Mobile payment is said to be available for prostitution in China. Photo: iStock
Mobile payment is said to be available for prostitution in China. Photo: iStock

While the pro-Beijing community in Hong Kong has put a lot of effort into “praising China and belittling Hong Kong” over the years, they sometimes go a bit far and get themselves into bother.

Francis Lui Ting-ming, a former professor of economics at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, has become the latest to fall into this category over his “patriotic” speech at a forum on “Nation and Hong Kong” organized by the Hong Kong Development Forum on Monday.

Lui Francis T – Photo – Jul 2016
Francis Lui Ting-ming (Photo: Our Hong Kong Foundation).

Lui tried to impress his audience with a point to show that mainland China is more advanced than Hong Kong in terms of its technological development.

“Living in China is more convenient than in Hong Kong. When you give money to beggars, you can take out your handset to scan their QR codes
for payment. I know friends who use mobile payment to pay ‘chickens’ [sex workers] – and that has been not possible in Hong Kong,” Lui said.

Perhaps Lui got too excited when bragging about China’s success with former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Hang Lung Group chairman Ronnie Chan Chi-chung; he seems to believe that all Chinese beggars have mobile phones.

Lui may regret his remarks, which could rebound on him in a variety of ways. The Xi Jinping administration has cracked down on prostitution in recent years.

He later told media that people had over-interpreted his words, stressing that he said “Zhao Ji (prostitution)” in Mandarin not “call chickens” in Cantonese.

His argument did not save him from being the talk of the town on Tuesday.

In fact, whether China’s mobile payment systems such as WeChat Pay and Alipay are more advanced than Hong Kong’s Octopus cards, which use near-field-communication technology, has been a controversial topic in Hong Kong in recent years.

Last week, Edward Yau Tang-wah, Secretary for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, said Hong Kong had been lagging behind China in terms of mobile payment development.

It was odd for an official to say this, as the Hong Kong government should be blamed for the delay.

Mobile-payment-service providers could not launch products until the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issued five e-wallet licenses in August 2016. And the HKMA’s mandate is to maintain financial safety and stability in Hong Kong – not to promote innovative technology.

So when Lui criticised Hong Kong’s ‘slow’ development in mobile payment, was he actually knocking the Hong Kong government? Or was he complaining that sex service providers in Hong Kong have not yet adopted Alipay or WeChat Pay? Perhaps he should ponder his words more carefully.

By the way, did Lui receive a speaker’s fee via Alipay or WeChat pay?

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