My Take

What's the fuss about Jimmy Lai giving out political donations to Hong Kong pan-democrats?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 4:16am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 4:16am

What's wrong with making massive donations to political parties and anti-government groups? Nothing! So I am puzzled by the media brouhaha over Apple Daily boss Jimmy Lai Chee-ying's alleged donations worth more than HK$40 million to his pals in the pan-democratic camp over a two-year period.

Readers of my column know I am no fan of Lai and Apple Daily. But really, this united front effort looks so, hmm, amateurish.

According to leaked files, Lai donated over HK$40 million to pan-democratic parties and politicians in the past two years. This included HK$10 million and HK$6 million to the Democratic Party and Civic Party respectively, and HK$3.5 million to Anson Chan Fang On-sang's group, Hong Kong 2020. Labour Party leader Lee Cheuk-yan and League of Social Democrats chairman "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung received HK$1.5 million and HK$1 million respectively, while Occupy Central co-organiser the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming was given HK$400,000.

So what? It sounds like Lai just keeps on giving to the same people. Back in 2011, private files were similarly leaked detailing Lai's multimillion dollar donations to pan-democratic figures, including Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun.

The fact is that in Hong Kong, we have very loose political donation laws which allow donors and recipients to avoid disclosing who gives what to whom. I am sure if we had a tougher law, we would find obscene amounts of donations from the who's who of the city's tycoons to the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and other pro-Beijing groups.

The Lai story, unfortunately, doesn't deliver the real juice but only insinuates it - "foreign interference" through Lai to the pan-democrats. The only evidence was that Lai gave US$75,000 as a service fee to former US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz over business ventures in Myanmar and that Lai was in e-mail communication with former Democratic Progressive Party leader Shih Ming-teh in Taiwan. Stop the presses, an e-mail exchange!

If I were Lai, I would be handing out donation cheques on a soapbox in the middle of Victoria Park next time.