My Take

Michael Tien a case study in how not to make friends or influence people

The knives are out for lawmaker after he turns on the government on a wide range of issues, from funding for Disneyland to tenders for Kai Tak sports park

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2017, 1:14am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2017, 1:14am

It’s one thing to be attacked by the pan-democratic opposition. It’s something else when you are being jumped on by one of your own. That’s betrayal, which is why the knives are out for Michael Tien Puk-sun.

It is widely rumoured – and it sounds just about right – that pro-establishment party leaders are fed up with Tien’s behaviour as deputy chairman of the Legislative Council’s powerful Finance Committee. They want to make sure he won’t get the post again when the next legislative session starts in October. There has already been talk that he should be ejected as a deputy to the National People’s Congress, just as his brother, James, was dismissed from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in 2014.

In February, Michael Tien not only questioned why the government was investing another HK$5.8 billion in Disneyland, but also its so-called unequal treaty with Walt Disney, which has taken in billions of dollars in management fees and royalties over the years.

Many pan-democratic lawmakers helped pass his non-binding motion that urged the government to renegotiate the financial arrangements, including a temporary exemption of management fees and royalties and/or an exclusion of interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation in calculating those fees.

There is no way the government will pay any attention to the motion, but Tien’s gesture has proved to be infuriating.

Hong Kong lawmaker Michael Tien says overly close ties with Beijing prompted departure from New People’s Party

Meanwhile, on the separate issue of tendering for the building and management of the HK$32 billion Kai Tak sports complex, opposition legislators could barely keep up as Tien pounded on officials for even proposing to pay HK$60 million to each of the failed tender bidders in the final round. The government explained that the compensation was needed to encourage more bidders, who might be deterred by the high costs of joining the bidding contest.

Tien was among critics who pointed out, not unreasonably, that the government would effectively be paying private companies for their bids.

These offences of Tien may be the last straw. But surely his greatest sin was committed during the chief executive race, when he not only openly supported John Tsang Chun-wah but complained that middlemen for Beijing were trying to convince people to vote for rival and eventual winner Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Tien clearly has no more need for his former pro-government “friends”. This is an opportunity to go out on his own.