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  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 10:25am
NewsHong Kong

Legislators on Cathay junket give to charity

Contrite lawmakers offer price of flights to appease critics who say trip may have given rise to a conflict of interest on aviation issues

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 4:27am

At least six lawmakers who went on a Cathay Pacific junket to France will donate tens of thousands of dollars to local charities, after their earlier explanations or apologies failed to satisfy critics who say the trip may have created a conflict of interest.

Six local environmental groups issued a joint statement yesterday, calling for executive councillor Cheng Yiu-tong and the eight other lawmakers involved to take a cautious approach in considering whether a third runway should be added at the city's airport.

On Thursday, some of the lawmakers confirmed that during the contentious six-day trip, Cathay management had reiterated the "importance" of the airport gaining an extra runway, and Cathay's opposition to potential rival Jetstar Hong Kong's bid for an air operator's licence.

In a joint statement yesterday, the Democratic Party's Albert Ho Chun-yan and James To Kun-sun appeared to back down and apologise. They vowed to donate HK$50,000 each to a charity of Cathay Pacific's choice as reimbursement for the cost of their wives' trips.

"We understand that it doesn't make it right to do something because it wasn't criticised by the public before," they wrote. "And it is natural for the public to have a higher expectation of the democrats [because it is our job to] monitor the government."

On Thursday, Ho and To initially admitted being insensitive, but also suggested the trip was a business "exchange". However, hours later, the Democratic Party's central committee said its lawmakers' acceptance of Cathay's junket was inappropriate. It had yet to decide on any follow-up action, said party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing, who apologised to the public.

Eight lawmakers travelled with a family member, either a spouse or child, from Hong Kong to Toulouse via Paris, and returned on Cathay's new aircraft. According to the airline's website, it costs at least HK$58,300 for a one-way business-class flight from Hong Kong to Paris.

Accounting lawmaker Kenneth Leung said he would donate at least HK$50,000 to charity.

"I asked Cathay Pacific how much it cost [for my wife to travel with me] and I may donate more than HK$50,000," Leung said.

Insurance sector lawmaker Chan Kin-por, who went to Britain with his wife on business before joining the group in France, said he gave HK$80,000 to the Hong Kong Red Cross because Cathay paid for their detour to London and the journey to Paris.

Elizabeth Quat, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, and the Liberal Party's Felix Chung Kwok-pan were also planning to give to charity.

Lawmaker Ma Fung-kwok, who also went on the trip, and Cheng could not be reached for comment last night.



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This article is now closed to comments

of course had the freeloader trip not been revealed by the press they had all intended to donate the money to charity anyway ...........? Give us a break ! they got caught & decided to pay the penalty fine so all this will just disappear by throwing money at the problem, right ? Ho is an officer of the court & all Legislators signed the Legco oath to serve with integrity.
Is there anything else they want to admit before the next exposé?
I thought Legco & Exco members had to first get the permission of the Chief Executive to accept an advantage ?
Unfortunately the integrity of these people charged with representing the interests of their electors is now in tatters. What with immature banana throwing, filibustering & less than subtle lobbying 3rd runway Toulouse junkets it suggests to Beijing that Hong Kong is too immature, self interested & incapable of universal suffrage.
donations ? It wasnt good enough for the pauls, anthonys, franklins, its not now. Resign. Call for icac investigation. Govt & indepenedent enquiry. Where are all these pan demos disruptive tools when one of theirs mess up ?
Dont let them get away with it.
Prosecute Cathay pacific as well.
John Adams
"They vowed to donate HK$50,000 each to a charity ...as reimbursement for the cost of their wives' trips"
HK$50,000 for a one- week trip to Europe for one person ? ! Now that's a real junket !
( So it WAS business class all the way and more besides or was it first class?)
So what about the cost of the law-makers' own trip expenses ? That's another HK$50,000 they should each donate to charity.
And they should all be prohibited from voting for life in any way the issue of a 3rd runway and budget airline licences.
PS: Surely this does come under the purview of the ICAC on both sides : both CX and the law-makers : "The giving and/or receiving of an advantage"
CX gives a junket as an advantage, the law-makers receive it , and CX gets its advantage in return : a 3rd runway at tax-payers' expense and no budget airlines. Great deal for CX
add 20K per pair for hotel & food (did CX pay for that or Airbus ?)
how did they travel from Paris 650 kms to Toulouse ? who paid for that transport or did they fly down ?
The Airbus A300 comes in 2 versions for CX , 3 class J, Premium Y + Y or 2 class J +Y.
see SCMP Editorial in Comment section
have found two more Legco members on the trip than reported by the press
add - Abraham Shek & Andrew Leung
Updated junketeers :10 Legco members, 1 Exco member, 2 HKAA lobbyists, 1 unnamed HK Baptist U academic + equal number family members = 28 freebies
See the list:
They say the trip MAY have created a conflict of interest? It looks very obvious that Cathay Pacific
was blatantly lobbying for a 3rd runway and to shaft its competitor Jetstar so that it and the other cartel airlines can continue to rig the market by fixing ticket prices at outrageously high levels.
This is all at the expense of regional customers who pay far more for regional flights in Asia than European or American regional passengers.
Of course. How about introducing this guideline for all public servants, if you did something wrong and being critisized for it, just donate something to charity and everything is fine again.
How naiv is Albert Ho? Just use your own standard you lay out for your political opponents. Take the consequences and step down. If it were members of the Pro-Beijing party or members of the government Albert Ho and all the others in the trip would be the loudest to call for ICAC investigation (as usual) and resignation.
By the way, this is not the first time we see the likes of Mr Albert Ho and Mr James To named in relation to very generous travel and entertainment in their capacity as LegCo members.

Last year, the SCMP reviewed LegCo expense claims and noted that both of these gentlemen claimed over $13,000 per month for their 'travel and entertainment' during a 6-month period of Oct 2011 ~ Feb 2012. That is over $600 a day of taxpayer's money spent on a single legislator's lunch money. Pretty shameless when you contrast that with the 300,000 elderly poor who have to get by on less than $3,600 per month.

Mr Albert Ho actually managed to claim HKD 13,699 per month every month during the 6-month period. That is full amount of the maximum allowed (HKD 164,390 per year).

And no, he and the other lawmakers don't need to submit receipts for this. They just get it. No accountability needed. As the SCMP remarked at the time: the suggestion has been raised that some lawmakers may treat the expense allowance as an extension of their salaries. Salaries by the way, which are in excess of HKD 80k per month.

I'd love to see the SCMP do this review again. I'd also love to see all LegCo/ExCo expense records made public. Especially the Office Expense claims (limit: HKD 1.8m per year), and the Operational Expense claims (no limit, including for 'consultancy costs'). And I'd love to see the claims detailed, with receipts.




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