Good staff are so hard to find these days

Never say you don’t get good entertainment value for your Hong Kong tax dollars. Within hours of taking office, the city’s new Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng suffers an almost clichéd slapstick setback when it emerges that her New Territories villa has illegal structures. One minute she is solemnly swearing an oath to uphold the law, the next she is mumbling apologies for causing ‘inconvenience’ and ‘lacking awareness’.

Naturally, the media swarm to the ‘luxury a la Tuen Mun’ residential development off Castle Peak Road. Using drones, public planning records and satellite photos, the sleuth reporters examine the nasty wedged-in boxes perhaps inspired by the 1960s Albanian Coastal-Defence Installation school of architecture. They determine that Teresa Cheng’s abode does indeed have unauthorized back-yard structures, a rooftop ‘glass-house’ and a mystery staircase leading to the netherworld.

Give or take the alleged sinister subterranean stairway, such transgressions of the building codes are pretty normal. But the press also find a secret doorway leading to the adjacent villa. It is a portal to the semi-sordid world of Hong Kong’s lower-second-tier elites’ personal lives.

It transpires that the neighbour is one Otto Poon, an engineer apparently of great fame and repute – and Teresa’s husband who no-one knew she had. Just a year ago Cheng was sleeping with Poon (chez Poon) (told you this would get icky) while both homes were being burgled. We also learn (or are reminded) that Otto’s previous marriage ended in a mega-bucks divorce following family tragedies, plus a 20-year affair he had with an employee.

But wait! There’s more! His company was involved in Macau’s Ao Man-long land corruption scandal 10 years ago (as were big Hong Kong names). And he sits on the Election Committee that rubber-stamps Beijing’s choice for Chief Executive in Hong Kong, in which capacity he nominated Carrie Lam for her ‘election’ last year.

It also transpires that Teresa has a son (presumably by a long-forgotten and never-mentioned ex-husband, because obviously such possibilities as birth out of wedlock or adoption are too mind-blowingly freaky to contemplate).

The squeamish among us might ask how much of her personal life, such as her arrangement with Otto Poon and his own background, is relevant? (Some grubbier media outlets are digging for details about her son, whose description fits a young lawyer.) Does the fact that she is taking a job in which she will oversee the replacement of Hong Kong’s rule of law with Leninist rule by man legitimize what might otherwise be prurience?

(Another question is what government enforcement agencies knew, and when? But that leads to the whole quagmire of New Territories real-estate corruption.)

The real issue is this: in Hong Kong today, very few intelligent people will seriously want to serve in senior government positions, and by the time the Chinese Communist Party has filtered out undesirables, it’s a wonder anyone is left. It could be that Teresa Cheng was reluctant and/or low down the shortlist – and there wasn’t enough time for non-ideological vetting, let alone for the Buildings Department’s sniffer dogs to check for illicit wine cellars. This is why ideas-free, mediocre bureaucrats head up most policy bureaus.

The investigative press/gossip rags obviously timed the publication of this little scandal for maximum effect. Some also see a politically inspired leak. But where from? The United Front has long experience here, but it would release dirt early to stop a target’s progress, or later to eliminate them – not on their first day. Unless, of course, the idea is to derail someone else who is left looking idiotic by the episode, which in this case would be Chief Executive Carrie Lam. If it is any consolation to Carrie, such a conspiracy scenario against her is probably not sufficiently infantile, convoluted or sadistic for the United Front psychos to consider.

On other matters – strictly for Trump-watching language-analysis types and the Turing Test-curious: Who wrote that ‘like, really smart’ Tweet?


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23 Responses to Good staff are so hard to find these days

  1. Madam Poon Tang says:

    Knowing that Mark Simon of Apple Daily/ Next Media is a rabid Trumper, can anyone here who reads Chinese tell me what Apple’s position is on the Trump ‘presidency’ train wreck ?

    Also, I think Hong Kong should build a wall to keep out Americans with fascist tendencies and ask Trump to pay for it.

  2. You make her sound so exciitng.

    Please remember that many many forlorn people – perhaps even yourself – walk down through sad Soho, past the pools of vomit and the fresh dog urine stains, into Central every morning, wishing with all their heart that:


    Pip, pip!

  3. HillnotPeak says:

    Can’t Queenie Law (ex of Otto the neighbor/husband) replace Teresa? Perfect name and can’t be much worse.

  4. Chris Maden says:

    I’ve never heard of the woman, but so what if she’s shacked up with Otto and has an illegal shed? (An aside: the problem is not that people have illegal sheds, it’s that the buildings code is hopelessly out of date.) Surely the point is whether or not she will use the law to promote justice, or use it as a weapon to suppress dissenting views?

  5. old git says:

    Unauthorised alterations and additions mean that when a Hong Kong property is bought or sold, the solicitors acting on both sides are duty bound to investigate the title for them and requisition for title defects to be corrected at the time. Surely the Secretary for Justice should know that and so should her solicitors of the day.

  6. Joe Blow says:

    Why would anyone spend 26 million $ on a pimped up village house in Tuen Mun ? Why would anyone want to live in sunny Tuen Mun in the first place ?

  7. @Joe Blow – to answer your second question, to get well away from the type of people who think anywhere other than Hong Kong Island must be backward and uncivilised.

  8. Chinese Netizen says:

    For such a small talent pool, the shit is armpit deep…

  9. LRE says:

    @Chris Maden

    So we’re off to a great start — new Secretary of Justice doesn’t seem to know how the law works at all but has a strong sense that she is almost certainly above it and it obviously shouldn’t apply to her or her mates.

    As old git points out — the building code is not exactly complicated: the property deed has a map on it stating exactly what’s allowed, and the new territories house regs are actually retardedly simple: 700 sq ft maximum, 3 stories only, 8.23m high, roofed over roof access to not exceed 80 sq ft. Minor confusion arises in how tolerant the authorities are to connected villagers taking the piss, but essentially everything else is illegal, even though chances are you’ll get away with it (unless someone drops a dime on you or you get into high profile public office).

    Also anyone even slightly aware of Hong Kong politics should be aware by now that basements are a problem when applying for public office.

    However I think the real nail in her coffin is that her defence so far — “it was illegal when I bought it” — is somewhat lacking the legal finesse required of anyone outside of kindergarten, let alone a Secretary for Justice.

    Or as Hunter S Thompson put it: “In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.”

    So much for promoting justice and rule of law. Looks like we’re already leaning heavily towards the other option you mentioned.

  10. LRE says:

    Also lovely juxtaposition in the Big Lychee twitter feed — SCMP OpEd pro-kleptocrat calling for nobody in HKU to ever be involved in any political activity followed by story of HKU outgoing chancellor being constantly hounded by the Liaison Office.

  11. pie-chucker says:

    *On Boxing Day in 2016, Cheng’s and Poon’s houses were robbed, with Cheng missing HK$3 million in cash and valuables, and Poon missing HK$13,000 in cash and golden coins.*

    Who would have $3 million in cash and valuables there for the nicking in a NT house?
    From my gaffe the blighters would get away with $450 (on a good day), a $100 watch and an old Nokia.

    If I was awash in wealth, as Teresa obviously is, I’d get one of those hotel safes.

    The higher you climb in government, the greater the disconnect with any semblance of reality – or common sense. And these are the panjandrums who ostensibly direct policy and justice.

  12. Madam Poon Tang says:

    Since Jimmy Lai knowingly employs neo-Nazi Trumper Mark Simon, I have no more respect for Jimmy Lai whatsoever. Because in my view, anyone who opposes Commie totalitarian rule (a good thing) but at the same time endorses Nazi/ fascist views (like Trump) loses any claim to decency and the ‘ freedom and apple pie’ argument.

    Shit = shit.

    80,000,000 people lost their lives in WW II.

  13. Din Gao says:

    Her CV states that she served as Deputy Judge / Recorder in the Court of First Instance of the High Court of Hong Kong from 2011 to 2017.
    During this time she owned and occupied a mansion now believed to have an illegal basement although it might be another wine cellar a la Henry.
    One wonders if she ever adjudicated any cases involving illegal structures during her time on the bench…
    Even if she did not, she took this oath:
    The Judicial Oath
    I swear that, in the Office of a Judge of the Judiciary of the Hong Kong Special
    Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, I will uphold the
    Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s
    Republic of China, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative
    Region of the People’s Republic of China, serve the Hong Kong Special
    Administrative Region conscientiously, dutifully, in full accordance
    with the law, honestly and with integrity, safeguard the law and administer
    justice without fear or favour, self-interest or deceit.
    Perhaps she did not understand it…
    Now she has taken another:
    I swear that, in the office of (office) of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, I will uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and serve the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region conscientiously, dutifully, in full accordance with the law, honestly and with integrity.

  14. Herr Torquewrench says:

    How come Ms Cheng had three million in cash? Surely any legal transaction she might have been involved in would be handled by a bank? If, on the other hand, it had been acquired by, er, ‘informal’ means, it would be rather difficult to deposit in a bank because such amounts have to be accounted for.

  15. Paul says:

    How come the Lands Department sent officers with notebooks and cameras to her home within 24 hours.
    If I complained about my neighbors presumed illegal structures, would they act so fast?
    Similar to the yellow banners being unfurled on Lion Rock. Police act within several hours, and Fire Services Offices arrive by helicopter to remove said banner.
    All done within 4 hours !

  16. Citizen says:

    Mark Simon is not a Trump fan. He’s more of a Kristol conservative.

  17. Stanley Lieber says:


    That’s right. Mr. Trump was his last choice. Only Hillary was worse.

  18. Madam Poon Tang says:

    @Citizen: that’s not what I learned from Mr. Simon’s Twitter feed (before he blocked me and called me a moron).

  19. Madam Poon Tang says:

    “Mr. Trump was his last choice. Only Hillary was worse.”

    Hillary Clinton was a top 100 lawyer in the USA when she was still practicing (Rose law firm in Little Rock). There is probably no other person in the USA who has a better understanding of American health care. She was the Secretary of State, visiting over 100 countries.

    Donald Trump weaseled out of the Vietnam draft with a fake reason. He imported 2 East European mail order brides / hookers. He went bankrupt at least 4 times. He is closely connected to the New York mob. Former New York mayor Bloomberg called him a con man and a liar who was out to stiff anyone he did business with.

    Knowing this and still preferring Trump over Clinton just shows what a degenerate person you really are.

  20. Madam Poon Tang says:

    Oh, and by the way, lest we forget, Mr. Simon: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million. That’s the part of the vote that the Russians couldn’t tamper with. Remember the Russians, Mr. Simon ? Those Russian guys that your father fought against while serving in US intelligence.

  21. Ex cop says:

    Both Houses are supposed to be 1,379 sq feet (gee that’s small)
    House 4 illegal additions: Teresa Cheng HKD 26m
    Roof 3.5 x 2m (7m2) 75.348 sq feet
    G/F 0.5 x 5m (2.5m2) 26.910 sq feet
    Basement 538 sq feet
    Total 640.258 sq feet (an increase of 46.429% over legal floor area)

    House 3 illegal additions Otto’s grotto HKD 27m
    Roof 3.5 x 2m (7m2) 75.348 sq feet
    1+2 F 1 x 5 x 7.5(37.5m2) 403.65 sq feet
    Pool 5 x 2.5m (12.5m2) 134.55 sq feet
    Basement 538 sq feet
    Canopies 129 sq feet
    Total 1280.548 sq feet (an increase of 92.86% over legal floor area)

    Not listed by SCMP are a balcony at the front of House 4 and pool feature in the garden
    HOUSE 3 Otto Grotto 15 OCT 2012 27m Previous owner was ? who built the add-ons?
    HOUSE 4 19 MAY 2007 9.8m Previous owner name was ? who built the add-ons?
    6 months later + Profit 3.9m
    HOUSE 4 29 NOV 2007 12.7m Previous owner name was ? who built the add-ons?
    10 months later + Profit 13.3m
    HOUSE 4 30 SEP 2008 26m Previous owner name was ? who built the add-ons?
    Seems she has been ‘too busy’ for 10 years and 3 months since she bought the house to remove the additions she claimed were already there – were the basements being used ?
    for what ? who did the extension works and when? Are Justice Ministers supposed to have integrity or hypocrisy?
    So assuming conviction in court for the pair, will they have criminal records ?

  22. Ex cop says:

    Donald Trump went Chapter 11 already 6 times
    In 2008 his 7th Chapter 11 time was due until Rybolovlev suddenly paid USD96m for a dump Trump bought in Palm Beach for USD 41m
    Rybo never saw or visited the dump before buying it, then knocked down the house without living in it and sold the lot in 3 parcels at a loss
    Trump campaign sponsored by the Mercer family who also owns Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica, now also a chunk of Time Mag
    Some months back Rybo’s yacht and Mercer’s yacht were anchored next to each other in BVI
    Trump Jr stated to the press in 2008 a major share of their income came from Russians – now they are denying it
    Trump Org Money laundering by russkies and others buying overpriced property is being actively investigated by Mueller
    Felix Sater has flipped on Trump
    To date the Secret Service (which has to rent golf buggies at Trump golf courses) spent
    USD 80k paid to the Trump Org
    Every visit to Mar a Largo costs the septic tank public USD 400k per trip plus the cost of the Air Force to transport the Beast
    US banks refuse to lend to Trump so his main banker Deutsche Bank is now under investigation (again)
    Rybolovlev was the main shareholder of money laundering Bank of Cyprus on whose board and shareholder list was Wilbur Ross
    Rybo’s jet shadowed Trump’s jet during the campaign
    It gets worse …

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