Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2009, 12:00am

Workers killed by corporate greed

Do you know why six construction workers plunged to their deaths last Sunday? If you want the whitewash reasons you can wait for the official reports. They'll be impressively packed with technical details about how the 20th-floor work platform inside a lift shaft collapsed. But no fingers will be pointed to justify top people being led away in handcuffs. Now, if you want the real reasons, read this. They died because in Hong Kong greed supersedes the value of life. Our bureaucrats and property developers are accomplices in this. They are dazzled by ever taller 'iconic' buildings. They want them built in a hurry. The developers ask for, and the bureaucrats routinely allow, fast-track procedures. This way they'll always have plenty of new ones to marvel at from their chauffeur-driven cars. And they can boast to the world how 'developed' we are. Our wall of 'iconic' buildings hides the third-world conditions for workers who are forced to work on Sundays without safety officers. They ignore their own safety and break noise and other laws to meet tight deadlines. Passing police turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. Bureaucrats are in their ivory towers. So what if the developers make the workers work Sundays. They're just workers. So far this year 14 have died. Now you know the reasons.

Fat cats put money above heritage

Here's a quote that explains perfectly how Hong Kong's fat cats became fat cats: 'I bought the house not because it was a heritage piece. I got it only to earn rental income.' That came from Shih Wing-ching, boss of Hong Kong's biggest real estate firm, Centaline (Holdings). He's a very rich man who puts rental income above heritage. Caring about Hong Kong's heritage doesn't make you rich. Rental income does. That's why Shih is shocked by the Antiquities and Monuments Office's ruling that his HK$55 million two-storey pre-war European-style building on Conduit Road should be preserved on heritage grounds. He's fighting the ruling yet won't say if that's because he wants to add his property to Hong Kong's growing pile of demolished heritage buildings. But let's do the maths here. A two-storey building equals nice rental income. A 20-storey building equals even nicer rental income.

It hurts just as much to fly as buy, Tony

Public Eye likes this quote by Cathay Pacific boss Tony Tyler who was moaning about how much planemakers make: 'If you walk in and order an Airbus or Boeing without a clue on the pricing, you will be hit in a very painful way.' We were so struck by the quote we checked it out ourselves. No, we didn't order a plane - just a first-class Cathay ticket. And we can verify this: if you order one without a clue on pricing you will indeed be hit in a very painful way. Public Eye certainly was, so we backed out.

Don't mention the war

Public Eye has displeased Hong Kong's Germans. Some have told us, not very nicely, exactly what they think about our calling their military commanders trigger-happy types who valued German lives above those of Afghans. One wrote in to say he fully agreed with defence minister Franz Josef Jung's backing of a German-ordered Nato air strike that incinerated nearly 100 innocent Afghans. Maybe they should all read a Guardian newspaper article published in this paper last Sunday. It told of grieving relatives being given a quota of body parts to bury since there was very little left of the victims. Most relatives weren't even sure the pieces of flesh they buried were their actual kin. The story said the dead, mostly impoverished civilians, had simply been scavenging fuel trucks hijacked by militants who had long fled after the trucks got stuck in a riverbed. Jung insisted that the fuel trucks could have been used as suicide bombs against German soldiers. Maybe he forgot the trucks - already depleted of their fuel cargo and therefore worthless as bombs - were also going nowhere since they were stuck.