Legislators criticise ferry firm for flying its flag

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 July, 2007, 12:00am


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Flagpoles at Tsim Sha Tsui's Star Ferry terminal should be flying the national or Hong Kong flag instead of those of the Wharf group, which owns and manages the Star Ferry and nearby Ocean Terminal, several lawmakers say.

They questioned why the five flagpoles, on public land, should be used to promote the commercial interests of the group headed by tycoon Peter Woo Kwong-ching, who unsuccessfully ran against Tung Chee-hwa in the first chief executive election.

According to the Lands Department, The Wharf (Holdings) was allowed to decide which flags would be hoisted when management of the flagpoles was handed to the group 'a long time ago'. The flags bear the logos of the conglomerate and its subsidiaries, including Star Ferry.

The criticism comes as the government is stepping up public education to promote patriotism.

Legislator Choy So-yuk, a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the arrangement was inappropriate as the government should not have given a corporation the privilege of promoting its interests on public land.

'There is no problem for the government to allow the Wharf group to help manage the flagpoles, for they are situated near its properties. But it does not mean a complete free hand and the attachment of a privilege to promote its own company for free,' she said.

Ms Choy said the flagpoles, second in prominence on the harbourfront only to the ones in Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai, should play a more important role in promoting the image of Hong Kong.

'The government should think about using them more wisely. They can be used to promote the image of Hong Kong by hoisting the national and SAR flags. If not, the Tourism Board can help with the flagpoles' management to boost the image of Hong Kong,' she said.

Ms Choy said another official flag-raising ceremony should be considered so crowds at Bauhinia Square could be diverted to Kowloon side.

DAB lawmaker Wong Yung-kan also called on the government to review its policy on the flagpoles.

'Even if the company hoists only one flag bearing its logo, there will still be four flagpoles left. There is no reason why the national and regional flags are not to be flown,' he said.

But a Lands Department spokeswoman said the flagpoles belonged to the Wharf group, even though they were located on public land.

'The management of the flagpoles has long been handled by Wharf. We do not demand that they hoist any specific type of flags there.'

She said the government had no plans to review the arrangement.

A Wharf spokesman said only that the company was responsible for the management of the flagpoles.