• 黨鐵 Hong Kong MTR, the Party Train |錢志健
  • 2020-01-12    

 

海外監察組織及機構性投資者來自兩個不同的世界。兩個界別,有一個共同點,它們關注過去七個月香港的社會運動,特別是對於港鐵 (66) 的投資價值。從「環境、社會及管治」的領域 (Environment, Social and Governance), 在此簡稱ESG報告,港鐵是否做到「疏導交通」或與當權者合作「強力抓捕」,成為香港警察的「流動警崗」,配合得天衣無縫。已令國際投資者強烈質疑。以下文章,筆者用英文撰寫,希望更有效面對更大的英語平台,令讀者了解港鐵 違背了服務市民的初心。「黨鐡」也不幸地淪落成為了打壓工具。

Ask any traveller who has used the subway system of any advanced city like New York, London, Paris and Singapore, most will rank Hong Kong’s MTR at the top for efficiency, reliability, user-friendliness and safety. MTR was the pride of Hong Kong and a symbol of Hong Kong’s rise from a manufacturing port to a financial hub of the Asia region as it is known today.

The number of passengers that the MTR (Stock Code: 0066) services on a daily basis outnumbers any other public transportation in Hong Kong. The growth of MTR as a listed company with real estate projects and transportation coverage that map its footprint across the city parallels with the economic success of Hong Kong. Whether you are someone seeking for a modest to upper middle class home or an investor looking for capital appreciation, a flat along the MTR line is considered a good quality investment that would guarantee handsome investment return. A residential property attached to the MTR system linking shopping malls, restaurants and offices all under one roof can command a price tag not affordable to most. With the interlinking facilities that MTR has amassed in the last few decades, when its service stops, so does the bloodline of many other sectors.

The role of the MTR is controversial throughout the Hong Kong crisis. In early months of the protest, police fired tear gas inside two MTR stations. Passengers have since experienced tear gas, been beaten indiscriminately or arrested in the crossfire inside and above certain stations in the protest areas. The public’s mounting suspicion on MTR’s collusion with the HK government and HK police for covering up events inside the stations has made the MTR “a hell of a ride experience”.

“The shut-down of MTR service in Central as early as 8pm has been disastrous. Our business volume has dropped almost 80% since June 2019”, said Chef Eric, owner operator of Don and Sushi in LKF, Central. “My staff have trouble commuting to and from work, and the de facto curfew kills the business in LKF.”

For decades, the MTR has provided convenience to commuters and investment returns to investors. As the protests escalate, the reputation of the MTR has been spiralling downwards. The turning point was the Yuen Long station attack on July 21st, when demonstrators of the pro-democracy camp were brutally assaulted by triad members inside the station.

On August 31st, 2019, riot police rushed into the Prince Edward station train carousels with guns pointing and batons waving at passengers. From the perspective of a civilian, the footage of the scene was a terrorist attack committed by the police inside the station. 63 people were arrested that night and 3 severely injured were suspected to be missing as there were unexplained inconsistencies over the number of casualties realised by the authority at various point in time over the night. A lack of transparency on the events of the Prince Edward station, a press conference held by a “survivor” with pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo days after the attack culminated into public distrust and conspiracy theory that the majority government controlled MTR management have issues to cover up.

MTR’s majority shareholder is the Hong Kong Government, controlling 75% of the outstanding shares. Institutional investors like Blackrock, Vanguard Group, and State Street, each does not amount to more than 1% interest. The market capitalization of MTR Corp currently hovers at around HKD 325.5 billion. Retail investors are still trying to “seek justice” and truth of the “terror attack” of July 21st and Aug 31st. They have floated the idea of amassing 5% of the outstanding voting interest to call for an Extraordinary Shareholders Meeting (EGM) to compel the MTR management to release the uncensored version of CCTV footage of Aug 31st night at the Prince Edward Station. Gathering 5% interest is an insurmountable task. For an institutional investor, politics is not their game nor does it serve its interest. The Hong Kong government as the majority shareholder is sure to impose procedural restrictions to shut down this avenue of appeal.

The Legislative Council Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways passed two motions on Friday December 6th, requiring MTR to disclose all closed-circuit television footage of the 8.31 incident and to announce the concentration of pollutants related to tear gas in the station, an initiation by Civic Party legislator Jeremy Tam. This motion would not be a smooth ride and will come with strong resistance.

Is the MTR contributing to a better living for Hong Kong people? For months, the MTR has rapidly “derailed” from the mission statement it once promised: “Proactively engage and interact with our stakeholders and contribute to the community to become their preferred product and service provider for better living.”

Has the MTR become an institution of “Mass Public Surveillance” offering “mobile police stations” for the HK police? With mounting pressure from Beijing, the MTR will continue to have sporadic service hours and abrupt shut down of certain routes, to strategically crack down on social movement. Hong Kong people are now calling the MTR the Party’s Transit Railway, (黨鐵). Does MTR still deliver its mission and fulfil its corporate social responsibility? This question is subordinate to the directive of Beijing.

Edward Chin is a hedge fund manager and commentator. He was formerly country head of a UK publicly listed hedge fund. He is the Convenor of 2047 Hong Kong Monitor.

作者簡介: 錢志健 (Edward Chin) 是資深對沖基金經理,投資經驗逾20年。曾任全球大型英國倫敦上市對沖基金地區主管,目前為一間家族資產公司董事局成員,以環球長短倉為主打。他曾撰寫金融著作多本,分享時事,投資與人生智慧。錢氏於2006年組織哈利車隊 Ride 4 Hope, 盼望在金融以外做點有意義事情,作另類贏家。Facebook.com/edckchin 電郵:edckchin@gmail.com

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