22 October 2016
Leaked documents show that Commission on Youth chairman Lau Ming-wai is a British national, which he later confirmed to Ming Pao. Photo: HKEJ
Leaked documents show that Commission on Youth chairman Lau Ming-wai is a British national, which he later confirmed to Ming Pao. Photo: HKEJ

Youth leader’s UK nationality and Ming Pao’s axing of an editor

“Great minds” think alike.

It appears that the top 1 percent of Hong Kong’s richest think and feel like Communist cadres.

They all believe wealth management services at home are not secure enough and they need to park their money in some offshore tax haven.

Thanks to the Panama Papers, we now know more about these people’s secret assets beyond the border.

For sure the powerful mainland cadres can order the party’s propaganda apparatus to smother any reports or oblique references to their own activities and ensure that the masses only read the “sterilized” version of the exposés – about greedy and corrupt officials in foreign countries, but not in China.

However, Hong Kong’s moneyed class, along with top government officials, does not have such a luxury in the face of the city’s residual press freedom.

Ming Pao ran a headline this Wednesday about some overseas hidden assets owned by Hong Kong tycoons and politicians, after a careful study of the leaked classified files from Panama City-based law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co.

Unlike in the mainland, much of the fortunes of local tycoons are legal, though some argue they were not necessarily earned in a fair manner, and so the hoi polloi are not supposed to mind other people’s business in matters like where the money flows.

But since not a few rich folks have now set foot on the local political stage, the Panama Papers have come as a great embarrassment.

Lau Ming-wai, chairman of the Commission on Youth and son of realty magnate Joseph Lau Luen-hung, has been caught with his trousers down.

Ming Pao reports that Lau sits on the board of numerous offshore companies and leaked documents from 16 of these entities show that he is a British national.

Had it not been for his official position, all these revelations could only have added to the appeal of the business scion, who is single, as being rich and holding a UK citizenship can be what most Hongkongers are dreaming of.

It’s truly unfortunate that Lau now finds himself at the center of a storm with netizens taking potshots at his alleged hypocrisy.

The Commission on Youth is the brainchild of a government that thinks the youth are not patriotic enough.

When Lau was appointed by the Leung Chun-ying administration to head the body, his family background and “second-generation rich” identity stirred quite a controversy.

And now, we know that the youth leader who never misses a chance to exhort his poorer peers to love China is indeed a foreigner himself.

Lau is hardly the least likable pro-Beijing member in my view, as his way of conducting himself is far better than older guys like Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, who was also groomed in Britain.

He may face more hurdles after the exposé if he still aims to move up the city’s political hierarchy.

But I think Beijing won’t be bothered anyway, as its long-standing philosophy is that patriotism has no boundaries and it doesn’t matter if you have a foreign passport as long as you pledge allegiance and is useful to the party.

So far the most significant development following the Ming Pao report has been the newspaper’s sacking of its executive chief editor Keung Kwok-yuen, a respected veteran columnist and news professional better known for his pen name On Yu.

The timing has only exacerbated readers’ suspicion that the city’s revered newspaper may has come under immense pressure following its high-profile Panama Papers reports.

The newspaper’s former chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to was brutally stabbed in broad daylight in early 2014, and some suggested back then it was a warning after Ming Pao’s exposés of overseas assets owned by mainland princelings.

Is the latest development just another callous move to silence outspoken publications?

Bernie Sanders and Hong Kong’s young democrats

More than half of the US states have held their primaries, and Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump have clinched neat wins in the state of New York.

After bagging 60 percent of the votes in his home state, Trump, born in the New York City borough of Queens, is riding the momentum to be the Republican presidential nominee, provided that the GOP bigwigs won’t drag him down and have him replaced in the last minute.

Clinton’s major rival Bernie Sanders has run out of luck after the rout in his home state (he was born in Brooklyn).

Like Trump, Sanders is the maverick of the Democratic Party and had a run that surprised many observers, hitting the Clinton camp off guard multiple times.

He commanded overwhelming popularity, particularly among young party supporters.

So what is the secret of the 74-year-old in a country that typically worships young idols?

Sanders belongs to the “silent generation”, the demographic group of people born from the mid-1920s to the early 1940s between the two World Wars and he is even older than Baby Boomers.

The majority of his supporters are Millennials and Post-Millennials, or simply Generation Z.

The reason: Sanders’ left-wing platform, with all the class-war rhetoric like free college education, have caught young people’s hearts. Whereas Clinton is always on good terms with Wall Street fat cats, who represent the wealthiest 1 percent of the country.

Now, when Sanders has to bow out, does it mean young people have once again lost their voice in politics?

Republican candidate Barry Goldwater’s campaign, floundering at the very beginning, was crushed by Lyndon Johnson’s landslide victory in 1964.

But Goldwater’s young supporters stayed on in unison and became a major GOP power that ultimately sent Ronald Reagan, who voiced support for Goldwater in 1964, to the White House.

This can perhaps offer some food for thought.

After Occupy Central failed to bring a free vote in 2014, some said it was a rout through and through.

But we wouldn’t have seen the new, vibrant political groups founded by young democrats had it not been for the failed civil disobedience movement.

Just like what I said in a column back then: “For decades, Hong Kong has been stuck in its pursuit of democracy, but now, with the new generation of activists, time is on our side.”

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Apr. 21.

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Read more:

Panama Papers reveal the ugly truth about China’s elite

Why ‘red capital’ is a blessing and curse for Hong Kong

Front page of Ming Pao’s April 20 issue. The newspaper comes up with a series of exposés, based on the Panama Papers, about the hidden wealth and foreign nationalities of a number of local tycoons and politicians.

Former full-time member of the Hong Kong Government’s Central Policy Unit, former editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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