Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2008, 12:00am

Porn pictures: the big unanswered question

Try not to laugh too hard over this one: the police say they treat all of us equally. They would have reacted with equal urgency had it been your nude pictures on the internet and not those of our showbiz celebrities. If you believe that, you will believe you, too, can get away with speeding like our tycoons do in their Ferraris.

Ever since pornographic pictures of our celebrities performing sex acts popped up on the internet we've seen the spectacle of frenzied police rushing to catch the culprits. One unfortunate suspect accused of posting a single nude photo has been held in custody for eight weeks without bail. Senior officers have even taken on the role of moral guardian, threatening to throw all those who dared look at the pictures into jail. Remember how they did that before, threatening jail for anyone wearing those G.O.D. T-shirts with 14K written in Chinese characters?

But the one thing the police didn't rush to do is ask the pop stars if the pictures were fake or real. Excuse me, but isn't that elementary, Sherlock? Could it be that if the pictures are real they would destroy the 'wholesome' image our local celebrities paint for themselves? If our showbiz idols take pictures of themselves having sex, that's their business. It is, of course, wrong for anyone to post them on the internet.

But if the pictures are real it is downright indecent of them to present themselves as wholesome pop idols. None has come forward to tell us if the pictures are real or fake. We would have thought the photos' authenticity or otherwise would have a big bearing on a trial, but the police say their probe is only into whether the pictures are obscene, not if they are real or fake. Nor will stars be made to testify. We'll let you figure out why that is so.

The highs and lows of taxation on wine

Public Eye is public enemy No1 in the eyes of wine merchants after we exposed their greed last week. But let's get one thing straight: we're all for zero wine tax if that really means cheaper wine.

Dealers didn't pass on last year's tax cut until they were shamed into doing it. They now want the remaining 40 per cent tax scrapped - that's a HK$370 million loss in public revenue - so we can become an auction hub for our fine-wine collectors. Our wine dealers have been able to rip us off simply because under Hong Kong's wine-tax system the customs department secretly decides the 'market value' of a wine then applies the 40 per cent tax based on that value.

Since only the dealers know what the market value is that has been set, it's easy for them to hoodwink the public by claiming it's been set very high and then charge whatever they want. Some wine merchants actually admit this scam exists.

One solution is to make the process open by charging a flat tax. But a flat tax of, say HK$30, would double the price of a HK$30 bottle of wine but add only HK$30 to a HK$1,000 bottle. This hurts ordinary drinkers more than the fine-wine folks. Here's our suggestion: a low flat tax for ordinary wines but higher taxes for fine wines. The rich can afford it. Wine dealers insist zero tax would make Hong Kong a wine hub, creating more business and jobs. But that also means greater profits for the industry. So it's only fair they pass on some of this by cutting prices. You don't want to keep it all, do you fellas?

When a king left the chief waiting in vain

If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain. We're talking about Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. There was a nice picture of him last week being warmly greeted by King Abdullah during his visit to Saudi Arabia. But do you know what happened two years ago, also around Lunar New Year time, when the king was in Hong Kong? The chief executive invited him to Government House but the king was a no-show, leaving our frustrated leader pacing the floor. We know that for a fact. If Abdullah will not come to Donald, Donald will go to Abdullah.