It is disheartening to see the list of Grand Bauhinia winners this year who supposedly contributed the most to the well-being of this city.
Many observers cried foul upon seeing the 12 recipients of the Grand Bauhinia Medal (GBM), who are mostly die-hard supporters of former chief executive Leung Chun-ying more than anything else.
Half of the recipients were businessmen led by New World Development chairman Henry Cheng, Hang Lung Group chairman Ronnie Chan and Four Seas Mercantile’s Stephen Tai.
Four are in public services such as Trade Development Council chairman Vincent Lo, Airport Authority chairman Jack So, Financial Services Department Council chairwoman Laura Cha and Exco and pro-establishment member Ip Kwok-him.
Then there are the controversial vice chancellor of the University of Hong Kong Arthur Li, Science and Technology Parks chairwoman Fanny Law, along with three senior ministers – Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, Secretary of Justice Rimsky Yuen and Financial Secretary Paul Chan.
Special mention to Paul Chan and Arthur Li who are negative public relations assets in their current positions.
Awarding controversial personalities Hong Kong’s highest honors is not worse than giving them away too easily. The inflated titles undermine the credibility of the awards when they lose their exclusivity.
Imagine someone being put in the hall of fame next to Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing or Sir Run Run Shaw. Now imagine someone being placed next to jailbird former Chief Secretary Rafael Hui and former chief executive Donald Tsang (now on bail).
The 12 GBM winners were the most since former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa handed out the awards in 1997 to replace the British honors system.
Over the past five years, Leung granted 28 GBMs but only three — Charles Ho of Singtao News Corp., Victor Lo of Gold Peak Industries and Chan Wing-kei of YGM Trading — were from the business sector.
And just before Leung left office, he announced honors for three property developers – Vincent Lo, Ronnie Chan and Henry Cheng (he switched his support to CY from Henry Tang in the 2012 election at the last minute, remember?).
In particular, Ronnie Chan has been the most vocal cheerleader for Leung, once blasting John Tsang as a big sinner for his conservative budget approach.
The CY Leung era was characterised by the fall of the property oligopoly of the big three (Sun Hung Kai Properties, Cheung Kong Holdings and Henderson Land) and the rise of other developers – smaller developers and mainland-based developers which have been very active in Hong Kong land auctions in the past two years.
Now all eyes will be on how Carrie Lam, who inherited most of the administrative team from his predecessor, will handle the next GBM awards. People will be watching to see if she will reward people based on their actual contributions to society, not just blind loyalty.
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