Leung Chun-ying and his family are again in the news for the wrong reasons.
Whatever the truth may be regarding the reported airport baggage incident involving the First Family, the chief executive will find that the controversy won’t die down quickly.
Leung has been accused of using his influence to get airport security rules bypassed late last month so that his daughter can get a missing carry-on bag delivered to her at a boarding gate.
According to a front-page report carried by Apple Daily on Thursday, airport staff handed a bag to Leung’s younger daughter, Leung Chun-yan, inside the restricted zone in the terminal after they were informed that she had left the item by mistake in the check-in area.
Airport staff made an exception after they got a call from the chief executive seeking help for his daughter, who was waiting to board a plane bound for San Francisco, the paper said.
Leung had put pressure on the staff, making them break the normal airport rules, it was suggested.
Following the report, Leung’s office issued a statement Thursday denying the charges.
The daughter did not seek help from the chief executive to retrieve her bag, the statement said, adding that Leung learnt of the matter only when he called his daughter to say goodbye.
Leung did not contact any Airport Authority officials, but merely spoke to some airline staff to check what could be done with regard to the forgotten bag, it said.
The statement also insisted that Leung’s wife, Regina, “did not enter the airport restricted area or boarding gate”, contrary to what Apple Daily suggested.
Regina, in a separate statement issued jointly with her daughter, also stressed that she did not accompany her 23-year-old daughter into the restricted zone and that she didn’t seek any special privileges.
Getting into the act, the Airport Authority (AA) issued its own statement, in which it made the following points:
1. AA received a report on March 28 regarding a bag left behind in the departure hall.
2. Staff from Avesco, the aviation security services firm, noticed the bag while the airline operator, (Cathay Pacific) helped determine its ownership.
3. Airline staff put the bag through security screening and then took it into the restricted area where they returned it to the owner.
4. There was no violation of airport security procedures.
The last point, however, will be disputed by aviation security experts.
The AA’s by-laws state clearly that “any person who finds any property in the airport areas which appears to have been lost or left behind shall not remove such property from the place it is found save for the purpose of handing over the same forthwith to the Authority.”
Questions are being raised as to why the Leung daughter was not asked to retrieve the bag herself. Also, were rules flouted on the issue of determining the ownership of the luggage?
According to Regina and her daughter’s statement, Leung Chun-yan realized after entering the restricted area that he had left behind a bag in the open departure hall. The young woman said she wanted to retrieve it herself but was denied permission by the security staff.
She then turned to the airline staff for help, which led to the subsequent events and helped her receive her bag at the boarding gate.
This may seem a relatively small matter, but the real controversy here is the reported intervention of Leung Chun-Ying in the whole affair.
Though Leung denied pressuring airport staff, he has admitted that he did talk to the airline ground staff after learning about her daughter’s missing bag.
His words, wherein he purportedly reminded the airline staff of his official position, might have been construed as an order.
That leaves Leung vulnerable to the charge of misusing his power.
Also, the fact remains that airport staff exercised discretionary power to allow Regina to deal with the missing bag on behalf of her daughter.
Even though the bag was put through security check before being delivered to Leung Chun-yan, it was still special treatment — due to her status as the chief executive’s daughter.
If an ordinary citizen was in a similar situation, would the airport and airline staff have offered the same help?
Also, given the current global fears over aviation security, was it right for the airport staff to have allowed a bag that was left unattended for a while to be taken back into the closed-zone by someone other than the owner?
Airport safety can’t be compromised just to accommodate and please some VIPs.
None of the parties involved in the latest controversy has emerged unscathed in terms of damage to their reputations.
But it is Leung himself who needs to worry the most.
One can sympathize with his desire to help out his daughter, as any dad would have sought to do the same, but the city’s top leader should have known where to draw the line.
Despite his protestations, suspicions will linger that the chief executive pulled rank and sought special treatment for his family that involved bypassing the usual airport regulations.
Given his low popularity and his past missteps, Leung should realize that people are only too ready to believe the worst about him.
CY’s wife told airport staff to bring over daughter’s bag: logs (April 7, 2016)
Leung accused of misusing power to help daughter at airport (April 7, 2016)
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