Depending whose numbers you believe, between 5,000 and 10,000 children perished in the Sichuan earthquake, most because corrupt officials had built substandard schools. The Hong Kong government and a United Front teachers’ union each sent HK$2 million to replace one institution, the Mianyang Bauhinia Ethnic [presumably Tibetan] Secondary School. And now we find the building has been knocked down to make way for a luxury residential project or, as Xinhua coyly puts it, a plaza. The Standard says the HK Federation of Education Workers isn’t trying to get its money back; the South China Morning Post says it is. It must be awkward, being good patriots, to complain about what can only be local officials’ bribe-taking. The Hong Kong government seems to be made of sterner stuff, and is demanding its – our – cash. Obviously, no-one is going to get arrested. That only happens to parents of the dead children.
We like to think that such things couldn’t happen here. But we are probably less sure about Macau, our diminutive fellow Special Administrative Region across the Pearl River Delta, where a court has given prosecutors the go-ahead to do Hong Kong property tycoon Joseph Lau for bribery and money-laundering. The accusation is that Lau’s company bribed now-imprisoned Macau official Ao Man-long in connection with the awarding of land, now being developed as a (Oh my God, how incredibly original) luxury residential project. There’s no link with the tantalizingly sloth-like corruption investigation into Sun Hung Kai Property’s Kwok brothers, but it’s somehow gratifying to remind ourselves of it anyway.
I was once briefly introduced in passing to a Macau judge. He was 26. This may be good news for the prosecutor, or maybe for Lau.
Correction: Administrative Officers and their admirers rush to tell me that Home Affairs Bureau official Florence Hui, tipped to be first boss of the new Culture Bureau, hasn’t a drop of civil service DNA in her blood. I knew I’d heard the name somewhere; she was one of those outside political appointees hired to be groomed as ‘talent’ a few years ago.
The phrasing of her Wikipedia entry (not to mention the fact that it exists) suggests she wrote it herself. Or am I just being nasty here? It is a brief bio – a list of rather too many universities, banking jobs and assignments in Donald Tsang-establishment temples of worship – but I could précis it further: wannabe pol on the make. This explains her defence of her suitability for the culture role, which would have been a most unladylike thing for an AO to do.
Incoming Chief Executive CY Leung would be fully entitled on taking office to sign a political appointee’s gratuity cheque, show her the door and wish her well in ravenously climbing all the private-sector greasy poles she likes. Or maybe her ominous ambition will remind him of himself in his younger years, and he will harness her lust for power to make life miserable for some or other poor group of bureaucrats.
This site will go into semi-hibernation over the next couple of weeks, with occasional dribs and drabs and not much else, as I make my biennial state visit to the English-speaking world.