Photo: Dr King welcomed by Head of EU Office Mr Vincent Pikey at EuroDay 2014.
How did you become the Consul General?
Dr. King has had an extraordinary life. He was a Lieutenant in US Navy during the Vietnam War in the 60s; founded a successful IT business in New York in the 70s; managed multinational companies in industries such as EuroAsia Shipyard, Orient Overseas International Limited, SaSa International Holdings Limited and many more from the 80s onwards. He became involved in politics when he served as a Standing Committee Member of Zhejiang Province in the CPPCC. Academia beckoned and he became an Adjunct Professor of Finance in Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His latest incarnation has been as a diplomat: the Honorary Consul for Latvia since 2002.
Dr King was recommended by a friend who invested in Latvia and had a business in container shipping industry in the country. Dr King’s profound knowledge in logistics and transportation businesses rendered him the perfect person for the job.
What are your duties?
Unlike career diplomat who often serve solely the interest of their nations, Dr King sees himself as having a dual interest in being a Honorary Consul: “We have an obligation to the country that appoints us. And we as citizens of Hong Kong, we have an obligation, just like you do, to tell good things about Hong Kong to other people. That’s our role.”
His duties mainly land on promoting bilateral trade and investment, arranging for delegation visits and for the reception of Latvian officials visiting Hong Kong. Though his counterparts are mostly ethnic Latvians, Dr King is one of the two Honorary Consuls for Latvia who receives a recognition letter from the Latvian authority. But in a sharp contrast, the Hong Kong government disappoints him. “This [serving both Hong Kong and consul’s respective nation] actually is something that is not very well recognised especially by the Hong Kong government. Sometimes we don’t feel that Hong Kong government gives us the level of support that we should have.” To some extent, Dr King considers the Honorary Consuls are treated like “secondary citizens”.
In the wake of the indifference of the Government, Honorary Consuls got together in 2010 and formed the Association of Honorary Consuls. The Association consists of incumbent and previous Honorary Consuls. They organise their own events and Dr King is proud of the turnout rate. “We are just doing our own things now, you [Government] want something you come to us. We are not going to the Government”, says Dr King who recently stepped down from being the Chairman of the Association.
His sentiment echoes that of Dr Henry Chan, Honorary Consul for Namibia, a fellow member of the Association (see Diplomat Issue 18).
Describe the most remarkable experience you have come across as part of your Honorary Consul duties?
Dr King is particularly shocked at one of his responsibilities: jail visits. While full time diplomats have training for this type of work, Dr. King was surprised at the need to visit jail from time to time when a Latvians found themselves in a spot of legal trouble. He has to ensure that the interests of the Latvians are well protected under the Hong Kong law and assist them to communicate with their families when needed. “Prior to this role I have never been to jail before, so [it is a] new experience.”
Because of the job, Dr King is acquainted with more Latvians and even people from the Baltic states. Even though Latvia is culturally different to Estonia and Lithuania, Dr King says the three Honorary Consuls from the Baltics meet up frequently. The Baltics community is small in town and are mainly professionals and scholars. There is a social club in Hong Kong, the Talka, for all people who have relationship with the Baltics to come together.