When will Hong Kong stop kidding itself that it is a ‘world city’ that calls for a global head hunt whenever a top position becomes vacant?
Following the third departure from the top post at the West Kowloon District Authority, some headhunter is going to make a tidy sum again looking around the world for a suitable replacement. But let’s face it: Hong Kong is a petty, parochial and deeply political place where no international candidate can hope to survive with their health and sanity intact.
It’s a different matter for those who are born with their nervous system already wired to take on the obfuscation, self preservation and back-stabbing that are essential parts of the job.
I have criticised the greenwashing of the sustainability concept by the business world, but I’ll grant you this: only a few of the Hong Kong corporations that bother to compile sustainability reports display a level of openness and straight dealing that is in line with international best practice. Most of the rest, whether from the public (or ‘quasi-public’) or private sector only dress up to appear international in outlook, but really remain hierarchical, bureaucratic and dependent on patronage. Suck up to the wrong party or make the wrong move, and you can kiss your career goodbye.
International recruitment is a waste of taxpayers’ money because foreign recruits don’t know how to play the Hong Kong game. One who had previously worked for foreign corporations in Hong Kong and was recruited to fill a poisoned post, having taken a quick look around him, very quickly bailed out. That leaves a small number of highly-skilled Machiavellis capable of getting to and staying at the top, but when so much energy is devoted to staying in place, how much energy is left to deliver what’s required of the job properly?