17 September 2019
Joseph Yam has plenty of ideas about protecting Hong Kong's status as a prime financial hub. Photo: HKEJ
Joseph Yam has plenty of ideas about protecting Hong Kong's status as a prime financial hub. Photo: HKEJ

Just a few musings about Joseph Yam

It is not often that a man gifts another male a self-made art piece in a show of friendship. And it’s even rarer that both publicly recommend each other for the top job in the city.

But then take a look at the extraordinary mutual affinity that was on display between Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, the former chief of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and Henry Tang Ying-yen, the city’s former chief secretary, over the weekend.

During a book release function, Tang said Yam is eminently qualified to join the race for the chief executive election, advising his “good brother” to contest in the 2017 poll. The comment came after Yam suggested that Tang — who lost to CY Leung in the 2012 election — run again for the top job.

At the book fair to launch his new book “Be vigilant to danger in time of peace”, Yam also gifted to Tang a wooden art piece — called “Endless Chain” — as a mark of their eternal friendship.

How sweet! Who says relationships between men can’t fall into the realm of mush?

We are not sure if the two men acted deliberately to advocate each other’s political path, or if it was merely some form of the Hong Kong style “you scratch my back, I scratch yours”. Yam and Tang are both are Grand Bauhinia medal winners who were once popular with their followers.

Let’s just say Yam, who had the free time to write a book after his retirement — he sits on the boards of just two listed firms (including China Construction Bank) apart from holding a part-time teaching job — is qualified and interested in running for the chief executive post.

What changes can he bring to Hong Kong that will make Beijing happy?

Well, for one, Hong Kong can be reinvigorated as a financial center – this time taking it way past New York and London because more “through-trains” can be flagged off from the mainland.  

Forget worries about London overtaking Hong Kong as the largest offshore yuan trading center. Yam will make sure that a better deal is cut for Hong Kong. Or, he may just buy up the London renminbi operations, just like the HKEx deal for the London Metal Exchange. Nice and easy!

Meanwhile, there need not be worries about the Occupy Central. Yam may see to it that the protests take place after office-hours, and that too only in the bar-strewn Lan Kwai Fong area.

The former HKMA czar will make sure that there is no funding from other nations to support the democratic movements here.

Rest assured that universal suffrage will not be on the agenda. How about getting a HK$100,000 deposit in your mandatory provident account or brokerage account in return for supporting the anti-Occupy Central movement?

If this is not strong enough, Yam can unpeg the linked exchange system so that there won’t be “one country, two systems” by 2017.

The former central banker has in recent years been pushing for a review of the Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the US currency as the peg was seen as a factor behind high property prices and inflation. It was sometimes called the “Yam Peg” because he was a deputy in negotiating the peg system in 1983. Yam, however, said in the recent past that “nothing is absolute or sacrosanct”. 

The most magical thing is Yam has the ability to push up is the public poll that gauges the popularity of major government officials. Given that the opinion polls are conducted by a university with which Yam can claim strong links, he could perhaps influence the survey findings and send the Hang Seng Index to new highs.

All hail the Yam Dynasty!

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EJ Insight writer