The Standard carries a (relatively) in-depth piece on the ‘hidden desperation’ of former Executive Council member and HK Mercantile Exchange founder Barry Cheung. A vast sum of money must have come from somewhere to account for the gap between the HK$1 billion invested in HKMEx and the pocket change generated in revenue. The article points out the exchange’s connections with several Mainland tycoons (notably Wang Nubo, the one who tried to buy a chunk of Iceland) and a couple of Russian billionaires. The guy who had the international development rights for British boarding school Harrow also turns up. A possible implication is that good friends of Barry who have recently been arrested were forging bank guarantees to help keep HKMEx afloat.
A pinch of salt may be in order here. The Standard’s Sing Tao parent group is a pillar of the Hong Kong tycoon milieu that loathes Chief Executive CY Leung and all his works. Along with some other parts of the media, it relishes any chance to inflate the Leung administration’s plentiful but pretty lame supposed scandals (illegal structures; sale of a small portion of a property portfolio ahead of real-estate tax hikes; leasing out of sub-divided apartments; an ancient civil service housing benefits fiddle; and… I think that’s it).
That said, those are everyday stories of Hong Kong property irregularities; HKMEx is different. Would someone who had tirelessly worked his way into the establishment, faced with possible bankruptcy, engage in large-scale criminality in order to rescue a major investment and/or preserve his social standing? On the one hand, we’d like to think the idea is preposterous. On the other hand, such things are daily occurrences just a few miles north of here.
Other instances of alleged corruption in the Big Lychee in recent years, like former CE Donald Tsang’s freebies-from-developers, or even former Chief Secretary Rafael Hui’s dealings with Sun Hung Kai, can be seen as opportunistic and aberrant. But when you combine the hubris, sycophancy and incestuousness of our local self-styled elites with cross-border murkiness, and you get a nasty smell, it begins to look more systemic.
On an infinitely more amusing note, China Daily delivers yet more orchestrated mouth-frothing about the pro-democracy Occupy Central plan. Buses and taxis will have to be cancelled or re-routed, the writer says, therefore “bloodshed will almost certainly happen,” possibly with numerous deaths, as in the London riots of 2011. The Great 2014 Chater Road Number 15 Bus Re-routing Massacre. The usual contrived United Front alarmism, in other words, with the poor author probably not even believing it himself. What is interesting is that one of our friends from yesterday, HK University of Science and Technology economics professor Francis Lui, crops up again.
Yesterday, he was talking nonsense about how a state’s economic reliance on a large hinterland deprives it of autonomy. (Does he realize that he is contradicting Article 2 of the Basic Law?) Today, he is quoted as saying that Central generates one fifth of Hong Kong’s GDP (and God knows how he works that out), therefore Occupy Central will cost the city HK$1.6 billion a day. This is like saying that Hong Kong’s GDP gets reduced by one 365th every time we get a day off courtesy of a Number 8 typhoon signal; it’s economically illiterate. As with the China Daily columnist, we have to wonder whether he really believes what he is saying.
And which would be worse: he does, or he doesn’t? To be stupid is unfortunate; to stand up and knowingly recite gibberish in public to curry favour with power-holders of limited legitimacy is just plain pitiful. I’d be intrigued to know what his students think.
I declare the weekend open with a little oddity from an oldish dictionary…