A rogues’ gallery

My favourite photo of Albert Yeung, boss of the Emperor entertainment group, has him shaking hands with then-Vice President Zeng Qinghong, as patriotic movie star Jackie Chan looks on. Yeung has noticed that when you enter his name into Google, the search engine’s ever-helpful ‘autocomplete’ function offers to add the word ‘triad’. Upset at this disgraceful and inexplicable slur, he wants to sue. Hong Kong’s high court – perhaps amused at the prospect of Yeung dragging his own name through the mud – gives him the go-ahead. (The judge said a jury might sympathize. I think she does stand-up in her spare time.)

The South China Morning Post initially left its comments section open when it published this story online yesterday. Shutting it down was probably wise. Readers’ views of Yeung and his alleged underworld connections were, let’s say, rather more detailed and heartfelt than any Google autocomplete. (The SCMP’s angle is cautious, to say the least; they present the whole thing as a threat to Google, which the article’s tone implies is some sort of out-of-control rogue due for a come-uppance.)

Will Zeng try to sue Google as well? The autocomplete function (which simply reflects what previous users have searched for most frequently) does not flatter him. He is of course being talked about all over the place in connection with disgraced-to-be ex-Politburo member Zhou Yongkang and a web of corruption that could go all the way up to ex-President Jiang Zemin. All Google’s fault, naturally.

Compared with the Chinese Communist Party’s kleptocrat problems, the Hong Kong civil service is, we are always assured, squeaky clean. But it doesn’t do itself any favours when a high-ranking Lands Department official is found dabbling in speculative multimillion-dollar real-estate transactions. Or as the SCMP puts it: “…buys 13 plots in [an] area she oversees and wins [the] right to build homes from [a] board she sits on.”

Even the government concedes that Lands Dept Assistant Director Anita Lam and husband’s HK$18 million deal might ‘raise public concern’. Technically, she seems to have obeyed the rules on disclosure and conflict of interest, and unless we hear otherwise from law-enforcement authorities, we have to assume that she wasn’t illicitly using insider information for personal gain. But non-technically, it stinks. These bureaucrats get paid very handsomely for ‘serving the community’. If you want to make extra money out of property development, join the private sector and get your hands dirty there.

The red-eye disease that infected ex-Chief Executive Donald Tsang and ex-Chief Secretary Rafael Hui reaches some way down into the bureaucracy. The whole cliquey self-serving establishment ‘elite’ tycoon-bureaucrat thing has tainted civil servants. In the Education Department they send their kids to private schools overseas; in the Transport Department they drive their families everywhere in big black cars and cut suburban bus services to free up road space for themselves; in the Housing Department they own several apartments each; and in the Lands Department Anita Lam finds a spare HK$18 million stuffed down behind the sofa and buys lots just next to an area slated for a new town. But don’t do anything because it might affect their morale.

On the subject of morale, I hear it is seriously sagging in a few Hong Kong workplaces this morning. The United Front’s amazingly well-organized campaign against the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement will be holding a big demonstration on August 17. And workers in some Mainland-linked companies have just been ordered to give up their Sunday, report to a particular registration spot in Victoria Park and join the pseudo-protest against the evil CIA-backed radical splittists’ plot to overthrow one-party rule. Luckier and freer people planning to line the streets and jeer might find it interesting to observe the marchers’ glum mood and an overall lack of ‘festive atmosphere’. Watch out especially for the bosses, some of whom are apparently rather plump and unaccustomed to physical exertion.

Meanwhile, anyone who can’t wait and needs an instant fix of amusement can check out a Standard column called Face to Face. Famous nonentities shoe-shining other famous nonentities are two a penny in the pages of the free newspaper. But now they’re going one better: nonentities you’ve never heard of oozing hideous quantities of ass-licking obsequiousness all over other nonentities you’ve never heard of. Hits a perfect ‘10’on the Slime-ometer.


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