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  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 3:38am
NewsHong Kong

Barry Cheung held in the highest regard, before the downfall of HKMEx

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 May, 2013, 4:30am

He was once named the best public servant by the government's No 2 official, but until Saturday the public knew little about Barry Cheung Chun-yuen.

"He is not even one of the best. He is the best," Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told a Chinese-language newspaper in an interview three years ago.

Lam, then development chief, was reviewing urban renewal strategy with Cheung, chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA). Their similar working style - both are relatively open-minded and capable of delivering on policies - made the comment unsurprising.

Cheung has been involved in a vast range of public services, from advising on civil servants' salaries to the city's long-term development strategy.

But he was seldom in the spotlight until the weekend, when the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange, which he founded, was forced to give up its trading licence and became the subject of a police investigation over allegations of fraud.

Cheung, who grew up in the pro-Taiwan enclave of Tiu Keng Leng, received his tertiary education in mathematics in the United States, and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Hired by the global management consulting firm McKinsey, he became involved in MTR and new airport projects, which paved his way into politics. In his early 30s he was appointed as a full-time adviser to the colonial government's think tank, the Central Policy Unit, where he worked from 1993 to 1994.

His establishment of the HKMEx in 2008, two years before it was awarded its trading licence, was seen as a breakthrough in the commodities-trading business in Hong Kong. It was also a natural progression from his role from 2004 to 2008 as chief executive and deputy chairman of Titan Petrochemicals Group, which provides a trading platform as well as oil logistics services.

The HKMEx received international attention when Cheung became chairman of the world's largest aluminium producer, Rusal, in March last year. The Russia-headquartered company was reported to have a 10 per cent stake in HKMEx. But the appointment didn't last long - just over six months - although he remains an independent non-executive director.

His seemingly profitable trading business, meanwhile, had been failing since August.

Cheung's political prospects were seen to be on the rise after Leung Chun-ying took over the chief executive's office in July - helped by Cheung, who led his election campaign. The pair were old colleagues, having been fellow board members of the Land Development Corporation in the 1990s.

Cheung was later rewarded with more public posts, including that of executive councillor, membership of the Long Term Housing Strategy Committee and the vice-chairmanship of the Commission on Strategic Development. His two-year reappointment as the URA's chairman, beyond the six-year limit, was also seen as a result of his ties with Leung.

It was said to be aimed at preserving smooth operations after changes in senior management and board members.

"Cheung's suspension from all public posts is a blow to our morale," said an experienced staff member at the URA. "He encouraged the senior staff not to shy away from media and urged them to enhance the organisation's transparency."

Cheung's family is also not without controversy.

In 1994 the Foreign Ministry in Beijing issued a strongly worded statement just hours after Cheung's father, Cheung Hon-chung, rented the Hong Kong Cultural Centre to celebrate Taiwan's national day - the Double Tenth - in 1994.

A spokesman of the pro-Taiwan Chinese Culture Association, Cheung Hon-chung fled Communist rule for Hong Kong in the late 1940s.



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This article is now closed to comments

hard times !
No wonder though Beijing learnt about Barry's company's troubles early this year, still refuses to lend its hand to Barry Cheung Chun-yuen whose father,Cheung Hon-chung rented the Hong Kong Cultural Centre to celebrate the National Day of Taiwan in 1994 and Cheung himself (though a close aide of C.Y.) grew up in Tiu Kang Ling (an enclave of people who fled the Chinese Communists in 1949) and has no relationship with the Chinese Communist government before or after the Handover.He even served as a full-time advisor of the Central Policy Unit from 1993-1994 during the British Colonial rule. Cheung's background can never gain favours from Beijing.Now he can only pray that he will be free from any charges against him and resume his public duties as soon as possible ! amen.
@" Cheung, ..holds an MBA from Harvard Business School."
Well that explains all .
Harvard Business School has a long string of MBA graduates responsible for colossal management failures by large corporation CEOs. Honesty and business ethics didn't even feature in their teaching curriculum.
P.S. Sorry PCC, I didn't spot your earlier post along the same lines!
It's always the so-called "smart guys" that gets into this type of trouble............tells you a lot about where they have their brains. They're sitting on it............
Another one of the smartest guys in the room


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