Sorry, people, the housing chief says it's your fault

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 December, 2006, 12:00am

Housing chief Michael Suen's Insight piece on the Star Ferry pier smacks of a condescending attitude that has become disturbingly common in the government ('Don't blame the government, December 15). He writes that amendments to the zoning plan were gazetted 'to invite public views, and no objection was received'.

So, basically, this is what it has come down to, people: it's your fault. You weren't paying attention. Now the bulldozers are in, it's too late.

Oh, sorry, I stand corrected: now that the contract has been signed, someone has to make money out of it. Taxpayers, please fulfil the contract the government has signed for you. As Mr Suen writes, 'it would be highly irresponsible and extremely expensive to cancel all of a sudden'.

He also writes that plans were 'determined after a long process of public consultation, conducted in accordance with statutory procedures'. There was a public consultation - although most of Hong Kong might not have been aware of it. This is how things are always done.

I'd like to ask Mr Suen something. In 1998 and 1999, Star Ferry general manager Frankie Yick Chi-ming went on record as saying that saving the clock tower alone was not enough as the pier was a part of the whole structure. Legislator Howard Young, of the tourism sector, opposed the change, saying even former US president Bill Clinton was interested enough to visit the pier. Lau Kong-wah, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the pier was unique and should stay put. Do you not remember that, Mr Suen, as you stand there with your contract and your wrecking ball?

HO LAI-KIT, Mid-Levels

Replace the real Mr Suen

In 'Don't blame the government' (December 15), housing chief Michael Suen says preparations to preserve the Star Ferry pier include 'storing three-dimensional images of it through an advanced, laser-scanning technology'. Perhaps the same technology could be used to replace the real Mr Suen. That would be progress.

He writes: 'The Planning Department is commissioning an independent consultant to conduct an urban-design study - entitled Central Reclamation Urban Design Study and Preparation of Planning/Design Framework for Key Development Uses.' Clearly, he is working on the time-honoured premise: if you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em, and lots of capital letters look important.

He writes: 'The whole community should consider this matter in a rational manner...' Hello, is anyone home? The community, Mr Suen, was not given the option to consider the matter at all, rationally or otherwise.

Could the community agree to follow the example set in saving 'items of historical value ... including the clock bells, mechanical parts and clock faces' and dismantle the government and store the bits in a museum - where they belong?


Rest in peace, GST

Members, associate scholars, staff and supporters of The Lion Rock Institute were thrilled, we are sure, to see the headlines heralding the demise of the proposed goods and services tax earlier this month. Many groups in Hong Kong came out swinging against the tax, including the Coalition Against the Sales Tax, democratic parties, unions and free-market advocates.

The Lion Rock Institute was a leading critic, providing a clear, often original message on its impact. Consultations with politicians, business groups and others helped them formulate and articulate their positions. Some are still going on under the continuing consultation process (to ensure this thing is really dead, not just sleeping). The announcement made on December 5 was a tribute to those who strive to keep taxes low and simple and restrain free-spending government. Together, we all changed the course of policy.

The government did make one good point in the debate: Hong Kong has challenges that need to be faced. We believe the way forward lies in reforming our least market-sensitive institutions - including health care, housing and education. Doing so will create wealth and allow more people more personal choice in how they live their lives. That is the essence of freedom.

Any future taxation reform should not deviate from two major principles: keep it low and simple. The low-taxation principle is not simply a matter of good economics - it's the law. Under Article 108 of the Basic Law, our government is expected to adopt 'the low tax policy previously pursued in Hong Kong as reference'.


S.T. CHAN, The Lion Rock Institute

Shades of the Titanic

We read in your newspaper that the Yangtze River dolphin is feared extinct after only 25 years of Chinese industrialisation. The river had been its home for 25 million years ('Yangtze's dolphin 'extinct'', December 14). We also read about the rich and famous in Hong Kong putting their maids in jail for stealing a couple of photographs, or taking expensive dance lessons. Is it just me hearing the theme tune from the Titanic playing ever louder in the background?

JOHN WALBECK, Discovery Bay

The truth about Chile

Maybe Henry Rudnick can be forgiven for believing Augusto Pinochet saved his life as he was only 12 when the general came to power ('Pinochet saved my life', December 14), but his blatant distortion of historical fact is unforgivable. He claims that the 'cold war brought violence and suffering' to Chile. Many on the right would have us believe that president Salvador Allende was a puppet of the then Soviet Union. This is not true. The only foreign power fomenting unrest in Chile in the 1970s was the US. The relationship continued after the coup, when Pinochet sent 1,500 men to the infamous US School of the Americas to improve their torture techniques.

Mr Rudnick claims 'thousands were saved' because of Pinochet. In fact, nobody was killed or tortured under Allende. He was elected in free and democratic elections, unlike Pinochet, who seized power in a bloody coup and went on to torture and murder those who opposed him.