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Cheeky column no laughing matter

AS the chief executive of our business in greater China, my first reaction to your recent cheeky Lai See column item concerning our firm's localisation plans (Business Post , August 3) was to note our concerns to your editors, and then laugh it off as a cheap piece of reporting. We all could do with a broader sense of humour in the business community, after all.

Upon reflection, however, I feel compelled to write this letter. Not because your columnist decided to ignore salient facts that would have destroyed the basis for his story (i.e. that five of the eight individuals being appointed to new posts were local), but because the columnist chose to strive for humour by attacking the racial, ethnic and cultural heritage of one of Hong Kong's finest professional communicators.

By what authority can anyone decide that an individual of mixed ethnic background who was born, raised, educated and worked all her life in Hong Kong does not have the right to claim being local? Would the issue not have come up if Shirley Dirkin's features tended more to her mother's Chinese side and less to her father's English - or if her name had been Wong or Koo instead of Dirkin - or if her written Cantonese skills were stronger? Shirley is not a Westerner with Chinese characteristics. She is a Hong Kong native, with a unique blend of Chinese and Western cultures that have made her - and will continue to make her - so effective in supporting and representing our clients.

I am proud of my decision to promote Shirley to our top post here as managing director of Hill and Knowlton Hong Kong - it's one of the wisest management decisions I have ever made. Long after Gren Manuel writes his final story in Hong Kong and moves on, Shirley Dirkin will be counselling, supporting and working hard for our clients in the territory.

THOMAS G. MATTIA Executive vice-president Managing director Hill and Knowlton Asia.