The mood on the Mid-Levels Escalator this morning is one of mildly restrained smirking, as Hong Kong’s disfranchised, tax-paying middle class glides down to the heart of Asia’s leading international financial hub while enjoying the priceless looks on the faces of Thomas and Raymond Kwok of Sun Hung Kai Properties. The usually semi-active, 1,200-strong Independent Commission Against Corruption yesterday arrested the billionaire brothers, along with former Chief Secretary and ultimate Friend-of-Donald insider Rafael Hui. Could it be that Chief Executive-elect CY Leung is already launching a ‘white-terror’ purge against Hong Kong’s parasitical tycoons?
It is a tantalizing prospect. “Wasn’t it Franklin D Roosevelt,” I ask my neighbours, “who said that if something happens in politics, you can be sure it didn’t happen by accident?” (Or LBJ?) But cooler heads among us think not.
Mr Chan the banker points out the newspaper report saying the investigation dates back over a year. Mrs Wong the marketing manager wonders whether the whole thing is a storm in teacup. “Three months free rent is a pretty pathetic bribe,” she sniffs. That said, the South China Morning Post mumbles about something bigger, involving alleged land deal irregularities and HK$100 million in some form or other. Not just a luxury yacht ride. Could the born-again Christian Thomas – founder of the creationist Noah’s Ark at Ma Wan – be breakfasting on Correctional Services Department congee for a few years at least?
On the 20th floor of S-Meg Tower, the three Stanleys in the mailroom are pooling their savings to buy one board lot of Sun Hung Kai shares, which they think will bounce back after dipping. Otherwise, it is just another morning in the private office. The sofa in the reception area is at its usual weird angle, to deflect the bad feng shui influences that seep out of the stairwell. The antique three-legged brass ding sits as always in the corner; inside it are the equally ancient Hong Kong Telecom plastic telephone and gossip magazines that have been there for years.
A chime announces the arrival of the elevator. Ms Fang the hunter-killer secretary looks up from her desk. She seems irritated; there is nothing in the Big Boss’s diary, so who could it be? She waits for it to open, but nothing happens. All is silent. And then, with an almighty crash, the lift door explodes outwards onto the carpet, and a dozen burly men in suits and dark glasses stream out and towards us, waving ID cards and shrieking “ICAC!”
“Where is he – the Chairman of S-Meg Holdings?” one of them demands. A petrified Stanley from the mailroom points to the Big Boss’s office. Within seconds, our visionary leader is being dragged roughly from his lair, handcuffed and marched away, asking angrily whether the government thugs know who he is. An officer triumphantly emerges from the storeroom carrying incriminating documents and a never-worn Henry Tang ‘We are Tomorrow’ T-shirt. The spineless Ms Fang quietly hums The Nightsoil Collectors are Coming Down the Mountain to play safe. Peering through a curtain across Central, I see a SWAT team abseiling from the roof of the Cheung Kong Center, bursting through the windows of the penthouse suite. And on the street below, a group of bedraggled chief executives from our city’s leading conglomerates are being lined up and forced to kneel on broken glass. A minute later, I can make out the Big Boss being shoved alongside them at bayonet-point. They are making him wear a dunce’s cap.
Very few people remember that my last film project whilst on earth was Ed Wood Jr’s THE GHOUL GOES WEST.
The dialogue went like this:
RAFFY: You gotta help me, Donny. That there new sheriff, he don’t unnerstan’ us prairie folks. He’s just a itchin’ to hang us all high.
DONNY: Goddarn it, Raffy. You knows I’d like to help you and the boys but CY ain’t like us frontier sheriffs. He gonna have your ass and no mistake.
RAFFY: I’m beggin’ yer Donny. For ol’ time’s sake. One more chance. While you still have time. Cut me some slack. Get me and the boys outta this here jail cell. We ain’t done no wrong.
DONNY: Seems like the last roundup’s coming for you fellas. I’m off to Pattaya City or some such place. I sure will miss you guys. So long now.
It seemed to be a rather inferior production, full of cliches like frontier land grabbers, kickback payments and rigged elections but it did have its moments of illumination.
Strayed quite a long way from plausible today.
Brilliant stuff. Maybe the meek really are going to “Inherit the Earth”.
First they came for the tycoons ….
Ha Ha, although it can be all that bad as the stop-losses hastily placed yesterday evening haven’t activated yet!
I was going to do a CY top tip today about mainland mother’s (yawn – I hear you all say, it’s all been said here before) but given the recent events I think he’s already found a way to please the 99%.
May I declare the weekend open?
the CE is at the top of the ICAC heirarchy, they were probably watching the election result very closely on Saturday….
Pig/blank vote wins, no arrest …you can’t piss off your boss’s boss..
CY wins, arrest…you have to impress the new boss if you want to keep your job
How righteous does Regina look in that poster? Well done Hemmers – you should forward that over to her office. That would of been 4 or 5 votes right there.
Nice one Hemlock … I assume you later awoke from this dream.
By the way has anyone noticed the striking resemblance between Thomas KWOK and Harpo Marx. It’s uncanny! Are they related?
Could you ever imagine the heads of Goldman Sachs, AIG, or MF Global being arrested?
Bravo ICAC, maybe they can teach the so called regulatory and enforcement agencies in the West how to do their jobs.
From the HK Inland Revenue Dept:
Hong Kong is a small and open economy which is particularly susceptible to the fluctuation of the global economy and other external factors. As a matter of fact, about 80% of profits tax revenue in the final tax assessment was contributed by trade-related sectors (such as retailing, wholesaling, import and export, manufacturing and shipping) and sectors related to finance, real estate and investment. These business sectors are more volatile than the overall economy, coupled with the fact that profits tax revenue and salaries tax revenue are largely contributed by a small number of enterprises and high-income persons, thus rendering it even more difficult for the Administration to make revenue forecast.
According to the figures for the year of assessment 2009-10, almost 90% of the 688 000 registered corporations did not have to pay profits tax, whereas 69% of the corporate profits tax was contributed by 1 100 corporations (0.16% of registered corporations). As for salaries tax, 200 000 salaries tax payers (6% of the working population) had already contributed 82% of the revenue from salaries tax.
I wonder if anyone will ask the Kwoks what the bible’s teachings are on say, honesty for example. I’d stick in an extra charge for that stupid ark as well.
The left-out kookie Kwok brother must be having the last laugh now.
Nice artwork, Hemlock. Did anyone notice the fighter planes emanating from CY’s armpit ? Spooky.
Ming Pao said that it was the disgraced/disowned older brother, Walter K, who spilled the beans to the agency with the details of free rental, overdraft, etc. Apparently, Thomas reads too much into Genesis about being his brother’s keeper.
I’m Enery the great I am
Enery the textile tycoon man
I built a cellar underneath my floor
Then I put the blame on Lisa Kuo
Though superman liked Enery
The other voters didn’t give a damn
Now I’m just the late great Enery
And panda bait is all I am
Walter was my first, spontaneous idea as the person who had most to gain, before I discovered that other people were latching onto the same idea.
But the word I’ve heard from those better placed to judge is that it’s probably the Lone Wolf prowling again: certainly he seemed to have a spring in his step afterwards.
To be honest, we’d already known for yonks that the big property developers were horrid (my mother’s strongest adjective), and SHK have been drawing unwelcome attention to themselves for years.
But the truly shocking news, so awesome that everybody’s passing by on the other side, is that the recent CS, no 2 to Donald, may be corrupt. It’s as if the French PM or the leader of the government at the Vatican were found with their snouts in the trough, little corkscrew tails wagging. And to be arrested in full public view, rather than just quietly invited in for tea, can only invite comparisons with Strauss-Kahn, who, remember, was “found innocent”, as the terminology has it.
And Rafael, like Donald, like Henry, like those who remain unprosecuted for their illegal AND visible structures, were archetypal pre-handover AOs: urbane, hard-working, highly effective within a narrow register, team players, not visibly pro-communist.
That’s the shocking, horrifying aspect of recent events. One wonders what the ones not getting caught can be like.
My own hunch is that, just as revolutions happen when a small amount of liberalisation is brought in, so, according to a cynical, tip-of-the-iceberg view, the rot must be systemic and they’re just picking off the easy targets: collusion (“conflict of interest” in the local parlance) may be so much part of the system that executing a few chickens to frighten the monkey is all that can be done.
The timing of the arrests is something that interests me. Why now? From what we know the ICAC have been at this investigation for some time, at least a year (if media reports are correct), so why act during a time of power transition? Moreover, the incumbent CE is wounded, licking his wounds and limping towards retirement. As the ICAC answers direct to him, the timing is significant. I can only summise that this the ICAC taking the opportunity of this confluence of events to reassert it’s “independence.”
It is all in the timing, but the whole point is to hide ones traces. The ICAC themselves said it was because the three arrestees were members of the selection committee. If CY’s friends were the complainants, they may have held off until he was safely selected. First Donald then Rafael: it’s already a pattern. Like London buses, does that mean a third one is coming?
The head of operations has just been extended for a few more months. The ICAC are not independent in Chinese, which in case of conflict prevails: how could it be, the very word is banned. If indeed they’re playing a political game, then they’re heading for a fall.
Walter, you may be correct. One hopes that the ICAC will have done their investigative work before making the arrests and actually have a decent case against HUI and the KWOKS (which would be unlike their normal MO which is to arrest first and investigate at great length and not too great effect later). Given the poor conviction rate of the ICAC however, one should not hold one’s breath.
PD, Henry was not an AO, he was always a tycoonlet. Otherwise you make a good point. It may well be that previously upright Civil Servants on reaching the higher positions and therefore rubbing shoulders with the very rich on a daily basis get to feel that they, too, should be entitled to the lifestyles of their new aquaintances and thus fall in to temptation – it looks as though this is what happened to Donald.
I finally got round to reading monday’s epic SCMP in detail
Hidden in the small print was a short article about how the tycoons voted.
LKS was at least honest enough to say he voted for Tang, as he vowed to do. The Kwoks declined to say.
Henry Cheng ( New World) said he changed his vote to CY
But ultimate snake in the grass Lee Shau-kee said : “HE HAD FORGOTTEN WHOM HE VOTED FOR”
I hope the ICAC move on to arrest Lee Shau-Kee as their next move because of the 39 Conduit Road scandal
PS : have you noticed one strange thing : we all seem to refer to CY as “CY” . When I bumped into CY in Wanchai the other day on his walk about I had no hesitation – and without thinking about it – in greeting him as ” Hi CY ! “. I never met D. Tsang or Tung Chee Hua ( or any pre 1997 governor for that matter) but if I had done so I would never have dared to address them by their given names
Deep analysis from the scmp: “Alfred Lau, an analyst at Bocom (SEHK: 3328) International, said the sharp fall in the share price partly reflected a loss of confidence among investors.”
Any idea what the other partly reason is?
“according to a cynical, tip-of-the-iceberg view, the rot must be systemic and they’re just picking off the easy targets: collusion (“conflict of interest” in the local parlance) may be so much part of the system that executing a few chickens to frighten the monkey is all that can be done.”
A truly scary thought indeed…
RTP you really losing it. Get help! Are you going to start stalking poor CY soon?