When in trouble, blame the wife. That seems to be the new modus operandi of our ruling class.
First Henry Tang Ying-yen set an example by using his wife as a shield against the media during a series of scandals that doomed his bid to be the chief executive. But our new development chief, Paul Chan Mo-po, reached new depths yesterday by referring reporters' questions to his wife, who was not there to answer them. Disclosures about his family's dealings involving two illegally subdivided flats have been headline news for almost a week, but Chan came out to face the public only yesterday.
Chan said neither he nor his wife, Frieda Hui Po-ming, knew anything about the allegedly illegal subdivisions in properties owned by a company in which she holds shares and was a director until July 1. Asked how that could happen, he said Hui would answer. How come some documents relating to the two properties carried her signature if she knew nothing about them? Chan said he would refer the question to his wife.
That's how public relations minders operate in this town - write down questions and stall. So let me get this right. Chan and Hui are both former directors of the company, Harvest Charm Development, that owns the two properties. Hui quit its board as recently as July 1, while Chan resigned as a director in 1997. But Hui claims she doesn't know what's going on with the company. Harvest Charm's shareholders are two offshore companies, which also own the couple's home in Leighton Hill, Causeway Bay. However, the ownership of the two offshore companies is murky.
Such complications should raise red flags. Hui's written response last night did not answer any key questions, but again pleaded ignorance about Harvest Charm's activities.
It's clear the couple is not being candid with the public. Their sole intention is to salvage Chan's political career. He may or may not survive this crisis, but he has already done irreparable harm to the new government that is already struggling to find its feet.