In the end, everybody wins

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 December, 2004, 12:00am

From the outset, it was a win-win-win case.

Despite the loss of a potential windfall, the two developers salvaged damage to their brand name and removed a flashpoint within the community.

Many people who accept the principle of private ownership are also upset by the mantra of maximising profit in a free economy. The developers' decision will boost a sense of victory with the public.

Caught between conflicting values of business and people, the government must have breathed a sigh of relief - a governance crisis had been averted.

That said, there have already been words of caution about the possible profound implications of the landmark case on a free economy. (Developers maintained the government had not put pressure on them.)

Professor Li Kui-wai, an economics expert at the City University of Hong Kong, doubted if the principle of free-market economy had been put in doubt in the face of political pressure. 'Developers have the right to make decisions in their best interest. Just as flat owners can renovate their units, developers are entitled to demolish their estate.'

He noted the Hunghom Peninsula estate case could be unique and its potential impact on business environment should be minimal.

A former senior official was unsure. 'We're running into a leadership deficit, we have a government without legitimacy. You'll be seeing more challenges against the government in the next two and a half years.' As some analysts have said, the next station is West Kowloon.