|Economic partnership expo
By Wong Kwok Wah
- Kenny K K Leung, a Hong Kong entrepreneur, thought it
would be excellent money for value to take part in the
debut of a business fair in the capital to promote
closer economic partnerships with Beijing. His interview
with the prestigious China Central Television (CCTV) was
aired more than 20 times on various news bulletins.
Calculated in terms of the so-called "compensated news"
pricing of China's media, the interview could have meant
hundreds of thousands of yuan in exposure for the
manufacturer of watches, leather ware and other fashion
The fair was called CEPA Expo, for
Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, a framework for
improving business, tourism and other relations between
the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau. It was organized
jointly by the China Council for the Promotion of
International Trade and the Hong Kong and Macau
The CEPA expo promotion aimed
to show mainlanders the services, tourist resorts,
products and other attractions of Hong Kong and Macau.
CEPA also is a free-trade pact, exempting 311 Hong Kong
and Macau products from tariffs when exported to the
mainland, and is aimed at helping small businesses.
But China TV had few if any alternative
interview prospects. Leung was the only real company
executive who turned up at the venue in the capital.
While delighted with the fact of the CCTV
interview, Leung, who heads Teamwise International
Limited, made no bones about his dissatisfaction with
its results - zero. "I was just charitable enough not to
utter any word of disgust with the CCTV reporter," Leung
quipped to Asia Times Online. After all, any unfavorable
comments would never hit the screen, as Leung well knew.
CEPA Expo was publicized as "promoting CEPA's
signing and effectiveness, implementing and supporting
the policy of CEPA and 'One Country, Two Systems', and
promoting further development of the economic
relationship between the mainland and Hong Kong and
Macau." It was scheduled to run from Tuesday to Friday
Similar shows or expositions will
take place in Shanghai next week, from Tuesday to
Thursday, and later in Guangzhou.
Yet as early
as Wednesday morning, the exhibition hall was quiet and
representatives were leaving. The mood was one of a show
that never got off the ground and already was winding
down. The press room was locked. "Reporters have all
gone. Nobody is using the room now," said a young woman
attending the nearby booth of the organizers.
Expo hall virtually deserted
were Hong Kong organizers and co-organizers. "Sorry, we
can't help. But we are only locals, not from Hong Kong,"
apologized a young man standing behind the Hong Kong
Trade Development Council counter. Similar uneasiness
was encountered at the kiosks of the Hong Kong Tourist
Hong Kong tourism was instead
represented by a videotape. Running all day, the tape
failed to attract more than a dozen viewers at a time,
and most of them didn't stay through the 15-minute
length. The reason was simple - they did not understand
the language. Whoever decided to offer the promotional
footage in English and Cantonese in the
Mandarin-speaking Beijing should be nominated for a
Grand Bauhinia Medal - recognizing significant, lifelong
contributions to Hong Kong's well-being - for he has
successfully revealed to Beijing residents the quality
of Hong Kong's governance.
"Maybe life in Hong
Kong is too hectic," grinned a woman attendant behind
the booth of Macau's tourism board. Refusing to comment
on Hong Kong's linguistic lapse, the woman from Macau
nevertheless was elated when being congratulated for
having allowed viewers to understand what they were
selling - in Mandarin.
Perhaps the most crucial
question is whether anyone from Hong Kong would care.
"It is trashy," complained Leung, who felt he got no
benefit at all, except for the prestigious but
questionably useful television appearance. "The highest
ranking official from Hong Kong was an anybody [a
little-known person] called Mike Rowse [Hong Kong's
director of investment promotion]. Even the director of
Hong Kong government representative office in Beijing
was not seen," said Leung. He got the feeling he was all
alone, even abandoned.
To be fair, Leung was not
alone. He was joined by representatives of the Hong Kong
branch of the Malaysian Kerry Group Plc, as well as two
operators of ferry services between Hong Kong and Macau.
The ferry operators were sort of obliged to be there by
the Macau government, as disclosed by one of the staff
members on site. Kerry simply exhibited its cooking oil
products, which are produced by its China subsidiaries,
and which already have brand names throughout the
Lucky draw has few takers
the lucky draw failed to elicit any excitement. Anyone
could participate by dropping in a name card. Came the
drawing time of 3pm and the hall was filled with a
countable number - 120. Eighty of them had already been
there for the past hour, watching a video screening of a
Hong Kong movie. When the names and companies of prize
winners were announced, the nature of the audience was
also revealed - agents of insurance companies, sales
representatives of publishing houses attending the trade
show next door and other such attendees. Last but not
least, the attendance included reporters from obscure
publications, believed to be touting their compensated
news, a specialty in China where reporters write
interviews for a price below normal advertising rates.
According to official publicity, the CEPA Expo
was also intended to serve the following purposes:
To promote Hong Kong's and Macau's total image,
business environment and comprehensive advantages.
To promote Hong Kong's and Macau's products and
business services and to enhance the diversity of
business cooperation between mainland and Hong Kong and
To implement CEPA, create a convenient environment
for direct investment between Hong Kong, Macau and the
To encourage mainland residents to travel to Hong
Kong and Macau.
To promote economic and technical cooperation
between the mainland and Hong Kong and Macau.
seminar on CEPA's impact and influence on the
development of trade between the mainland, Hong Kong and
Macau had been expected to draw more than 400 experts in
finance, real estate, insurance and services.
The venue included a designer space of about 200
square meters for business discussions, furnished with
tables and chairs. More people, however, opted for the
much more crowded environs of a book fair running
concurrently next door.
(Copyright 2004 Asia
Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please
contact email@example.com for
information on our sales and syndication policies.)