Gathering Nuts In May

As I review the events of March and April in order to produce a new diary entry, I cannot help but ask the question: what on earth were they all thinking?

The most shocking news concerned the former Commissioner for the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Timothy Tong. An audit report disclosed the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars on lavish banquets for mainland officials, purchase of gifts such as moon cakes for them, over 20 trips to the mainland (where predecessors and successors had found the need to make none or few).

This report was followed by allegations of arriving late for work, boiling Chinese herbs in the office, taking afternoon naps etc.

Many serving and former ICAC colleagues felt badly let down. Having joined the Operations department in 1974 in response to the first public recruitment advertisement (I was a member of Induction Course 1A), and after three years there serving a further three in the Corruption Prevention Department, I was one of those who felt betrayed. My feelings showed through in a special extra column for the SCMP.

Then there was Hong Kong’s longest strike since the handover, by our port workers. Apart from the lack of a pay rise for many years, the dispute highlighted the extraordinarily primitive working conditions (no meal breaks, no access to proper toilets or toilet breaks, they pee in the Harbour for goodness’ sake, etc). In the 21st century? In Asia’s World City?

A powerful indictment of their employers and a Labour Department that sat idly by. Once again, meat for another strongly worded article.

As someone who has to cast around for a new subject to write about every two weeks, I suppose I should be grateful for the steady stream of material crying out for comment. Maybe. But frankly I would rather have done without either of these.