My Take

A case of the pot calling the kettle black

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 May, 2015, 12:59am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 May, 2015, 12:59am

Pan-democrat lawmakers never miss an opportunity to call for investigation of possible wrongdoing against officials or anyone friendly with the government or Beijing. Yet, they inevitably allege persecution or political interference when it's one of their own being questioned or probed.

The latest has the pan-democrats accusing Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim of undermining the autonomy of the University of Hong Kong after he repeatedly wrote to the school's governing body to urge an investigation into legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting's dodgy handling of political donations worth HK$1.45 million.

Now, I am no fan of Ng, as I think he has been one of the most incompetent and ineffectual policy chiefs we have ever had. Still, I see nothing wrong with his bureau taking an active interest in how a publicly-funded university lecturer used his position to distribute political donations to further his own cause.

Tai received the money in 2013 from fellow Occupy Central activist the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming. He has admitted he used the money for Occupy Central-related projects. An audit committee has concluded Tai has not followed the university's donation guidelines, but an earlier probe found there was nothing wrong in his handling of the money. The university has yet to decide whether Tai should face discipline.

But regardless of whether Tai did anything wrong, imagine the following scenario. A pro-Beijing scholar at HKU received a large donation from an unnamed source, only to be revealed later to be from another prominent pro-Beijing figure. Some of the money was used to promote the government's electoral reform package, including paying for surveys and publicity campaigns, and hiring staff.

How do you think the pan-democrats in the legislature would respond? Well, they would be demanding ICAC investigations, threatening to invoke the Legco powers and privileges ordinance to launch their own probes and whatever investigations they could think of. They have done it before, for example, with Franklin Lam Fan-keung and Paul Chan Mo-po who were cleared. Yet reputational damage has been done - as was precisely the aim.