Friday, May 11, 2012

FuCCed Up

Hong Kong is a place of extremes, where inequality thrives, as a result either of intense competition and the possibility of succeeding by your own efforts, or of unlevel playing fields, according to your taste. Once successful, it is only natural to want to preserve one's position, through lobbying, official or unofficial, by treating Chief Executives to little luxuries, and so on. Or even, once there. to try and push the envelope a little.

One place where the privileged gather is in the clubs of Hong Kong, from the grand old Hong Kong Club, full of pre-handover relics, the Jockey Club whose governing members' ethics have been well covered, or uncovered, by Ulie, another old relic, and the Ladies' Recreation Club, full of English wives from Surbiton who lady it over their maids and who don't even notice how bad the food is.

However, who would have thought that the supposedly egalitarian FCC, self-appointed guardian of our freedoms (at least, they print off a letter to the Chinese government every time one of their journalist members is roughed up, always remembering to change the names and dates) could be a hotbed of privilege, official and assumed.

My mole there, who occasionally allows me to sample their fine shepherds pie and down a swift half, tells me that the FCC is in the thick of its annual elections. That should be nice and democratic, you might think, especially since journos are always talking the democratic talk. But, if you look closely, you will see that none of the governing body, except for a token lone voice of Associate Member Governor, can be associate members, or even voted for by associate members who, I am told, make up 90% of the membership and without whom the club would not exist as it would not be financially viable.

Apparently, it's enshrined in the constiution, or something, like in China, so cannot be changed. (Do you see what I did there? I drew an analogy between a one party dictatorship and the Chinese government.) And, anyway, it's a journalists' club, so they get to run it and if you don't like it you can join one of the many other clubs in Central which get a 3-storey stand-alone building (four, if you count the 30-chef kitchen below the basement bar) for next to nothing from the government. But, whatever, this is Hong Kong, and my mole is happy to be a member of a nice club. It works for him.

However, it seems that this built-in privilege is having a little extension added to it. An illegal structure if you will. Look at the ballot paper again, and the unopposed candidate for the position of President is one Doug Wong, who works for Bloomberg, an upstart American news organisation. It says in his manifesto that he is a Liverpool supporter - so much so, according to my mole, that for the recent FA Cup final he 'reserved', Germans-by-the-pool-style, a whole section of the bar, then disappeared for 2 hours till the match started. The staff, knowing that he was the shoe-in for prez, did not dare allow anyone else to sit in the bank of reserved seats, even though they would have actually put money in the club's coffers whilst occupying the seats. Doug's self interest over the commonweal of the members? Does Doug sound just a little bit like Donald? Answers on a postcard, please.


  1. If you look a bit more closely you will see that us lowly associates actually elect four Associate governors and can vote for the Second Vice President. But the inner clique still have it pretty much sewn up as they have done for at least the decade that I have been a member. And during all of that time there are several "Correspondents" (each of whose votes is (in many circumstances) worth eight of mine) who are not correspondents by any definition that normal people would recognise. The club's definition of a Correspondent is someone who earns the bulk of their income from an overseas publication (e.g. the Beeb's man or woman in HK). Regrettably this seems to have been stretched to include people like Chris Slaughter who simply runs a business ( ) which is part of the food-chain supporting various broadcasters, but he is no more a Correspondent than the manager director of, say, Sony, who makes all their cameras.

    Amongst the choice for Associate Governors this year we have a convicted felon, and a lawyer who should have been convicted but got off on the most outrageous technicality. Anyone who stands and dares to include term limits in their manifesto is immediately ganged up on by the friends of the cabal. Occasionally, despite this, one still gets in (as John Batten did a couple of years back) but then their position is made intolerable as they are excluded from the proverbial smoke-filled rooms where the decisions are actually made.

    Moreover, we have auditors who turn a blind eye to the fact that the club carries all the risk of a failure of the FCC Charity Ball each year, without reporting this in the Financial Report, and who are obviously friends of the cabal since it is almost impossible to change them. Anyone who proposes that the Charity Ball be structured separately from the Club and carry its own risk is immediately blackballed from the cabal (as even this year's president was). And the Charity Ball continues, as it always has done, for the personal aggrandisement of David Garcia, who, despite holding no elected position in the FCC holds huge effective power over it and its finances. It really does make one wonder whose shoes he is shining, and how, in order for this to continue. It is also interesting to note that this David Garcia is claimed to be a complete fraud by a US POW association. ( scroll down)

    If this sort of stuff were going on in a public election the journalists (yes, there are some real ones in the Club, not just the fake ones) would be all over it demanding that Something Be Done. But when it comes to putting their own house in order they seem to suffer from perpetual blindness.

  2. Smog - Perhaps journalists should vote for their editors? Perhaps news organisations should function in exactly the same way as perfectly democratic countries? Perhaps their clubs should as well?

    Perhaps then you would you let them report the news?

  3. Unfortunate or not I think elections, certainly from the perspective of us lowly associates, at the club are viewed very much as elections in HK as a whole - a hardcore demonstrating (probably correctly) for equal representation for all while the rest of us don't complain as long as the Shepherd's pie is tasty.

    Shame on us and pass the sauce.

  4. Wonders never cease: Chris Slaughter failed (by 2 votes) to get re-elected to the board of Governors for the first time in many, many years! Whilst he's basically a nice guy, this must be a good thing in principle. I foresee though that one of the correspondent governors may need to step down during the year (due to a posting away) and that Mr Slaughter will then simply get co-opted back onto the board.

    Sadly, David O'Rear and others standing on a platform of term limits failed to get elected, although Tim Huxley, standing on a position of "transparency, accountability and accessibility", did. I predict that he won't enjoy the next 12 months very much! The ICAC's least favourite lawyer (Kevin Egan) got re-elected, yet again, for reasons that escape me. Being the crook that's (just) smart enough to evade the law seems to me to be poor grounds for office.

    Interestingly, employees of Bloomberg now hold 4 seats on the board, having marshalled their colleagues' votes well.

    The shepherd's pie is still good though, so all's well.