My Take

Short-term pain best for Hong Kong leader in Teresa Cheng case

By sticking with the new justice minister, Carrie Lam is rather like me when it comes to stocks – I sell the good ones too soon and keep the bad ones too long

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 4:43am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 11:22am

I am a terrible investor. I sell my good stocks too soon and keep the bad ones too long, hoping the latter will eventually rebound. Alas, many never do. So what started off as a perfectly good portfolio ends up a collection of duds.

I wonder whether Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is in danger of doing something similar in politics with her disastrous hand-picked Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah.

Sorry, Carrie, Cheng’s stocks, over illegal structures at her two properties, aren’t bouncing back, but rather falling and falling as you stall.

It doesn’t look like Lam can ride out this storm, not without denting her own credibility and that of her government.

‘I’m not without integrity,’ Hong Kong’s scandal-plagued justice minister tells lawmakers

The chief executive has had a decent run and good poll ratings since taking the top job last July – until Cheng. Even the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement at the upcoming West Kowloon express rail terminus has so far failed to sink her.

The opposition wants blood, but they always do. However, you know the game is up when even card-carrying pro-government lawmakers are whispering that Cheng may have to go.

Asked if she should resign, loyalist legislator Paul Tse Wai-chun said: “I am inclined to feel that short-term pain is better than long-term suffering.” That’s exactly what my investment friends always tell me, but I rarely listen, thereby incurring even greater losses down the road.

Pressure mounts on Hong Kong justice chief Teresa Cheng over illegal structures

Other government-friendly lawmakers such as Michael Tien Puk-sun and Felix Chung Kwok-pan have also expressed alarm.

Many theories have been offered about the two women. The one I subscribe to is that Lam is standing by Cheng because she is a stand-up kind of gal.

Lam had apparently tried to woo Cheng with the top justice job for a long time but Cheng only accepted at almost the last minute; hence the lack of vetting about skeletons in the closet.

It also means Lam is personally committed to Cheng and does not want the latter to end up with her reputation in tatters and without a job that ought to be at the pinnacle of her legal career.

Why risk so much over a new minister? We have seen this before. Lam stood by the bureaucracy over lead contamination in the water supply of public housing estates when clearly some senior civil servants were responsible.

Lam makes bad investments and won’t let go. I understand perfectly.