Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Donald in the Doghouse Again

Royal Tulip Brasilia Alvorada's presidential suite living room
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen claims he's repentant about accepting free rides on yachts and meals from his tycoon buddies.

But not when it comes to official trips.

His office admitted Tsang stayed in a $6,900 presidential suite during an official visit to Brazil earlier this month.

That's in US dollars, not Hong Kong dollars. And guess who paid for that? Us taxpayers.

"The so-called presidential suite is just a name, coming in different standards in different hotels," a spokesman said.

If a room costs $6,900 we would definitely expect a presidential suite with all the trimmings.

The spokesman added there were no guidelines as to what kind of accommodation the chief executive should stay in during official trips.

And we only find this out now, almost 15 years after the handover?

The $6,500 a night presidential suite bedroom
The hotel in question is the Royal Tulip Brasilia Alvorada, which is centrally located in a safe area and is experienced in hosting state leaders, the spokesman said.

"Other suites in that hotel were too small to meet practical needs, such as holding internal meetings and receiving local representatives," he said. The 350-square-metre suite with private access also has a main living room, balcony and meeting room, which avoided the need to rent a conference room, the spokesman said.

However, according to the government website, Tsang met local representatives outside the hotel.

This compares with Premier Wen Jiabao, who on his trip to Hong Kong in 2003, refused to stay in the presidential suite and instead opted for a cheaper room in the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong hotel.

Since April last year, Tsang has spent HK$4.2 million on nine official visits, not including Brazil.

Interestingly on his next stop in Sao Paulo, Tsang stayed in the Renaissance Sao Paulo Hotel, and paid $1,250 for one night, but chose not to stay in the presidential suite.

This haphazard choice of ultra expensive hotel rooms and then relatively moderate ones is so bizarre but even more strange is the fact that there are no rules in place as to the budget the chief executive should follow when traveling on official visits.

The balcony overlooking the water from the presidential suite
So for the past 15 years we the taxpayers have allowed our leader to stay in basically whatever place they want regardless of the cost.

Tsang is not the President of the United States, nor is he a despot.

But surely some guidelines should be set in place in terms of costs balancing security needs, and if the chief executive insists on a more expensive hotel room he should at least pay the difference out of his own pocket.

That's how things work in the developed world. And Hong Kong is considered in the developed world, right?

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