Paul Chan Feeding Frenzy Number Three (if I’m keeping count correctly) breaks out as Hong Kong reels in horror upon learning that its Secretary for Development’s plans to build more public housing in the New Territories encompass a piece of land his wife bought in 1994 and sold (after her holding somehow turned into a 37.5% stake) to her family last year. In the South China Morning Post’s version, Chan himself originally acquired the land – but who’s quibbling about the details? The key thing is that, in a now-familiar pattern, the story first appears in Apple Daily, and pro-democracy legislators promptly start frothing at the mouth a bit too excessively, demanding that he resign over a conflict of interest.
I am not sure if anyone is accusing the Chans of having had advance knowledge of (then-future) Chief Executive CY Leung’s 2012 housing strategy back in 1994. Assuming they’re not, are they alleging that Chan intervened in the cartographic stage of the planning process and made sure his wife’s land was included in the parcels to be developed? No – otherwise they would say so. So, if they feel the sale of the holding to her family was simply wrong, would they have preferred her to have kept it? What would they have had her do?
Presumably, the answer is: publicly declare the entire interest or other involvement or connection from the very start, cramming so much information and detail down lawmakers’ throats that they choke on it. Chan says he did declare the interest internally in line with standard procedures, which do not publicly disclose spouses’ details.
It all looks like an innocent case of buying 20,000 sq ft of agricultural land ‘for family leisure use’ back in the 1990s, then finding – to your embarrassment after your husband ends up as Development Secretary in 2012 – that its value has gone from HK$350,000 to maybe HK$12 million. It could happen to anyone. Or to be precise, as lawmaker Regina Ip inadvertently suggests in her Standard comments about ExCo members and wealth, it could happen to anyone in a system where too many senior government posts are filled from a tiny pool of people who tend to have more money than brains or judgment.
You don’t need to be too much of a conspiracy theorist to detect the hallmarks of the Henry Tang/tycoon reactionary clique having another go at their nemesis, the CY Leung administration. And just days after renegade pro-CY property mogul Ronnie Chan skewered the previous administration’s fiscal policies.
I stand corrected: this is Paul Chan Mega-Scandal Number Four. The Standard helpfully reminds us of the last three. The paper’s ‘Mary Ma’ editorial cheekily invites Chan to stand his ground; to CY’s detractors – virtually the whole spectrum – his haplessness is a gift that would be sorely missed.
Anti-conspiracy types could point out that the Standard (though not its stable-mate Sing Tao) doesn’t put the Chan saga on its front page. The paper leads with remarkably ugly Brit royal Kate Pipperton or whatever she calls herself, who is doing the human race the immense service of producing another generation carrying the combined DNA of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Meanwhile, something a bit odd turns up in the email in-box…
Either someone with extreme mental health problems has gone to the trouble of creating a cruel parody website purporting to be by Hong Kong’s oldest known Anglophone PR guru, Ted Thomas. Or… this really is the venerable Foreign Correspondents Club denizen’s blog-type platform thing. Complete with cheesy ads in the right-hand column.
As well as pictures of the corporate communications virtuoso meeting mid-20th Century embarrassments like the late, dire UK Prime Minister Edward Heath, you can read the curious claim that Thomas and one Barry Lau are doing a Hollywood movie deal with prisoner Tony Chan, of feng-shui/forged will/Nina Wang fame, “…during a visit to his cell…” needless to say.
I really have no idea, but fortunately don’t care either.