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In Conversation with Mike Rowse (29 May 2014)


‘As soon as it became a controversial subject, the ministers basically ran away, disappeared over the horizon, led, if that’s the right word, by Henry, of course. When I actually asked him: “Who is the minister for Harbour Fest?” The reply was: “Stop dreaming”. By email.’ Mike Rowse on Harbour Fest and Henry Tang. Mike Rowse may be best remembered as the man who brought Mickey Mouse to Hong Kong, but he’s also known for his involvement in Hong Kong’s Harbour Fest, a series of morale building concerts in the wake of SARS that was widely criticized for how much money was spent. He arrived in Hong Kong in 1972, working briefly as an English teacher before moving on to become a reporter for The Star where he focused on covering corruption and crime stories. With the setting up of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, he applied to join, wanting to take a more active role against this major scourge. In 1980, Rowse joined the Hong Kong Government as an Administrative Officer, eventually becoming the first Commissioner for Tourism. In November 1999, he negotiated the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort deal. He set up InvestHK, of which he was appointed the Director General, on 1 July 2000. It was in this role that he was involved in Harbour Fest. Many felt, in the aftermath of that, that he was made the scapegoat for what had largely been ministerial decisions. When the government took disciplinary action against him he took it to court, and won. “I think the thing that hasn’t changed - it’s got worse, in fact - is that civil servants now will duck responsibility and look to put everything up to the minister, and of course, the poor ministers are reeling back, and you have to explain in excruciating detail the pluses and minuses of every alternative, so that the minister won’t be able to say later: “I didn’t realise it could go wrong like that.”

In Conversation
Publish Date: 
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
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