ICAC still focusing on small stuff, after all

All is silent at the Independent Commission Against Corruption. But some sleuth-like Reuters reporter unearths an anonymous source putting a sum to the alleged corrupt dealings between former Chief Secretary Rafael Hui and the Kwok brothers’ Sun Hung Kai Properties: US$2.5 million.

To many in Hong Kong, where the median household monthly income is HK$18,000, it is almost an unimaginable sum. The key word is ‘almost’. It is a tidy amount of cash – just below HK$20 million – but it is not beyond the wildest middle-class dreams. Thanks to quantitative easing and our little and unmentionable local property bubble, it’ll buy you a couple of pretty average apartments in the Mid-Levels. Invest it in a security yielding 3% a year, and you could retire on HK$50,000 a month, which is comfortable but hardly regal.

As CS and subsequently first boss of the HK Mortgage Corporation, Rafael Hui would have been on salaries in the range of maybe HK$2-3 million a year, with generous pension and a myriad other perks. No need to save for retirement or pay serious rent: public-sector perks allow the lucky recipients to spend or bank a lot of what they earn. The alleged bribes would have represented substantially less wealth than a bureaucrat like Hui would have been able to accumulate by this late stage of his working life. It is an amount we can all relate to; enough to make the less well-off among us seethe with anger, and the better-off think ‘how pathetic’.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Chile and Brazil, Chief Executive Donald Tsang has been staying in surprisingly expensive hotel accommodation, costing taxpayers (either in Hong Kong or the host countries) HK$10,000, HK$40,000 and even HK$50,000 a night. Following the scandal over private jets, luxury yachts and lavish Shenzhen apartments, we all knew Sir Bow-Tie liked his creature comforts. As with his former number-two, it is all looking rather pitiful. The tycoons whose boats and planes he enjoyed are of the grubbier kind, and ‘exclusive’ Shenzhen apartments cost around the same as, say, a couple of units in the Mid-Levels – they’re for people who could never afford one on this side of the border. If Rafael turns out to be a crook, he can console himself with the thought that it was poor Donald who went ‘bling’. Even more unforgivable.

It is not every day we turn to former Security Secretary legislator Regina Ip for wisdom and insight, but the lady has pondered this state of affairs and concluded that comfortably-off bureaucrats’ proximity to mega-wealthy tycoons has turned their heads. By contrast, just two days ago we saw the Prime Minister of the Netherlands going to work (well, quitting) by bicycle; as for mayors of cities with 7 million people, we have London’s Boris Johnson frequently on two wheels, and New York’s Michael Bloomberg at least occasionally taking the subway.

If forthcoming CE CY Leung wanted to win a few more brownie points after banishing the plague of Mainland locust-mothers from our maternity hospitals, a healthy dose of official asceticism would be a vivid (and it goes without saying cheap) way to do it. Issuing an order that all ministers use the MTR and taxis when venturing out of Government Palace and stay in standard hotel rooms on overseas missions would do wonders for his image. And, obviously, it would make his predecessors, our outgoing self-styled elite, look all the more repulsive and loathsome to our eyes, not to mention those of generations and historians to come. Which is, in a warped sort of way, what politics is all about.

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16 Responses to ICAC still focusing on small stuff, after all

  1. Bela Lugosi says:

    No jokes today but it should be pointed out that Dracula is indeed ascetic, in fact he never eats anything but the obvious.

    I think we will all get a shock when CY reveals that he is the only former Executive Council member who:

    Has shopped in a supermarket the last ten years
    Knows the price of a bag of rice
    Has travelled on the MTR and even bought a ticket
    Has spent whole minutes of the day outside air conditioning
    Knows how to use a computer and a mobile phone

    Be fair though. It’s the British who are to blame for introducing the Mandarin into Hong Kong, and just look at the UK if you want to see sleaze. CY though is essentially a monk – like Lenin and Trotsky. We’re saved.

  2. maugrim says:

    I have mixed feelings about Tsang’s accusations. He is after all our CEO and is representing us. He couldn’t really be expected to stay at an Ibis for example. However I do understand that it doesnt always have to be the Presidential Suite. Perhaps we could also consider getting rid of that separate customs facility at the airport for Government officials and other moneyed types if we are to be truly egalitarian. On the other hand, Don prays each day at St Joseph’s I think. I would hate to also think that he was driven there, all of 100 metres from his home, and similarly driven another 150 metres to his office.

  3. pcrghlll says:

    You mean there WERE jokes on other days??

  4. Walter De Havilland says:

    I’d expect the CE to stay in smart hotels and therefore have no particular issue with these issues. What is of more concern is his relationship with tycoons. He is sitting as the head of EXCO making decisions about the award of commercial contracts and fare increases whilst accepting favors in the form of travel. Moreover, his former right hand man Rafael HUI is now embroiled in an ICAC investigation that suggests collusion at the highest level.

    The stench of corruption now hangs over this administration.

  5. Joe Blow says:

    Donald attends Mass at the Cathedral on Caine Road. And of course he gets driven there. It is obvious, however, (and kind of puzzling) that he didn’t get the lessons regarding humility, or the God & Mammon thing. But then Jesus did dine with the tax collector, so why can’t D have supper with some C-list tycoons ?

  6. Tse Guo Vera says:

    Walter, there’s a difference between a smart hotel and an extravagant luxury suite. What pains me in particular is that Bowtie would have no idea how to make appropriately hedonistic use of the latter. He probably just sat there quietly feeling smug and self-important.

  7. Probably says:

    If the “Presidential Suite” in a hotel is not for a head of (an admittedly quasi) state, who is it for?

    Totally agree with the idea on limiting civil service underlings privalege though. What about it CY?

  8. Tse Guo Vera says:

    Probably, from another point of view he’s a town mayor or, if you want to set store by titles, some kind of corporate leader.

  9. Stephen says:

    Shouldn’t Sir Bow Tie be staying at a PRC Embassy ?

    It just shows how utterly inept he and others here are at politics. However when you don’t have to submit yourself to the ballot box then this can be expected. But on the other hand those bike riding politicians in the blog and the PRC’s Premier (also not subject to the ballot box) show far more political savy than this tiresome little man and most of his Government.

    Maybe he will treat us to another little weep at Legco.

  10. Big Al says:

    Following on from yesterday’s “civil service morale” thread, the last paragraph of today’s sub-Standard article on Big Spender Tsang quotes the chairman of a civil service union saying “Tsang’s lavish tastes have significantly hit the reputation of civil servants”. Not quite sure which reputation he thinks they have but only a short step from this to affecting civil service morale.

    They must have teams of civil servants scouring the media every day for articles that could possibly be construed to demean civil servants in some way and thereby adversely affect civil service morale. Then they can harp on about it and claim it can only be redressed by another pay increase. Bastards.

    @ Probably
    Fully agree that the “Presidential Suite” should be for presidents … but not for CEs. Perhaps the major hotels should offer “CE Suites” which are basically the same as a standard room but with extra tea making facilities, perhaps, or additional closet space for bow-ties? What else should a “CE Suite” have?

  11. Big Al says:

    @Tse Guo Vera
    Good point and fully agree. I suggest that the Duck should approach Silvio Berlusconi for lessons on how to use a Presidential Suite to its full advantage (and how to get young ladies listed as “room service”) …

  12. R lloyd says:

    Yes this is a non scandle its where he should be staying

  13. R lloyd says:

    and i forgot to add that of course the CE is not a civil servant – he is head of the executive

  14. Real Tax Payer says:

    Silly Donald – you’ve done it again.

    US$6,900 presidential suites are meant for African dictator thugs and their ilk who don’t give a rats ass what they do with the money they have ripped off from their impoverished citizens. You were elected after a fashion, and your 2nd term platform was “to get the job done” . That means putting HK and its people ahead of your ego and wanderlust

    The clever thing would have been to take a normal executive suite, and then rent nice big rooms for meetings. That may actually have cost slightly more, but it would have been far less offensive

    But even sillier, sir bow tie, is what the f*#k were you doing flying off to NZ, Brazil and Chile. Are these really HK’s major trading partners ? ( CHILE ???!!!) . Don’t you have a trade minister to do that kind of thing ? Don’t you think you would have done better staying in HK to help clear up the mess you made here ?

    I handed over to my successor a few months ago and I had the good fortune to be replaced before my use-by date expired , thus I had no chance to do silly things that would stain my 20 – odd years of successful management. Now I’m paid just to sit around and be helpful if and when required by my successor during the hand-shake months. If I went trolling off on the equivalent of your trips to Chile I would be kicked out the back door.

    Sorry Donald, pray all you wish, but I think you have really lost it in your latter days. So sad.

  15. David Webb says:

    Rafael Hui was the first MD of MPF Authority, not Mortgage Corp. He was paid between HK$5m and HK$5.5m per year in his last 2 years there, per annual report.

  16. Probably says:

    @Big Al,
    Shouldn’t CE suites come equipped with a little “Piety Corner” where one can prey to Rome each day (with the arrow on the ceiling pointing the way as in Muslim countries hotels for Mecca)?
    Otherwise the wardrobe should be fully stocked with plenty of shoe shining materials.

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