Elsie Tu

James Tien's call smacks of opportunism

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 January, 2005, 12:00am

James Tien Pei-chun's new mantle as environmental crusader raises his Liberal Party's capacity for political opportunism to previously uncharted levels ('Clearly, we need to work together', December 24).

He wants people to see him and his party as responsive and sympathetic to the public's concerns of the day. But the Liberals are still just a political wind-sock, blowing as the winds dictate. Co-operating with the mainland to improve the environment is laudable, but the party's record does not fit with Mr Tien's fuzzy holiday sentiment. In fact, the party has resisted a score of environmental initiatives over the years.

A few years ago, I was a public relations executive launching the Environmental Protection Department's engine-off campaign, a programme that encouraged drivers to turn off their idling engines to cut emissions. The director at the time, Michael Footman, trumpeted the benefits of voluntary improvement measures (ask nicely and they'll turn it off) over enforceable regulations (give them a ticket) to better hammer home these difficult new environmental concepts. His cohort, (and now Executive Councillor) Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, agreed voluntary measures made better sense than legislative proscriptions. As the PR consultant, all I could do was remain silent as I looked over the harbour at the grey smog blocking the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. Such volunteerism is a not-so-clever code used by the elites of Hong Kong for 'forget about it!' After all, would a minibus driver turn off an idling engine in torrid summer heat if it were not mandatory?

Mr Tien has laid down the gauntlet against Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and the West Kowloon Cultural District as well, no doubt to raise the party's image to match the public's rising disapproval of government policy and callous big business. Note that the Liberals were followers on this behind the Democrats, who led the way on the Hunghom case as well.

And then, woosh, the wind-sock shifted again when the Liberals supported a march on New Year's Day by a group of stock brokers angry over the lost Link Reit millions. Oh, but then (woosh), they pulled out of the brokers' march after the Democrats made their march that day against business and government collusion a tsunami fund-raiser instead. Is Liberal a new synonym for shadow?

If the shadow party truly wanted to reflect the public's anger, Mr Tien would demand in Legco that Housing Secretary Michael Suen Ming-yeung resign.

He would also cry out for enabling legislation to make sure a new initial public offering for the Link Reit makes it to market without hiccups. And perhaps he would propose that five per cent of the new reit be set aside in a trust to fund old-age care centres, or public housing medical clinics for children in poverty. The new listing should make the tenants stakeholders rather than real or perceived victims of the IPO. But what says the wind-sock?


Reversal of roles

I seem to remember that when I arrived in Hong Kong (before traffic lights) and for some time thereafter, the newspapers were full of the hard work being done on behalf of our most deprived by Elsie Elliot and Ron Woodcraft.

They fought the good fight for the very many under-privileged. Neither were in the least shy about using the media to present their case against a just-provide-the-basics colonial government, not that there was much income to spend in the 1960s.

Based on recent statements in the Post, I have to wonder if Elsie Tu is the same person as Mrs Elliot. I have serious doubts, substantially supported by Ms Tu's politically motivated attacks, if only by implication, on Lo Siu-lan. Here is a lady who apparently cannot write and survives on public assistance. But Ms Lo knows when she stands to be ripped off.

There was no behind-the-scenes manipulation about her press conference, which was by any standard - but for those with a politically motivated axe to grind - one of honest plain speaking. In this, Ms Lo could give lessons to our chief executive. Given Ms Lo's circumstances, it is only to be expected that she would need help in airing her grievance. Her brave action gave the rule of law a boost and lifted share prices.

It should not have been Albert Cheng King-hon sitting behind Ms Lo. It should have been Mrs Elliot, the one that made her name giving aid to the poor and unrepresented. Or were the battles with governors Sir David Trench and Lord MacLehose nothing but politically motivated manipulation? I didn't believe so then.

So when and why did this change happen? Certainly governor Chris Patten's push for open government and more representation seemed to have deeply offended Ms Tu and she has openly sided with the powers that be ever since.

The Animal Farm syndrome perhaps? Colonial capitalism bad, communist capitalism good? Many appropriately strong words spring to mind for Ms Tu's remarks, but I'll settle for just one. Shame.

PETER BERRY, Lamma Island

Not the time for fun

I am angry that people are going back to the beaches as if nothing happened ('Jet-skiing and topless girls - Phuket gets back to business', Sunday Morning Post, January 2).

How can they enjoy themselves while the surroundings are destroyed by the tsunami, and people are crying and in pain? Don't such tourists have any respect for the victims? Naturally, as time passes, one has to move on with life, but they should be ashamed so soon after the disaster.

Their time could be spent helping out. What the survivors need is emotional and physical support, and donations that will help them get back on their feet.

Tourism is a main factor of their income, but right now it is the last thing they need to worry about.

Have these tourists seen pictures of children and adults crying? Have they seen how devastated people are? If so, can they really enjoy themselves on a so-called vacation?


Police doing their job

I lived through the flooding of a city of 150,000 in Canada in 1996. Hundreds of homes were washed away and lives were lost.

For the article, 'Hunt for HK survivors a wild goose chase' (January 4), to criticise Hong Kong police efforts in Phuket is utterly irresponsible. Roads are washed out, telephone lines are not there, and bodies are everywhere. Add to that the language barrier and every other agency trying to get things done.

The Hong Kong police are some of the best in the world. They are simply searching for Hong Kong residents wherever they can, and I thank them for it. If the reporters are so smart, they should go find the survivors themselves and stop trailing the police.


PM should stay abroad

In the article 'Blair set to face the music for remaining on holiday' (January 4) following the tsunami, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said there was nothing else the government could and should have done, notwithstanding the fact that the prime minister was abroad, in Egypt. It would be nice if this arrangement could be made permanent for Tony Blair. Even if he tired of Egypt, no doubt a suitably prestigious and well-funded position could be found for him in America, whose interests he has served with dogged devotion.

Thereafter the British might show sufficient independence of mind to choose a prime minister who could be depended upon to always put British and European interests first, rather than slavishly executing American policy.