Lawmakers face criticism after Cathay junket to France

Free trip comes after airline tries to prevent low-cost start-up carrier from obtaining licence

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 5:41am

Eight lawmakers have been criticised over potential conflicts of interest after Cathay Pacific treated them to a six-day trip to France.

The travellers included Democrats Albert Ho Chun-yan, James To Kun-sun and accounting lawmaker Kenneth Leung, who were yesterday urged by fellow pan-democrats to declare their interests as soon as possible.

I understand it is a matter of public perception, which demands greater transparency after the Donald Tsang saga
Albert Ho Chun-yan

Five pro-government lawmakers - Ip Kwok-him and Elizabeth Quat of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the Liberal Party's Felix Chung Kwok-pan and independents Chan Kin-por and Ma Fung-kwok - joined them on the junket.

Among the other delegates were Executive Council member Cheng Yiu-tong, former Airport Authority chief executive Billy Lam Chung-lun, Airport Authority board member Huen Wong, and an unnamed academic from Baptist University.

Ho said Legco had no decision-making power related to aviation, but that it was a good time to review the policy on lawmakers taking sponsored trips.

"I understand it is a matter of public perception, which demands greater transparency after the Donald Tsang saga," said Ho, referring to the former chief executive's acceptance of favours from his tycoon friends.

"Although I genuinely do not think there is any possible conflict of interest, as Legco cannot vet any application for [air operator's] licences, Legco should take the opportunity to review the rules."

Cathay has opposed an application by Jetstar Hong Kong, a low-cost airline venture between Shun Tak Holdings, Qantas Airways and China Eastern Airlines, for an air operator's licence.

During the trip, Cathay took delivery of a new aircraft. According to a disclosure made by Leung to Legco, the group spent three days travelling from Hong Kong to Toulouse via Paris, then two days attending presentations, sightseeing and touring the Airbus factory before returning yesterday.

Lawmakers taking sponsored trips are required to make a full disclosure to Legco within 14 days of their return to the city.

Wong said he had made a declaration to the Airport Authority before the trip.

"I've never touched on issues related to Cathay Pacific at the authority, but I was aware the trip might cause some noise," he said.

Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said her fellow pan-democrats should be attentive to public perception.

"This is a sensitive trip at a sensitive time," she said, adding that none of the Civic Party's six lawmakers had been invited.