My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 4:44am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 5:54am

Why Jenny Ng and Li Wei-ling make unconvincing heroes of press freedom

BIO

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.
 

One-time consultant for the government Jenny Ng Pui-ying, who denounced her client's decision in the TV licensing row last year, returned for more limelight when she joined the press freedom march on Sunday.

As a managing partner at Value Partners, Ng "voluntarily" left the company after she went before the cameras to accuse the government of misquoting a company report to justify its decision to block a TV licence for businessman Ricky Wong Wai-kay's Hong Kong Television Network. Somehow she became a victim and a hero in pan-democratic circles. In reality, she was neither.

If she was a victim, it was only of her own unprofessionalism and poor judgment. She breached the cardinal rule of client confidentiality, yet did not further the public interest: we already knew the government decision was questionable, so who cares what Value Partners thought? But geez, where does it say a client must follow a consultant's recommendations?

At over 400 pages, presumably the Value Partners report offered different, even opposing options and possibilities. What was there to stop a client taking only those bits it liked? People seem to lose all common sense and perspective when it comes to the Leung Chun-ying administration. Witness the case of sacked Commercial Radio host Li Wei-ling who turned what looked like a fallout with her own bosses into a government suppression of free speech.

As a citizen, you should be free to criticise your government. HKTV, of course, deserved a licence. Why was it the government's business to discourage competition in a market if an entrepreneur such as Wong was committed financially to the venture?

And while we were not told how much the government paid Value Partners, it routinely spends tens of millions each year on outside consultants. Aren't our highly paid officials up to the job?

But it's absurd for a hired gun to complain her client didn't follow her report and misquoted it. Like Li, Ng may have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. But consultants are consultants, a dime a dozen in this town.

Press freedom is a noble cause; you just wish it were represented by people more professionally capable than Ng and Li.

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