Sympathy for Sir Bow-Tie as self-pity

Hong Kong weeps and sobs upon reading pleas for leniency on behalf of former Chief Executive Donald Tsang, convicted of misconduct. Who cannot feel tears welling as ex-Justice Secretary Wong Yan-lun submits a 10-page letter to the court, and Chief Executive-in-waiting Carrie Lam ends her appeal with the phrase ‘Yours humbly’?

When ex-Chief Secretary Rafael Hui was convicted of bribery and misconduct a few years ago, people wondered how and why a highly paid senior official would succumb to temptation. One theory was that top bureaucrats socialized too readily with our mega-billionaire property tycoons and became mesmerized by the vastly different scale of wealth (private jets, etc) enjoyed by the lucky families who run our real-estate cartel. Moral hazard ensued.

It makes sense. Our officials have limited accountability and great discretionary power involving matters like land use. There are few formal firewalls to keep businessmen and officials apart (top bureaucrats hobnob with plutocrat ‘elites’ on first-name terms at the Jockey Club as a mark of status). The Chinese Communist Party sees co-opted tycoons as a key part of its local power base. One of Carrie Lam’s first tasks on deciding to ‘run’ in the pseudo-election was to call on the Real Estate Developers Association for a grovel-fest. Tycoons have every incentive to cultivate officials, and the system enables cronyism virtually by default. Rafael and Donald suffered lapses in willpower.

Yesterday, we used the word ‘corrupted’ to describe the damage Chief Executive CY Leung has done to Hong Kong’s public services and sphere. Aloof from Hong Kong’s tycoons, his only buddies have been Beijing’s Liaison Office and its United Front operations. His achievement has been to turn the police and other public agencies into political weapons in a fight to impose Leninist Mainlandization on the city.

The cries for mercy for Sir Bow-Tie can be seen as a not-so veiled attack on CY – even from Carrie, certainly from fellow-CE-wannabe John Tsang, from rebellious ex-official Anson Chan, from veteran pan-democrats, and perhaps on behalf of everyone except Beijing’s devout Communist faithful, who are nowhere to be seen. Jake van der Kamp’s column captures the mood: he (obliquely) hints that the prosecution was vindictiveness by Sir Bow-Tie’s successor, and concludes with an anecdote testifying to Donald’s loyalty to the Hong Kong core values CY is trying to destroy.

Even those of us who are less tolerant of overpaid officials’ foibles can sympathize. If Beijing’s mission to smother and absorb Hong Kong continues, we will look back with longing at leaders whose biggest betrayal was to pocket a free apartment.


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18 Responses to Sympathy for Sir Bow-Tie as self-pity

  1. WTF says:

    A battle between two forms of corrupt cronyism. One that believed in Neo-liberalism (ala UK) being bashed by one that is Neo-Facists (ala CCP). Seems to be the flavor of the month all over this planet.

    Nice to see Eddie Ng may finally be out, but for the wrong reasons. All the things wrong with the Education Dept are because corruption under the British simply began to flourish under Donald’s agenda to become CE, and then over ran the place under Lufsig’s cronyism. Remove Eddie alone and the corruption remains solid.

  2. Revolution says:

    Van Der Kamp’s column may capture the mood amongst those who are involved in, or turn a blind eye to, the corruption and other problems that arise out of crony capitalism, but most people I’ve spoken to about the case are pleased that Tsang has been punished for a crime that he has committed. These are not trumped up charges – they are real. What level of crime should we turn a blind eye to, Jake?

    The case itself gives a terrific example of the rotten system at work. There will be a re-trial on the charge the jury could not agree on. The case on that charge was flawed because the ICAC, for reasons best known to themselves, decided not to interview David Li because, shock horror, BEA had hired lawyers to accompany other staff to interviews and wanted to see draft statements. In other words, BEA did exactly what every other big company does when faced with an ICAC investigation (and were well within their rights to do so). Note also that the other BEA staff did not exercise their right to remain silent. Why did the ICAC behave differently in this case? I wonder….

    Then you have Li Ka Shing saying that he won’t nominate any CE candidate because he knows all 4 of them well. There you have it. It’s all very cosy.

    The tragedy is that when you get a CE who actively hates all these people he spends the vast majority of his time making things worse, not better, for anyone else.

  3. reductio says:

    And let’s not forget it was under the Don’s inspiring vision that we have chucked a zillion dollars into that money pit called the HKZ bridge at the instigation of Gordon Wu.


    I think the reason they didn’t go after Big Dave is for the same reason the government decided not to prosecute Sally Au years ago, she knew too much and would spill the beans and he would do the same.

  4. HillnotPeak says:

    I still don’t understand why a person who made hundred of thousands a month for decades, wants to retire in some shitty building in cosmopolitan Shenzhen. It just doesn’t make sense.

  5. CCC says:

    Rafael Hui’s only lapse in willpower was when he decided to do some work rather than go round to see Thomas for a few million so he could go to Japan or London or buy some thing for his floozies in Shanghai. He never was straight.

    Donald is just a silly little man in comparison. A pious undergrown schoolboy panicking over retirement. And who wouldn’t when his and other governments did naff all for old people and social welfare. Now he is for once out of the free air conditioning, he can’t breathe, poor love.

    Read my great opus on Raffy and Thomas., THE HUI BOYS on SCRIBD..COM

    And queue now for my LAST EXIT TO STANLEY, my account of the Donald trial.

    You see, there is stuff going on more interesting than Carrie, Peking and CY.

    Pip, pip!

  6. Chris Maden says:

    @Revolution – well said.

    I’ve said it before. Hong Kong’s best hope is that Beijing simply appoint a senior mainland CCP person as mayor. He’d be outside the system, and the messages going back to Beijing at least wouldn’t be a whole bunch of emperor’s clothes.

    As to Donald, he’s both perpetrator and victim. It’ll be interesting to see where CY’s allegedly shady Australian business dealings get handled.

  7. Dawkins. says:

    Carrie’s pleading letter was sickening. She even had the gall to suggest that because Donald is Catholic, he should be treated with leniency. I thought the point about being religious was so you’d know right from wrong. Perhaps his brain was not in receive mood when God spoke to him. Anyway, he’s now playing the sick card to avoid more jail time.

  8. LRE says:

    “No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion.” Dr H S Thompson.

  9. Maugrim says:

    I don’t have much sympathy for Tsang, who presided over a city where a minor civil servant or similar, can have their career ruined by a few paltry dollars.

  10. Stephen says:

    Donald displayed a sense of arrogant entitlement throughout his time as CE. When he travelled he got the Presidential Suite, If you wanted a meeting with him you had to first agree to agree with him (Christine Loh), when he snapped his fingers and demanded the Philippine President come to the phone (during the Manila Bus Hostage Tragedy) and when the Philippine President didn’t, cue black travel warning. So it went on to Private Jets, Yachts, Banquets and a 6,000 sq.ft mansion.
    The ‘pleading for mercy’ letters are revealing and goes to show how intertwined the establishment are – whether they be Senior Civil Servants, Property Cartel or someone who flits between the two – younger brother?
    Lastly don’t hold your breath for CY Leung to face charges over his GBP5M windfall from UGL. The ICAC has been gutted and you are going to need a particular kind of CE to press the DoJ into action. Carrie is not. Donald crossed CY in 2012 by supporting Henry and leaking something inconsequential about CY and the West Kowloon Waterfront. CY is that particular kind of CE.

  11. CCC says:

    Good stuff Stephen. But I’m not so pessimistic about seeing CY up at Court 7 on the 5 th floor soon. There’s lots of traction in the Department of Justice. And when real politics start to bite Carrie, she will love a focus of the public’s hate such as the Transylvanian.

    As we say in the lobby of the 5th floor: All the way with DOJ!

  12. Joe Blow says:

    A few months ago, on a dark Wednesday evening, I wandered into St Joseph’s Church in Garden Road at 6PM. The church was virtually empty. I sat in the front row at the end of a long wooden bench. After a minute or so I noticed a little man at the other end of the long bench. He was dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, with a tatty looking gym bag. Yup, it was Donald. At the end of the Mass (lasted only 25 minutes) he walked to the door and shook the priest’s hand. I was right behind him. He looked over his shoulder and gave me a big smile. Fortunately he didn’t ask me for an autograph. Then he walked downstairs and into the parking lot, kind of forlorn.

    I have never been a fan of Donald, although I thought he did a great job at the time of the Asian financial crisis. Now I feel a bit sad.

  13. Laguna Lurker says:

    @Stephen: Your reference to a “younger brother” is somewhat opaque.

    Allow me to shed light on the fact that Donald TSANG occupied the office of Chief Secretary (1 May 2001 – 31 May 2005) very shortly after his younger brother, Ambrose TSANG Yam-pui, was made Commissioner of Police (2 Jan 2001 – 9 Dec 2003).

    In June 2003, New World Development wanted to convert the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre car park into a used car venue. After TSANG Yam-pui became director, and Donald Tsang became chief executive, the demand by New World was approved.

    Need we dig any deeper?

  14. Mary Melville says:

    To square the circle on the HKCEC car park, the police allow cars to idle along Harbour Road with impunity, often directly in front of the sign showing the number of vacant spaces within the parking facility.
    This allows NWD to claim that the parking facilities are in excess to demand in the district and apply for renewal of the used car floor every 3 years.
    Not only is the lower floor contracted out, there is a suspicious number of Ferraris under wraps permanently parked on the middle level.
    Objections from members of the public to TPB on the latest renewal of lease were shot down despite the fact that the site is zoned GIC, and, if not required for parking, one floor at least should be converted to public recreational use.
    This is the same TPB that since Nov has eliminated public objections from the minutes of its meetings under the banner of ‘streamlining’.
    From now there will effectively be no public record of public comments even when the application is for controversial developments, like the HKCEC used car facility and NWD’s application to build private housing on Green Belt at Wang Chau.
    Neat eh?

  15. WTF says:

    Per Mary, anyone who is harbouring the idea that Carrie “Where’s mine?” Lam isn’t a crook, should be clear now from her letter to the court on Donald that He hasn’t done anything that Hara Carrie hasn’t. Her dislike for Lufsig has more to do with his stepping on her retirement income, as well as the potential threat to her freedom that his wolfpack represented.

  16. dimuendo says:

    Disagree with most of the sentiments expressed here.

    Yes, Donald was a pampered, arrogant, man who has played Icarus – and has he fallen.

    But charge on which convicted is trivial beyond belief. Not even an allegation that Donald’s approval of the licence was wrong!

    As for sentence, farcical. On what basis 20 (or 30) months? If you want to send him to prison then 6 months.

    He has obviously offended somebody powerful up north, far more than CY.

    As for judge saying no difference for the rich, Donald while very comfortable is not rich by HK standards. Unlike David Li, from a powerful and connected family. Li not co-operating is one thing, but ICAC deciding not to question him!

    Only cavets I have as to the above are
    a) Donald employing rafael, who must have known was an irresponsible wastrel at best
    b) choosing not to give evidence

    Plus, not impressed by his opting to listen to interpreter in Cantonese. The guy speaks excellent English and has had a very expensive and privileged education, at taxpayer’s expense, while a civil servent. Presumably the earphones were if he had ultimately opted to give evidnce, and thus give him time to think (and be one of the oppressed etc)

    Agree with van der Krap that our esteemed secretary for Injustice is appalling; does not know what justice means, let alone how to spell it.

    PS Where can I read the mitigation lettrs?

  17. dimuendo says:


    Thank you. Seen Wong, Carrie and moustache (in translation) letters by doing a google search which produced an SCMP page/article that appears not to be in the print copy.

    Be interesting to see the others.

    General tenor on comments of here (and Turs) is Donald et al spoilt and deserve what they get. Maybe, but I do not see how 20/30 months is appropriate for a none disclosure of something where there is no complaint that all (other) due process was observed and result not questioned.

    Also, to echo Donald’s line through Clare Montgoemery, just do not understand why Carrie and moustache are so keen to be chief executive and directly in the firing line.

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