Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2007, 12:00am

Come on, Clara Chong, return that cash

Let's start with a no-brainer question: should the government make former Tourism Board executive director Clara Chong Ming-wah repay the over-generous HK$177,000 she received to buy two years of health insurance? Before you answer, think of the 18-year-old who hanged himself last week after the government made him repay HK$20,000 in welfare money. The teenager had left school for a low-paying job to support his kid sister and mentally handicapped mother. Our bureaucrats decided his job disqualified him from some dole money and made him pay it back. Now, what are the bureaucrats doing about Ms Chong? They're passing the buck. There's been so much buck-passing among government officials, Tourism Board officials, and between the government and the Tourism Board that no one knows where the buck's finally landed. But we can tell you where it should land: Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, who was Tourism Board chief at the time; tourism commissioner Au King-chi, who is also the board's deputy chief; Henry Tang Ying-yen who was financial secretary at the time; and Ms Chong.

Mrs Chow approved the extravagant insurance policy without checking. Ms Au, who sits on the board as the government's eyes and ears, was asleep at the wheel. Mr Tang, the government's top money man, didn't know Ms Au was asleep at the wheel. Ms Chong, who took the money, should have known better.

So now what? Before you answer that, think of all those HK$50 health care vouchers Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has agreed to hand out. Each senior citizen gets five a year for a very generous coverage of HK$250. Now, about Ms Chong and her HK$88,000-a-year coverage, she told a Legco inquiry she needed the luxury health plan because she had been feeling unwell. She didn't say why public money had to be used to cover her family's medical needs, as well. An audit report says the Tourism Board has short-changed the public, wasting our money with extravagant spending. The board spent money even before the government approved its budget. What was Ms Au doing as the government's representative on the board? As for Ms Chong, we know what she should do. Return the HK$177,000. You can afford it.

Encountering an undesirable element

If you go to the website of budget airline Jetstar, you will see this boast: 'There are many elements that set us apart from other airlines. The best way to discover them is to fly with us.' We salute Jetstar for coming up with such a worthy motto. And we commend it for living up to its principle. Just last week Jetstar showed one of the elements that sets it apart from other airlines: it threw out a wheelchair-bound passenger, telling the man he couldn't fly with them because he was a cripple. And true to the airline's motto, the astonished passenger only discovered this element after he tried flying with Jetstar. Don't you wonder what the other elements are?

Phantom steps out from the shadows

At last, a sighting. We're talking about Wong Yan-lung. Who is he, you ask? Here's a clue: he's the man whom you hardly ever see or hear about but whose salary you pay. Oh, you mean the secretary for justice! That's right. He's been in charge of Hong Kong's rule of law since 2005 but doesn't think he has a duty to be accountable to the people by talking to us or even showing his face. Now that Rafael Hui Si-yan - who spent his two years as chief secretary hiding from the people - is gone, Mr Wong is next up to fill the role of Phantom of the Government. The phantom made an appearance last week with Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung to talk about the government's political reform report to Beijing. Needless to say, he didn't do much of the talking.