Swiss bank accounts and strings of pearls

Hong Kong’s former Security Secretary Regina Ip falls victim to an email hacking attack that resulted in US$65,000 being transferred from her Swiss bank account.


Some interesting things to note… It wouldn’t have happened if fellow establishment bigwig MTR Chairman Raymond Chien hadn’t previously been hacked, or if she had treated an HSBC-boxemail attachment purportedly from him with suspicion. Lessons for us all. Also, it wouldn’t have happened if she were using a local Hong Kong bank account, as the regulators require a far more secure online funds-transfer rigmarole involving magic personal password-generating black boxes, which many of us find irritating but must admit seems effective. Then there’s the Swiss bank account thing. Can you get any more 1970s? I thought in these days of international cooperation against money laundering and tax-dodging, Alpine banking secrecy belongs to movies.

Touchingly, Regina assures her adoring public that there is no way the hackers could have accessed sensitive and secret Executive Council documents. It is true that all proceedings of Hong Kong’s top policymaking body are confidential. But it is also obvious, if you monitor these things, that ExCo papers contain the same mendacious, self-serving gibberish on constitutional reform, land supply, etc, etc as the government’s freely available press releases, and that ExCo non-executive members are, if anything, more prone than the general public to swallow the half-truths.

The other big story: mega-tycoon Li Ka-shing is thinking of selling off part of his global sea port holdings. For the South China Morning Post it qualifies as both a general news and a business story. There was a time when the angle for general readers would focus on the myth that Li’s empire of cartelized or natural-monopoly interests contributed to, rather than skimmed off from, Hong Kong’s wealth – and we would be invited to quake with fear that the great man might pull out of Hong Kong and leave us to our fate. But under Xi Jinping, China’s leadership seems less infatuated with grasping rent-seeking plutocrats (or at least with our grasping rent-seeking plutocrats). The press follow Beijing’s cue (even if the media owners are themselves grasping rent-seeking plutocrats – yet again, we see that he who lives by the shoe-shine, dies by the shoe-shine).

Li got into worldwide ports around the time the Great 1990s Globalization Frenzy took off and international trade increased massively. That phase of world economic history is now over, and for future growth you move on. Li is after assets in Europe. The continent where debt and a lunatic shared currency are plunging nations into penury while, in the popular imagination, aging and Islamic time-bombs are ticking loudly. Where others see doom, Li sees an essentially stable, democratic, free, innovative and prosperous – and big – market going cheap. Think in decades.

A few extra ingredients spice the story up. There was a time when a Hong Kong property tycoon would count on a pliant bureaucracy to rezone his old utilities/transport infrastructure land for residential/commercial use, and make billions in profit. With the Pearl River Delta re-export thing now a sunset industry, his container port space in western Kowloon is ripe for such a transformation. Li apparently calculates that the rules of this game (which gave us Whampoa Gardens, Taikoo Shing, Times Square etc) are changing. But maybe not for big Chinese state-owned conglomerates, already co-owners.

To spice things up even more, some of the Hutchison Ports terminals are in far-flung, exotic parts of the world of the sort that Beijing’s strategists fantasize about as ‘string of pearls’ naval bases. As its (over-) eagerness to develop port facilities in Sri Lanka suggested, China may like the idea of civilian shipping hubs doubling up as military outposts to serve the dozens of PLA aircraft carriers and submarines that will be valiantly ruling the waves in years to come. Host nations might have different ideas, of course, but if you’re looking to portray value in Li’s port holdings, it’s worth a try.

As he should: the asking price is considered pretty steep. Whatever happened to ‘friendship prices’?

Looking ahead to a possible election bid by the old girl, I declare the weekend open with top-secret evidence (no email hacks involved) of Regina Ip back in her glorious ‘Broomhead’ days accepting mysterious gifts from senior US military contacts…


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17 Responses to Swiss bank accounts and strings of pearls

  1. dimuendo says:

    Why does Regina have a Swiss bank account anyway?

    How much is in it?

    From where?

  2. Monkey Reborn says:

    Classic broomhead pic … Hemmers, i believe you might have unearthed a secret double-sleeper CIA/MI6 agent, the spearhead of the evil foreign forces nefariously working to destabilize and undermine the Glorious Proletarian Revolution in the Chinese People’s bastion of Xianggang.

    Ps 50 bucks says if Greece is forced out of the Eurozone this year, we will see renegotiation of Greece NATO port bases in favour of a joint or shared bases for the Russkis/Chinese in 2016 or 2017.

  3. Maugrim says:

    Tut tut that’s rather distrustful of the Motherlands’ banking system? Why oh why would she ever need funds outside of China?

  4. Joe Blow says:

    The biggest news from Vagina’s story is that, apparently, she has a friend.

    Apart from that: it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.

  5. Chris Maden says:

    Couldn’t have happened to a nicer head of Security branch.

    What is an ex-civil servant doing with a Swiss bank account? I thought those were for people with financial secrets to hide. Oh, hang on….

  6. gumshoe says:

    (Jerry Seinfeld voice) And you want to be my Chief Executive…

  7. NIMBY says:

    Vagina’s just letting the PRC know she’s qualified to be CE, but she forgot the normal way to give one’s Swiss Account # to a PRC official is inside a Moon Cake. Traditions are important my dear.

    There are so many princelings in Switzerland or Lichtenstein at any one moment that those two areas are now considered provinces of the great empire.

  8. Scotty Dotty says:

    For all the kowtow shoe-shining to Peking, it’s quite remarkable how Regina-in-English is such a snob. With an acquired English accent like hers you know why the Swiss bank account is needed.

    At least Li Ka-Shing doesn’t have a snobbish thing.

  9. PD says:

    With a Chief of Security displaying such a total lack of personal security, no wonder that on the box she looks like a rabbit caught in your headlights.

  10. Cassowary says:

    Tsang Yok-sing says the reason why we can’t get rid of the functional constituencies is because the government wouldn’t have enough supporters. The assumption being, Hong Kong’s government will always be so crap that the only people who would ever support it are vested interests under orders from Beijing.

    This means that a) even with a pre-vetted elected CE, there is no chance of the government carrying out policies that would actually make it popular because it will continue to serve vested interests; b) the vested interests are so blatantly crooked that they stand no chance of buying elections fair and square through excessive campaign donations and misleading advertising; and c) Beijing wants to determine which vested interests get rewarded and which don’t so it can order them around.

  11. Chinese Netizen says:

    @Cassowary: Ah, but after reading Chugani’s not-too-subtle “I’ve finally snapped and can’t-take-it-anymore” rant yesterday about a totalitarian dictatorship being a more preferential form of government in HK, I can actually see through his fogged lens frothing and might actually even agree a CCP house cleaning of the HKSAR government could produce something…anything…that would break the morass that is a way of life now in “Asia’s World City”.
    After all…there are SOME cities in the mainland that are pretty well managed where the population are quite satisfied (really!) with the management and administration, DESPITE them being appointed CCP apparatchiks.

  12. Bystander says:

    Wanker Jones strikes again (SCMP, Feb 7, 2015)

    Wanker Jones’ (D. Wanker-Jones) mutterings continue. Functional constituencies have to be kept.

    I am wondering if said Wanker Jones had a hand in creating Functional Constituencies and the NT Native Small House Policy among other debacles ? He is about that vintage.

    Whoever came up with the idea of Functional Constituencies ? Modeled on 19th Century Britain, they have certainly skewed our democracy in a fatal way, and have given rise to our poisoned chalice of filibustering as the order of our day. Even if they had some use at one time, why were the dangers confronting us today not seen, and why was the very undemocratic concept not monitored and exterminated at an appropriate time (answer : PRC latched on to them). If Wanker was not a Brit, I might see some cunning plot, but since he is a Brit, it is probably just incompetence and a little Englander at work.

    Regarding the NT Small House Policy, why would people like Wanker Jones ever countenance it, as it discriminates de iure against women, Hong Kong Islanders and Kowlooners, bolsters the Kuk’s powers as well as being open to abuse (which it was, thank you very much). Was Wanker Jones having too much of a jolly colonial time not to notice Martin Luther King’s assasination, LBJ’s Great Society project in 1964 and ironically, his Voting Rights Act ? How can Hong Kong create an ‘invidious discrimination’ in favor of males and residents of a particular locality in 1972 against this backdrop ? Mindless.

    Rather than his pompous prognostications, should we not have a law to scoop back pension payments of dopes who have got us into this mess ? After all, there were the Nuremberg trials.

  13. Knownot says:

    A sturdy loyalist
    In patriotic ranks,
    She put some funds aside
    Safely in Swiss Francs.
    Not so safely.
    A rather large amount
    By a simple ploy
    Was hacked from her account.
    With all due respect
    For the moral rigour
    And the probity
    Of this public figure,
    I wonder why she did it.
    What is there to fear
    With the stable system
    That she praises here?
    Regina, please assure me
    You’ve done nothing wrong:
    Your money’s overseas,
    Your heart is in Hong Kong.

  14. Cassowary says:

    I can only imagine that the answer is “it seemed like a good idea at the time”.

    The Small House Policy was implemented to buy the Kuk’s support for New Town construction in the 1970s. Give up farmland, get building rights unto the nth generation.

    Functional constituencies were invented because after signing the Joint Declaration, the Brits wanted to make Legco (which had always been fully appointed) look marginally more democratic without giving the Great Unwashed the right to vote.

    Besides, once they left it wouldn’t be their problem anymore, so why not?

  15. Joe Blow says:

    @Cass: if China can break their promises re. democracy and erections than the Hong Kong government can just as easily break their “eternal promise” re. Small House Policy. Time to get rid of that anachronistic policy, including the right of males only to build their ugly ‘Spanish villas’. Didn’t Mao proclaim that wimmin ‘held up half of the sky’, or something ?

    I am no friend of “Christine @ $220,000 per month”, but she was quite right to oppose the ‘males only’ thing. Of course, now that she is in the government, which sucks the cock of the Kuk, you won’t hear that opposition voice anymore.

    Speaking of: Professor Cheung is breaking ranks and will join the pan-dems cocktail party. Any chance Christine220000 will join him ?

  16. NIMBY says:

    Move over Vagina, some members of the Democratic Party want to get into the stupid boat with you.
    The unimaginative stupidity of ordering toilet paper from China instead of Taiwan, Korea, Thailand or Vietnam? One wonders if the factory owner is a moron too, or got a lot more cash in advance than the Dems are indicating.

  17. Scotty Dotty says:

    @ Bystander

    Oh yes, Aching-Bones is all over a slew of messy decisions. Much like Alan Semen if it wasn’t for the Empire he would have been nothing more than some dreadful salesman in London or some such. Couldn’t make it in the Foreign Office so he hyphenated his name (as an adult, oh dear) and fudged it in the Colonial Service.

    How the fook he was knighted, there’s no explaining fails like that.

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