One-issue wonders sing about the same old blues
WE have, in the Legislative Council, a fundamental problem. It is in the system, and no amount of whinnying about confrontation and lack of co-operation will solve it. It has nothing to do with private member's bills either.
It is what you get with functional constituencies. It is, in short, the one-issue legislator.
Chan Wing-chan, the restaurateurs' and hoteliers' man in Legco, is a case in point.
No prizes for guessing what he devoted his speech to: the new charges on restaurant sewage which are putting thousands of his constituents out of work.
Margaret Ng, for the legal constituency, addressed the bench eloquently on the legal status of the legislature and why an unelected provisional legislature would be a bad, bad thing.
Nothing wrong with her argument. Legally sound and a democrat's dream. But it illustrates the point.
And, when one-issue legislator meets one-issue Governor, the result is rather reminiscent of that famous photo-opportunity between Zhou Nan and Margaret Thatcher.
Mr Zhou reached forwards for a firm handshake of the kind he'd denied Chris Patten, while Lady Thatcher's hand swept around as she turned to wave to the cameras.
One after another, functional constituency members stood to complain about some omission from the policy address.
Lau Wong-fat, representing rural voters, despaired at the failure to mention flood control.
And the Governor flew into a bit of turbulence with tourism representative Howard Young for not giving a commitment to build a second runway at Chek Lap Kok. (Not really something he's in a position to do, is it, Howard, old chap? It was hard enough getting one runway past the Joint Liaison Group, if we remember rightly.) So after all that, it was refreshing to have the unofficial representative of the Preliminary Working Committee constituency standing up for the Government.
'No fair person can deny we have a competent administration,' said David Chu, who must fast be becoming a bit of a favourite with the Guv and his team.
It was then that he came up with his most constructive proposal to date. The working relationship between the Hong Kong Government and the Preparatory Committee had to be 'more than a bunch of meetings', he said.
Formal contacts between local and mainland officials were very important and senior officials should spend 'real time' in each other's working environment.
It was like a lighthouse beam suddenly piercing the murk.
Of course! That was what had been wrong with the relationship until now. How could we have missed it! Officials had not been meeting in real time.
Imagine it. Secretary X goes up to Beijing, enters a room, says his piece and leaves. Sometime later, his message is beamed onto a video screen in Lu Ping's hospital room.
Mr Lu speaks, angrily, into the microphone by his bed. The message is then fed through one of those 1,000-watt amplifiers they use at pop-concerts and fed through the system several times before it is finally released by a specially reinforced Xinhua megaphone at newspaper offices throughout Hong Kong.
Finally, it appears in Secretary X's morning newspaper 24 hours later.
No wonder communication has been so difficult.
Let's get David's proposal adopted as quickly as possible. From now on, meetings must be in real time.