Anyone flicking through some (but not all) editions of today’s Standard will be forgiven for thinking that the Over-Hyped Achievement by an Over-Titled Nonentity of the Month Award for April must go to Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr Teh Hong Piow. HP Teh, as his buddies call him when dispensing with the Malaysian honorifics, receives a full-page congratulatory ad from his own company, Public Financial Holdings, on being named Asia’s Banking Grandmaster.
They will be forgiven for thinking that… But they would be wrong.
I am indebted to a bearded public relations person for drawing my attention to the true winner of this much-coveted trophy: Duke Dr Raymond Lee, a member of that outstanding social climbing club known as the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals board of directors. His doctorate in business administration comes from an unaccredited US distance-learning institution, apparently now-defunct, known as Barrington University. Not much surprise there. But a dukedom?
According to his not unamusing bio, he is a Duke of de Mistra of Constantinople. Mistra, as any idiot with access to Google knows, was at one time the Byzantine Empire’s second city, located down near Sparta. Another Google search suggests that His Grace is the first in what we all, of course, hope to be a long line of nobility. Since Greece today is a republic, and Constantinople was long since renamed Istanbul, we can’t help wondering how he came to acquire the title. Someone must have passed it to him somehow. Where did they get it? Did it cost more than the Barrington U DBA?
We could probably find out how much he donated to get on the board of Tung Wah – Hong Kong’s original and most prestigious home-grown charity. It wouldn’t have been as much as the fragrant socialites and shoe-shining mini-tycoons whose portraits appear higher up in the directors’ gallery. (Note the careful way pictures of the 1st to 5th vice chairman are positioned.)
Nearly all of these people belong to patriotic and united front bodies, such as obscure local government-level offshoots (mostly in Guangdong) of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee. And, inevitably, there’s some overlap – here, say – with the intriguing World Outstanding Chinese thing.
One face stands out: Maisie Ho, linked with the Macau casino clan. (Actually so does that of Katherine Ma, – but for her, shall we say, striking eyes.) One’s a hypnotherapist (did he get at Mrs Ma?). Several more have dubious doctorates and other baubles, including membership of the Home Affairs Bureau’s Public Affairs Forum – a self-described middle class advisory body most of us had forgotten existed. That one was free, though invitation-only, of course.
One other thing they all have in common: they will never be seen dead in one of the Tung Wah Group’s lowly hospitals.
Only one, however, is a Duke!