Public Eye

Pan-democrats have lost right to hold heads high

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 5:07am

One of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's top policy advisers, Executive Councillor Cheng Yiu-tong, has given the people the finger. People want him to atone for accepting a luxury trip to France with his family, compliments of Cathay Pacific.

But Cheng told the people to shove it. You know why he dares do that? Because he knows he can get away with it. All those who went after people in high office for conflict of interest have now lost their moral authority to do so.

Consider this: Cheng belongs to the so-called pro-establishment camp, is a C.Y. ally and a Hong Kong delegate to the National People's Congress. As an Exco member, he has a role in deciding if Cathay's rival Jetstar Hong Kong should get an aviation licence. Cathay opposes the licence and said so to those who went on the junket.

Conflict of interest? You bet. In the past, Cheng would have been a prime target for the opposition camp. They would have circled around him like hungry vultures waiting to feed on dead meat. They would have demanded his ouster. They would have marched to the ICAC headquarters under the glare of TV cameras to file a corruption complaint. That's what they did to Franklin Lam Fan-keung, falsely accusing him of using insider information as an Exco member to profit from property sales. And to former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, slamming him for riding on tycoons' planes and yachts.

So how come the pan-democrats are so meekly silent about Cheng? Because some pan-democrats also joined the junket with their families. They have now bowed their heads in shame, promising to donate the cost to charity. But no amount of donations can buy back what they have lost: the moral authority to hold those in high office to account.


Episode leaves the city's people as the losers

Now that the pan-democrats have lost the moral authority to protect the public's interests, what next? All those in high office with skeletons in their cupboards must be saying "whew". And those the pan-democrats have wronged, such as Franklin Lam, must be saying "serves you right".

The biggest losers in this shameful episode are not the pan-democrats but the people of Hong Kong.

Cheng Yiu-tong let greed override good sense. No Exco member should have accepted a Cathay junket when the airline is lobbying for a third runway and against a licence for a rival. Instead of showing remorse, Cheng has thumbed his nose at the people. But there is no one left with any moral authority to bring him to account on behalf of the people.

C.Y. could, of course, order Cheng to atone or fire him from Exco. But Public Eye just can't see that happening.


They don't want cake, Carrie - they want decent homes

Someone else who needs to atone for her dismissive attitude towards Hong Kong's poor is our overpaid chief secretary, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who lives in a taxpayer-financed Peak mansion. Three weeks ago she donned her Marie Antoinette hat to make clear that struggling families in slum subdivided flats in industrial buildings won't get a cent in handouts because the government would not tolerate such flats, which she called "definitely illegal". Public Eye reminded her that these families have nowhere else to go. We suggested they move to the vast grounds of her Peak mansion. Well, Lam had a change of heart. Those in illegal slum flats will now get handouts too. As head of the Poverty Commission, maybe she'll finally focus on the shame of Hong Kong: 1.6 million poor people in a city reeking of wealth.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and broadcaster.