Different question needed in saga surrounding ex-ICAC chief Timothy Tong

Following the decision not to prosecute former head of anti-graft body, it’s time to ask if his spending actually provided benefits to cross-border links

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 January, 2016, 1:41am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 2:59pm

Timothy Tong Hin-ming and the mainland officials he used to hang out with must have a phenomenal appetite.

During his tenure as head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, 1,000 bottles of alcoholic beverages were bought but by the time he left, only 41 bottles of table wine and two bottles of hard liquor remained.

There were also purchases of cookies worth a whopping

HK$50,000. That’s a lot of cookies, I tell you. It’s a wonder Tong didn’t visibly gain weight between 2007 and 2012 when he was at the helm, what with the 206 official meals, banquets and receptions he hosted, 77 of which exceeded the ICAC’s internal spending limits.

Among his favourite hard liquor was the mao tai, whose prices went through the roof in the last decade until they collapsed in the last few years under the economic slowdown on the mainland.

I reckon Tong must have been buying the famous Chinese liquor when it was the most expensive.

One explanation of why he didn’t get fat is probably the pressure and physical exertions from travelling, which amounted to 413 visits costing Hong Kong taxpayers

HK$12.6 million. Most of them were to the mainland, which sometimes included sightseeing. Many of these visits involved mainland agencies other than the ICAC’s anti-graft counterparts.

Since Tong has denied any corrupt purpose and government prosecutors have now found no cause to press charges, it’s time to ask a different question.

If Tong spent tens of millions to further closer working relationships between a range of authorities on the other side of the border, have we seen any tangible benefits?

The much-delayed and ambiguous reply from the mainland about the disappearance of booksellers from Hong Kong may give us pause.

Whether the former head of the anti-graft agency belongs in jail, I leave it to the wisdom of legal experts. My guess is that he didn’t commit any direct corrupt practices.

“The decision not to prosecute doesn’t mean we agree with his acts,” said public prosecutions director Keith Yeung Kar-hung.

But Tong surely left behind a stinking mess that was doubly ironic and tragic for the one institution that has been the bedrock of clean government and business in Hong Kong.