How Political Decision Leaks are Exploited — a Case in HK?

Senior government officials own a very valuable asset, that is the information of their decisions. There have been some cases of information leaks from government officials or their allies, that was related to some unethical personal financial benefits, yet legal. The following is another allegation happened in Hong Kong this month.

When everyone thought that the Hong Kong Chief Executive (CE) finally made a concession under political pressure by publicly announcing to withdraw the Fugitive Offenders (Amendment) Bill in the evening of September 4. Then, the Development Bureau, on September 11, also responded to the press inquiry that they changed their mind now and did not oppose using land resumption any more for the development of public housing. It seems to be a positive response to the long pursued public request.

However, intriguingly, all these decisions were leaked before the formal announcement or the formal response. These leaks are alleged to probably have facilitated her friends and allies to benefit from insider trading in the stock market!

According to the Ming Pao’s two-day reports [1][2], before the CE officially announced the news, the information probably had already been released to her allies, as the stock price surged substantially before the news was released. It is reported that some unusual transactions were found by a “white glove” fund manager in the week before the announcement, on the three real estate stocks: SHK (0016), Henderson Land (0012) and Champion REIT (2778). It is estimated that, at the current share price, the transactions amount to about 0.145 billion yuan.” [1]

In addition to the “white gloves” transactions, the stock market also had an unusual surge in the stock market on the day before the news was released. On September 4, when the stock market opened, “it surged 300 points, many people thought that was due to the encouraging economic data from China, until the market opened in the afternoon, some net media began to report that the CE urgently called the members of National People’s Congress, the CPPCC members and some lawmakers of the pro-establishment camp, to meet at the Government House at 4 o’clock, preparing probably for a formal withdrawal of the amendments. In the wake of the Hong Kong government’s first concession in the past few months, Hang Seng Index immediately rose by a thousand points. Property stocks such as Wharf Real Estate (1997) and SHKP (0016) all rose a lot, and it is roughly estimated that the market value of the market had increased by at least several tens of billion yuan,…” (translated from [2])

Figure 1 shows the change in the Hang Seng Index from August 12 to September 11. According to the analysis of the South China Morning Post [3], the Hang Seng Index was “ending September 3 at 25,528. Amazingly, on September 4, the market opened up half a per cent at 9.30am and, within two minutes, it was already up 1.2 per cent at 25,835. It held this level for the rest of the morning and through lunch, and then, at 1.55pm, it began to climb steeply. The market rose another 2 per cent to 2.13pm (covering the period of the Post’s report). It continued to Rise to 3.45pm, when it peaked at 4.4 per cent higher for the day, only to settle back to 26,523 on profit-taking at the close, up 3.9 per cent up on the day. The Hang Seng has since then been treading water. “[3]

Figure 1 Hong Kong Hang Seng Index from August 12 to September 11, 2019, Source: Yahoo Finance

Figure 2 shows further the Hang Seng Index from September 9 to September 12. Before September 11, the Hang Seng Index was stagnated, moving narrowly between 26,600 and 26,800, and closed at 26,648 on September 10. One day after, when one of the Pro-establishment Parties published a front-page advertisement requesting the HK government to use the Lands Resumption Ordinance for public housing developments, which overthrew their previous political views. In the evening, the media further leaked more information that: “The Government is recently studying to use the Lands Resumption Ordinance to build public housing.” [4] Then, the Development Bureau made a positive response to the press inquiry that they are open for “any methods that can increase in land supply to achieve the housing supply target under the Long Term Housing Strategy, including the use of the Lands Resumption Ordinance for public housing development.” [5]

With these events and news leak, the Hang Seng Index on September 11 broke the stagnation, and rose to 27,104 at 11:30 am and maintained its upward trend throughout the day. It opened at 27,283 points on September 12 as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Hong Kong Hang Seng Index from September 9 to September 12, 2019, Source: Yahoo Finance

In fact, the CE and her team are very good at leaking confidential information. In the past three months, it has repeatedly created a variety of political and economic effects through the leakage of highly confidential government information, which shaped the whole world’s understanding of the anti-extradition crisis. Two of the most dramatic leaks are the Reuters’ reports on the content of the CE’s speeches to young talents and business leaders of the city. The latter even leaked the recordings to ensure that they were trustworthy. (Detailed analyses of the contents of the two speeches can be found in my article last week [6]).

In addition, there was also another leak not reported by the mainstream newspapers on a so-called “morning prayer meeting” between the CE and her subordinates in July. These leaks do not only help shift the liabilities to other people, but they can also bring economic benefits and electoral advantages to the cronies. No wonder so many “elites” choose to be pro-government!

[A Chinese Version available at 姚松炎 (2019) 想不勞而獲一定要親香港政府,方格子,9月12日。]


[1] 大灣區國舅 (2019)【專欄】吳光正又再「搶佔先機」,明報,9月11日。

[2] 李曉佳 (2019)【專欄】走漏撤修例消息 林鄭讓人「合法犯罪」 ,明報,9月12日。

[3] Harris, R. (2019) What was behind the Hong Kong stock market rise ahead of Carrie Lam’s withdrawal of the extradition bill?, SCMP, Sep 12.

[4] 梁德倫、張嘉敏 (2019)【逃犯條例】消息:政府擬收回土地條例建公屋 轉軚全收高球場?,香港01 ,9月11日。

[5] 梁德倫 (2019)【收回土地條例】發展局持開放態度 須確立「公共用途」才可收地,香港01,9月11日。

[6] 姚松炎 (2019) 香港特首暗示一國兩制只是謊言,方格子,9月5日。

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