Secret passion

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 February, 1996, 12:00am

THE Housing Authority has never been renowned for its transparency. Its sub-committee meetings are held behind closed doors. Until recently, attendance records were kept confidential.

This passion for secrecy has scaled new heights with the decision to bar Democratic Party legislator Lee Wing-tat from an ad-hoc committee's series of public forums on the controversial scheme to evict rich tenants.

According to committee chairman Professor Yeung Yue-man, this was decided for fear that Mr Lee, who strongly opposes the proposed new policy, might say the wrong thing and so cause 'embarrassment'.

That is a novel concept of democratic discussion. No doubt others sometimes wish they could act in this way. Many senior civil servants would love to be able to ignore legislators who oppose government policy. Beijing has already cut off contacts with its critics in the Democratic Party.

The Housing Authority's attempts to inhibit debate are unacceptable in a fair and open society. As a statutory body handling issues affecting the livelihood of millions of people, it has a particular responsibility to ensure that all points of view are represented in its discussions.

The decision to exclude Mr Lee was quite simply wrong. Steps should be taken by more senior members of the Housing Authority to ensure that nothing like it is allowed to happen again.