Denial of visa to Taipei mayor harms Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 January, 2005, 12:00am

It is a great regret that Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou has been denied a visa to Hong Kong ('Taipei mayor's visa ban could mar relations', January 6).

Mr Ma was to have given a talk at the University of Hong Kong so that views of both sides could be exchanged. But now all these plans have to be deferred.

If Mr Ma's criticism of the anti-secession bill caused the visa denial, it would not only be a great regret, but also cause grave harm to the 'one country, two systems' principle. Hong Kong, the place where this magnificent concept is practised, should be able to allow different types of views to be expressed and different types of people to enter.

Note that 'one country, two systems' was originally intended to be used as a demonstration to Taiwan, so that its people would eventually accept this kind of concept. However, the denial of Mr Ma's visa does have a counter effect. If you were Taiwanese, would you believe 'one country, two systems' is practicable?

Although both the Hong Kong government and the central government have the legal right to deny Mr Ma's visa, they should carefully and thoroughly consider the consequences of such an action. This will certainly become a controversial issue in the next few days in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.

I hope that this incident will not hasten the pace of Taiwan's independence. Fighting a war is definitely not good for either side.

SAM WONG, Yuen Long

Reit: probe government

It is encouraging to read ('Albert Cheng's Link role faces police probe', January 6) that solicitor Andrew Lam Ping-cheong is concerned with the minutia of Hong Kong's common law, but perhaps he is looking through the wrong end of the microscope.

The Link Reit listing is the deliberate sale of public assets below market valuation to selected parties. The immediate outcome, on listing, is the sale of acquired shares at a substantial profit to those parties. The tantrums of some thwarted local investors and brokers appear to confirm this.

As a taxpayer and member of the public, Mr Lam - 'After all, I did not subscribe to any Link shares' - should surely be up in arms about this apparent corruption of public trust. The public purse would be deliberately short-changed.

Mr Lam - with former senior ICAC officer Alex Tsui Ka-kit and activist Lew Mon-hung - should instead consider investigating the offence of misfeasance by the secretary of housing and all other public servants associated with such a scheme - from the chief executive down.

There are, I understand, cases in the UK and the US which bear close scrutiny with regard to the Hong Kong one. As Mr Lam was quoted as saying: 'That's the least we can do. I have an obligation to alert people and the police.' The answer, surely, is in the letter of the law.



Harbour actions right

We refer to the letter 'Government has legal power over Legco on Link Reit' (December 25), in which our society was criticised for bringing the Central reclamation judicial review.

Since the enactment of the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance in 1997, despite numerous protests by our society, the government chose to adopt a wrong legal interpretation by claiming that, under the ordinance, some public benefit would be enough to justify reclamation. In 1998, the government proposed a Central reclamation plan to reclaim 38 hectares of the harbour and to sell them for commercial development to raise revenue. We threatened legal proceedings and the government reduced the reclamation to the present 23 hectares which it claimed was the minimum for building the Central-Wan Chai bypass.

In 2002, despite our strong objections, the government proposed the Wan Chai reclamation plan to reclaim 26 hectares (much also for commercial development), again based on the same wrong interpretation of the ordinance. Our society had no alternative but to institute a judicial review. Both the High Court and the Court of Final Appeal (by 5-0) found in our favour and ordered that the flawed plan be reviewed by the Town Planning Board. The courts agreed with our interpretation that to satisfy the ordinance, the government must apply the 'compelling public need' test.

As soon as the legal interpretation of the ordinance was clarified by Hong Kong's highest court, we demanded that the government follow the same procedure and submit the Central plan, which suffered from the same flaw of wrong legal interpretation, to be similarly reviewed by the board.

The government ignored our request and instead pressed ahead with the Central reclamation works. This forced us to institute another judicial review. With full knowledge of our judicial review proceedings, the government prematurely and with undue haste signed a construction contract with the contractors to create a fait accompli so it could claim to the court that stopping the reclamation works would cost the community $690 million in damages. Mainly because of this, the High Court did not grant our judicial review.

However, the judge pronounced that: 'It may well have been preferable for the chief executive in council to remit the plan, at least regarding the extent of reclamation' but that 'I have no jurisdiction to determine whether [he] was right or wrong in his decision.' Therefore, despite our judicial review being unsuccessful, whether the Central reclamation complies with the ordinance remains in doubt.

The above clearly demonstrates that the Central reclamation judicial review taken by our society was completely proper and necessary in the interests of the community.

WINSTON K. S. CHU, adviser Society for Protection of the Harbour

Why 'war' on smoking?

Your leader 'Time for sparks to fly in the war on smoking' (January 6) clearly demonstrates the Post's activist agenda. It also explains why you so readily accommodate letters merely expressing personal dislike of tobacco - unlike, say, stinking tofu (smell), chicken feet (appearance) or rain.

The issue is not your opinion but you sacrifice basic standards of due diligence to support your agenda.

1. You must know very well that Thailand does not prohibit smoking in bars and yet you are grouping it with New York City and California (not quite the US) and Ireland to imply critical mass significance.

2. There are no findings that remotely support your claim that 'restaurants and bars have continued to thrive in other parts of the world' after smoking bans were introduced. This claim is contradicted by your own reporting and goes against common sense: any restaurant or bar wishing to ban smoking is free to do so and reap the so-called financial rewards. Can't we settle on voluntary action based on self-interest, then?

3. Elementary due diligence would reveal that a 10-year study by WHO showed no 'statistically significant' health impact of secondary smoke. This was a major letdown for anti-tobacco activists. Not for long. If facts stand in the way, bury or twist them.

In 15 years in Hong Kong, I have not experienced a single complaint from non-smokers in restaurants or bars. What happened to tolerance? We all have likes and dislikes, but do not embark on 'wars' to have others conform to them.


Stealing children

Your article 'Traffickers seeking to sell disaster orphans' (January 5) reports that traffickers are taking orphaned children out of the Indonesian province of Aceh and selling them for adoption or, worse, paedophilia. Have these people no souls? Is money their only god? Words cannot express the deep loathing I feel.


Mei Foo Sun Chuen