My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 3:15am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 3:15am

Give us facts, not rumours, please


Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.

If the story were true, it would be the biggest political story not only since Leung Chun-ying became chief executive, but the worst government scandal since the handover. It's the kind of story that could bring down a government.

So why are our city's ace reporters not chasing it, rather than pursuing a related but inconsequential story about Leung refusing to attend Standard Chartered's popular annual marathon? Frankly, who gives a damn whether he goes or not? But every pan-democratic media outlet has the same conspiracy theory about it this week. Repeat it often enough, it becomes a fact.

It is that the British bank didn't play ball, at least initially, when it was pressured to pull ads from Jimmy Lai Chee-ying's Apple Daily. At least that was what the House News and Apple claimed; other banks they named included HSBC and the Bank of East Asia. Several pan-democrats then duly repeated the same allegation in the Legislative Council and demanded to know if that was why Leung has refused to attend the marathon. The Wall Street Journal Asia even wrote an editorial leader about direct pressure on the banks, except it named only HSBC and BEA, citing Lai's right-hand man Mark Simon as its highly reliable source.

Let's see if I've got the story right. Either Leung's office or the liaison office put direct pressure on three of the biggest banks in Hong Kong, two of which are also among the biggest international banks in the world, not to advertise with an anti-government newspaper. Think about what that means if these publications have proof or evidence to substantiate their story. It would surely be the scandal of the decade: two governments directly pressured and interfered with the commercial operations of the city's biggest banks to punish an enemy.

If Apple and House News want to go for the jugular, get to the bottom of it and give us the real story. It would make the Tung Chee-hwa government's interference with pollster Robert Chung Ting-yiu's political surveys child's play. So why aren't those newshounds splashing exclusives and cornering Leung with it, rather than chasing him about the marathon?

Can it be that they haven't got a factual story beyond making unsubstantiated claims?