When going gets tough, tough get going

Editorial | Mary Ma 11 Oct 2019

No longer is Rex Auyeung Pak-kuen a stranger to most people, not with the public wondering how they can get anywhere what with the ongoing frequent MTR closures and early nights.

In hindsight, it comes as little surprise then that Auyeung divested himself of his responsibilities as the honcho at Lingnan University on Tuesday with immediate effect in order to dedicate his energies to his even more high profile post - the driver's seat at MTR Corp. Yes, some, especially his charges at the university, may have thought his departure spoke of indecent haste, especially as he was to stay until next October at least, but these are tough times.

A most memorable recent act of his has to be the letter he sent to education chief Kevin Yueng Yun-hung in July urging an investigation into whether fellow university council member and lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu was linked to the attack by thugs on commuters and people returning from a peaceful demonstration at the Yuen Long MTR station on July 21.

Some will find it ironic he has now exited Lingnan before Ho.

So, has an investigation been carried out at all and what did it unearth? It would be really nice if the authorities - be it the Education Bureau or police - are prepared to share their findings with us all.

In any case, skeptics may rest assured that Auyeung's premature departure had little to do with his demand for a probe of Ho, who, soon after the July 21 attack, denied any connection with the attack.

He left as it would have been too much to lead an institution at a time of great unrest by students and an infrastructural network they vilify and not get into the danger zone healthwise.

The MTR network he oversees has been a key target of protesters for the past few months. Everytime a station reopened following repairs in wake of a rampage by protesters, another was damaged. Worse still, a train derailed and another collided with a concrete barrier, prompting fears of sabotage that have proven unfounded.

Before the protests began, it would have been easy for Auyeung to juggle the two responsibilities: the MTR, after all, virtually, ran itself. After they did, it would have been, like we said, well-nigh impossible, for him to expect that when protesters would like to see the MTR system come to a screeching halt.

The dilemma for him is that the retired insurance executive's role at the university is no less demanding with students taking a leading role in protests. While the resignation has little to do with his request that Ho be investigated, it's a choice between two evils - and Auyeung has opted to tackle the bigger evil.

That is so in the sense that the MTRC's woes present challenges that are much more manifold than Lingnan's.

Besides the physical toll on operations, the share price of the railway operator has come under pressure - it has been going downhill steadily since mid-July. It would have been irresponsible to disregard the stock's performance even though Auyeung personally may not be keen on that - as he famously boasted upon the announcement of his appointment.

I'm sure most investors disagree with him on that.

The MTRC may be owned by the government to the tune of more than 75 percent but it is also a commercial operation listed on the bourse. In attempting to return the MTR to its fabled reliability, Auyeung is no less obliged to deliver impressive financial results for shareholders too.

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