failed in its role as a gatekeeper. So what if CHENG had declared the trip beforehand. Does the declaration make the acceptance legitimate? Does the Government think there is no problem with legislators accepting the offer. Doing nothing about it after receiving the declaration implies so.
XYZ
Next step: LegCo compels Cathay Pacific to reveal the details of all of their "educational tours" involving public officials going back, say, the last 10 years, including names, dates, destinations, duration and costs. If LegCo won't do it (which is probable because it appears that they're all in it up to their eyeballs), then the ICAC should.
pslhk
I can recall four remarks similar to your
“We still don’t know about something
that’s common among the better informed”
-
Maragret N after playing Lemmon’s out-of-towner
and discovered her real British status complained
“Why isn’t my British passport really British”
-
Christina L while lost in lavishing praises
on the colonial government's environmental conscience
stated: “I didn’t realise that Victoria Harbor in 1995 was a Big sewage”
-
adc A in Benny T’s playwright attempt on today’s Mingpao
“Why I didn’t know about the right not to cooperate?”
-
The problem of slow learners is that overwhelmed by their “discoveries”
they became revolutionary trying to overtake evolutionary developments
or ongoing remedial works others started long time ago
-
Clamors over CX’s French tour remind me of a fellow
who won’t allow his daughters dating
fearing that once they go out,
he will become a grandparent
-
Talking about BT who asked AL to lunch
I won’t stupidly ask “Why AL, the journalist and not me?”
“Would AL, who isn’t influential enough for pompous circumstances
be so grateful for the lunch to start lauding BT?”
-
BT’s “play" is run juxtaposition to the articles of Cheung Mk and Rob Cy
The accelerated aging effect of BT’s self-cloning production is clear
What’s interesting is the quality of these three pieces
that they seem in inverse relation to the writer’s qualifications
Caveat Emptor HKU paper chasers
XYZ
How is the behaviour of these public officials different from a policeman or government inspector accepting a free meal from a restaurant, except that the lowly policeman or inspector would lose his job, his pension, his reputation and be prosecuted for accepting an advantage? How does "declaring" the receipt of a bribe alter its fundamentally corrupt nature? All of these hypocritical piggish public officials caught with their snouts in the trough should resign and be prosecuted for accepting an advantage. Cathay Pacific should be prosecuted as well. Where is the ICAC when you need them? Too busy re-stocking their wine cabinet? Maybe they get free holidays from Cathay Pacific to improve their understanding of the aviation industry, too.
Byebye
There were many practices seen as normal practice pre ICAC days have become not acceptable practices post ICAC; I realised one example was the acceptance of airline's complimentary tickets at as gift to our "frequent flyers" executives was dealt with differently post ICAC by the company I used to work for. Our company secretary would record the freebies, and then these freebies would be put into our staff anuual CNY dinner lucky draw. Agreed with Mr Alex Lo ~ "Now is not the time for Cathay to be angry with the media, but to re-examine its practice". This episode may open the Pandora box for many other companies, time to reassess our perceived "normal" practices. ICAC has been part of the life of Hong Kong people for 40+ years (some grow up with the ICAC) it is unacceptable to use "it is our normal practice" as an excuse. Decision makers who are chosen to make decision ought to realise the consequences and accountabilities of "conflict of interest" as a form of corruption. Go ask some college students or people on the street?

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