Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 March, 2010, 12:00am

Edward Yau buries his head in the sandstorm

Hong Kong witnessed a great spectacle on Monday. No, not the sandstorm that shrouded the city. Public Eye is talking about the spectacle of Environment Secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah hiding behind that storm instead of cutting through it to face the truth. Monday's truth was that a freak mainland sandstorm blew Hong Kong's pollution level off the charts. But there's a much larger truth. It is that our gutless government has been deluding itself for so long about local sources of pollution that dozens of people are now dying every month from our dirty air. Monday's sandstorm only worsened our air pollution, not caused it. But Yau couldn't even bring himself to face that truth. He pinned the blame entirely on the storm. He couldn't confess that the filthy haze which hangs over our city will still be here long after the storm is gone. All he could say was that he's helpless against nature. No one expects him to part the Red Sea but it doesn't take a Moses to show leadership in ordering polluting vehicles off the roads, instructing the power companies to speed up the use of cleaner fuel, and banning idling engines. But Yau has pussyfooted for so long on all these things that all he could do when the storm hit was to urge co-operation from the power companies for a couple of days and to appeal to motorists against leaving engines idle. He advised people to take public transport. Does he not know that most of our buses are so old they don't comply with international clean-air standards? Yau behaved like a typical Hong Kong bureaucrat on Monday. He used the sandstorm as an excuse to do nothing rather than a reason to do something.

Speaking for the fat-cat developers

Little-known legislator Abraham Razack (pictured) was in a righteous fit last week. He didn't exactly pound the table but he did lecture his Legco colleagues on the righteousness of respecting the wishes of the majority. He scolded them for opposing a government proposal which forces flat owners in an old building to sell to a developer if 80 per cent of the flats have already been sold. Razack rarely opens his mouth in Legco except to advance the interests of Hong Kong's fat-cat developers. They picked him to represent the real estate sector in one of those small-circle Legco 'elections' involving a tiny number of privileged voters. That's right, he was elected by a minuscule minority of people under a system which the majority of Hongkongers abhor. But that doesn't seem to bother him. Public Eye has never heard him speak up for the righteousness of respecting majority opinion by abolishing the functional constituencies. Maybe he's afraid he'll lose his seat in a real election. Then how will he advance the interests of the fat cats?

One rule for the rich and one for the poor

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen says the government shouldn't play the role of a developer by resuming the Home Ownership Scheme for low-income families. If that's so, why is the Urban Renewal Authority playing the role of a developer by building flats for the rich? It is government-created and publicly funded but has built some of Hong Kong's priciest homes for the super wealthy. Maybe he meant it's wrong to meddle in the market by building flats for the poor but right for the URA to force the poor out of dilapidated buildings to build flats for the rich.

Sharing the wealth an alien concept

Legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, who represents the catering sector, wants Hong Kong's minimum wage to be no higher than HK$20 an hour. He warns anything higher would send restaurants reeling. Here's some food for thought for Cheung. A liveable minimum wage of HK$33 an hour suggested by the labour unions would make eating out a lot more affordable for workers. Restaurants would thrive. It's called sharing the wealth. But we know that's an alien concept in Hong Kong.