A Scandal in Hong Kong
On this morning, the online South China Morning Post had this brief report attributed to "staff reporter":
At least six Kwun Tong district councillors were helping an ICAC inquiry last night into allegations they made false claims for expenses. It is understood several councillors' assistants were also helping the inquiry at the anti-graft body's Central headquarters. Officers from the Independent Commission Against Corruption are believed to have visited the offices of some councillors and taken away computers and files.
Democratic Party vice-chairman and lawyer Albert Ho Chun-yan reportedly visited the ICAC yesterday afternoon to inquire into the case. It is understood one of those being questioned is a Democratic Party member. Mr Ho failed to return calls from the South China Morning Post last night. It is believed the Democratic Party held an emergency meeting last night but it was not known whether this was connected with the inquiry. The ICAC declined to comment on the case.
In the afternoon, this item is no longer listed on the SCMP website and nothing else refers to this matter. By the way, this item was not mentioned at all on the website of The Standard.
The real scandal in the title of this post is not about any political corruption. It is about how a headline news report can go completely missing in the English-language newspapers. Why won't they cover this event? Why was the SCMP coverage so deficient that it had to be pulled. Are they not interested? Or maybe they didn't have the sources? Or maybe they do not have the reporters willing to stand outside the ICAC building all night?
By contrast, this is how in looks on the front pages of Apple Daily and Wen Wei Po, which are at the opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Who were the people invited to 'assist in the investigation' at the ICAC office? So far, it is known that there are at least six district councilors invited, of which three were members of the Democratic Party. Later, it was announced that 12 persons have been arrested already, of which four were district councilors.
What was being investigated? Apple Daily has a flowchart:
Step 1: Several Kwun Tong district councilors and their assistants are suspected of establishing many local organizations, and then these organizations would apply for funding from the District Council to organize many local activities.
Step 2: When the District Council meets to discuss these applications, the councilors do not reveal their connections with these organizations and the resultant conflicts of interest. These activities are then approved for funding.
Step 3: Some of these district councilors and their assistants submitted fake invoices [note: either padded amounts from real suppliers, or even non-existent suppliers] to the District Council for activities that had taken place when in fact they never occurred.
Step 4: The ICAC has brought a number of district councilors and their assistants to their office to assist in the investigation; the ICAC has also searched the offices of a number of district councilors as well as other related local organizations.
Here is something else that will no doubt be brought up. On July 1, the Civil Human Rights Front is organizing a big march.
The slogans for this year's march are: "Oppose collusion between government and business people; strive for direct elections." Given this matter, there will no doubt be a lot of discussion whether this is a call to directly elect more democrats (and the district councilors were directly elected) so that they can collude among themselves and stuff their pockets with government money ...