Brickbats follow that budget blitz
The government certainly cannot be accused of doing too little to drum up public engagement in its budget. Figures provided to lawmakers yesterday show that between December 1 and February 15, announcements of public interest (APIs) on the budget appeared 6,371 times on television, or about twice a day. The radio APIs were broadcast 1,760 times. The publicity blitz was apparently a success. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah received some 6,750 submissions, six times the corresponding figure for the previous year. But if these views were reflected in the budget, this was not reflected in the opinion polls, which showed a high degree of dissatisfaction with the financial blueprint. Such sentiments also showed up in the legislature: the 22 votes against the budget in the annual debate were a record since 1997.
Some positive spin from Mr Nobody
Frankie Yip Kan-chuen (left), a former journalist who last year was appointed as the financial secretary's spin doctor - political assistant to give him his official title - has put a positive spin on a survey in which none of the respondents knew who he was. 'Friends called,' he said. 'Some comforted me. Some said never mind, just work harder.' It was no surprise no one knew him, Mr Yip insisted, as the post of political assistant was new in Hong Kong, and in the context of political systems elsewhere, he was very junior. 'The most important thing is for me to focus on concrete things and listen to the views of people with a humble attitude. After all, we are paid to be public servants,' said the humble, 'very junior' official, who earns HK$134,150 a month.
Quarantine 'captives' are staying put
Despite the grievances aired by some foreigners over their quarantine in Metropark Hotel, no major countries are planning great escapes similar to Mexico's evacuation exercise. The British, US and Australian consulates, with respectively 26, nine and four of their nationals under quarantine in the hotel and in hospitals, said they had no plans to send chartered flights to pick up stranded travellers. Why? Perhaps they are happy with the arrangement or perhaps - as the quarantine period ends tomorrow and the government did not send a note offering early release for their 'prisoners' until Tuesday night when most diplomats had gone home - they just didn't think it worthwhile so late in the game.
Chief hears some unflattering language
Racial discrimination laws aren't usually aimed at protecting the dominant cultural group in society, but some media wags are suggesting the chief executive may have discriminated against his own race on Tuesday. Donald Tsang Yam-kuen issued statements in English, Cantonese and Putonghua about the decision to quarantine more than 200 travellers in the Metropark Hotel. Yesterday, several Chinese-language newspapers pointed out that in English, he apologised to those affected while in the other two statements he merely said he 'understood' their anxiety. They mocked him for appearing to look down on locals and mainlanders. It also earned him a lampooning in an Apple Daily gossip column that 'quoted' him saying: 'Please understand that ... since I was given a knighthood from the queen, English is my mother tongue. My Putonghua proficiency is very mediocre, and my Cantonese is also not very fluent.' Will this cause a furore like the recent one about another piece of satire by another columnist in another language about another group in society? Probably not.