Asian Financial Forum to probe claims academics listed as advisers without consent
Trade Development Council expresses concern that participants were listed as advisers to Hong Kong think tank without their consent
The Trade Development Council will look into whether its annual Asian Financial Forum was abused by one of its participants.
This follows a South China Morning Post investigation that found the names of at least seven business leaders and academics were borrowed without their consent by a think tank which listed them as advisers.
On Saturday, the Post reported that a brochure published by the China Institute of City Competitiveness last year listed 18 "advisory members", including nine speakers or advisers of the 2010 forum, held in Hong Kong.
But at least six of the forum participants and an American historian said they had no such role.
They included Ken DeWoskin, director of the Deloitte China Research and Insight Centre; Stuart Pearce, former chief executive and director general of the Qatar Financial Centre Authority; and Michael Smith, chief executive of Australian bank ANZ.
A spokeswoman for the Trade Development Council, which has been hosting the forum since 2007, said the council was "concerned about [the doubts over CICC]" and agreed that more attention should be paid to the matter. It was the first the council had heard of it, she said.
She confirmed that CICC chairman Gui Qiangfang took part in the 2010 Asian Financial Forum. "At this stage, we need more information about the case, so we will conduct a review … talk to our staff, and try to understand whether they noticed anything unusual," she said.
The spokeswoman added that the exhibitors' manual had clearly stipulated a code of conduct and outlined the possible penalties for those who broke the law or were complained about repeatedly.
For the financial forum, she said: "If a participant made business connections and [followed up] afterwards, we have to see whether his behaviour was illegal, whether it has damaged the reputation of the AFF, or how serious the damage was. These are really matters for our management to consider."
In 2010, more than 1,500 business leaders attended the Asian Financial Forum, while in January this year, 2,388 from 39 countries and regions took part - more than 80 per cent of them being chief executives or senior decision makers. More than 500 journalists and media representatives also attended.
Panel discussions, workshops and a matchmaking session were organised for participants, who paid an admission fee of HK$5,180 for the two-day event. The next forum will be held in January next year.
A spokesman for ANZ said Smith was looking forward to participating in the next forum, as the bank understood that "the misuse of individual names is not necessarily something that can be controlled by the TDC".
Gui, who is travelling in Europe to "prepare for a global survey on city competitiveness", explained that his secretary general, Li Chijun, attended the forum in 2010 as a journalist and approached the speakers.
He had no comment on the TDC's review, but would apologise "if anything wrong or inappropriate" was done.
Gui also accepted the advice from his former researcher, Professor Chau Kwong-wing of the University of Hong Kong, to stop taking up official advisory roles on the mainland to avoid potential conflict of interest.
Gui is a government adviser to 13 mainland cities.