Friday, 30 March 2012

Fall From Grace

Is Hong Kong turning into China?

We have a Chief Executive-elect who some people claim is a closet Communist, our current Chief Executive is being investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for getting too close to his tycoon friends, and now two billionnaire brothers arrested and later released by the ICAC.

The last story was shocking on many fronts. Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 59, and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, 58, control Hong Kong's biggest property developer, Sun Hung Kai. Also arrested was former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan, 64.

It is alleged the brothers benefited from Hui's knowledge of confidential information while he was in and out of government.

Some believe the tip off came from the Kwok brothers' estranged sibling Walter Kwok Ping-sheung who left the company in 2008 claiming his brothers ousted him.

Ten days earlier Sun Hung Kai's executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen was arrested for bribery by the ICAC.

Until now Sun Hung Kai was considered a sterling company, winning many corporate governance awards, and the bothers were known to be workaholics who paid close attention to detail on their projects.

Meanwhile Hui was also a career civil servant who advised Donald Tsang Yam-kuen during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, then helped get Tsang elected Chief Executive in 2005 and was duly rewarded with the job of chief secretary.

It is believed Hui was carrying debts of some HK$100 million that the ICAC is investigating.

Since land is at a premium in Hong Kong, it's no wonder property developers are keen to gain any insider knowledge they can get from anyone in government circles.

How the mighty have fallen.

James Sung Lap-kung, a political observer at City University, said this latest investigation was a severe blow to Hui's otherwise stellar reputation and that of the government.

"Coupled with what happened to Tsang, who is also under investigation by the ICAC for receiving hospitality from tycoons, the two most powerful people in the government [from 2005 to 2007] have been involved in corruption allegations. It's inevitable the public will cast doubt on the government's determination to remain clean," Sung said.

"Hui was born into an influential Macau family. The public might wonder if relations between the government officials and businessmen were too close."

Sun Hung Kai stocks plunged 15 percent losing $5.8 billion in value today following the brothers' arrests.

We will have to wait and see the outcome of this investigation, but it seems the three parties involved will not come out unscathed.

It's very disappointing to see these corruption allegations happening so close to each other as well as the relationships involved. Isn't Hong Kong supposed to be a fair place to do business?

With Tsang and now Hui being investigated, it seems there are not enough checks and balances in place for government officials post 1997.

Many people are clamouring for the British to come back.

Are Hong Kong people really that bad at governing themselves?


  1. To my mind, so long as the mighty are not immune to being arrested and made to pay when they commit criminal acts, I'll have faith in Hong Kong. It's when major corruption by big wigs go unpunished that Hong Kong will become like China/much of the rest of Asia.

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