Wielding power down at the court

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 April, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 April, 1996, 12:00am

There may be a perfectly innocent explanation for this. We don't want to deny the Judiciary's maintenance men a fair trial.

Nor would we presume anyone guilty of putting them up to some judicious switch-flicking.

But our colleagues down in the Supreme Court media-corps could not help noticing that a series of power cuts that afflicted the press room did not seem to affect anyone else in the building. Some outages lasted several hours. One went on for 24 hours.

And the maintenance men's answer to this? Brown-outs, Philippines-style, but with Hong Kong characteristics.

'You can have a little bit of light,' the unfortunate scribes were told.

'But we can't let you have enough electricity to run your computers.' So if they'd just be kind enough not to file any stories everything would be just fine.

Most court reporters are still old enough to remember how to use pen and paper, but you'd be amazed the difficulty such old fashioned methods cause in hi-tech newspaper offices nowadays.

Luckily, the clever judicial plot to silence the media was foiled. South China Morning Post court reporters, at least, work on low-tech, battery-powered laptops.

Well, almost foiled. So low-tech are these computers, that replacement batteries have to be bought down the road at the 7-Eleven.

Journalists with deadlines were forced to hunt for power-points secreted in inaccessible corners of the building instead. Nice to see Chief Superintendent Eric Lockeyear improving his tan in Australia.

The top Police Public Relations Branch man has been down under on very important force business that really needed a senior man's touch.

All we knew was that it was connected with Junior Police Call, the police-run youth-club movement.

But that didn't necessarily mean it was not important liaison work.

Then we received a copy of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force newspaper, Off Beat.

Under a picture of Mr Lockeyear up a tree, we learned the real purpose of his visit.

It was a 'reccie to Australia to check out venues for the youthful winners of the Help Police Fight Youth Crime Competition'.

Top cop - top assignment. On the same page is an anonymous letter.

'Dear Sir,' it starts. 'It is unpleasant to say but it is a fact that some civilians are keen to leave the outlying islands. However, there is no rule to govern when they can be transferred out.' Good grief! Does the Secretary for Security know? Shouldn't he be rushing a bill through Legco to ensure they stay where they face years in detention centres if they float in to the urban areas illegally? No, not arbitrary detention, of course.

It's just that until they are officially refused transfer, they should have to stay locked up. Handovers may come and handovers may go, but colonial privileges go on forever.

The clever new plan to turn the waterfront into the Special Administrative Region's replica Forbidden City still leaves the Hongkong Bank building with its time-hallowed clear view of the harbour.

Ex-Preliminary Working Committee members Nicky Chan Nai-keong, Raymond Wu Wai-yung and architect Bosco Ho Hin-ngai may be flattering the new masters with their ceremonial avenue and other grandiose echoes of the Northern Capital.

But they dare not upset the people who really matter.