Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 April, 2010, 12:00am

But will there be real grass, m'lord?

The grass is always greener on the other side. But what if there is no actual grass? Will the other side still be greener? World renowned architect Lord Foster says the open space he plans for our HK$21 billion West Kowloon Cultural District will top even that of New York's Central Park. Envious New Yorkers will then look at tiny Hong Kong and say the grass is truly greener on our side. But will they really? Think of Central Park and you think of lazy Sunday afternoon strolls, kids flying kites, teenagers throwing frisbees, and families picnicking on the grass. Yes, grass. Think of Hong Kong's parks and you think of concrete, of guards lecturing children who dare kick a ball or fly a kite, and of signs that sternly warn you to keep off what little roped-off grass patches there are. So here's a question for Lord Foster: does your grand vision for the cultural district's open space include real grass? And will the children be allowed to play on it?

Harbour smelling like roses? Dream on

It's getting better all the time. Public Eye is talking about the delusional world of our environmental officials. In that world Hong Kong's once-fragrant harbour is making a miraculous comeback. You'll know what we mean if you've seen the Environmental Protection Department's TV message, known as an announcement of public interest. Television stations are forced to run these APIs for free. The one about our harbour shows Mediterranean-like clear blue waters overlooked by an azure sky. Mesmerised, we went in search of this paradise, starting in Central. Ignoring the murky grey waters, the choking smog and the moonscape created by endless reclamation, we persevered. The stench of sewage pumped into the harbour was the smelliest at the Wan Chai ferry pier. We held our breath, closed our eyes and drifted into the world of our bureaucrats. It's called never-never land. Sure enough, we saw clear blue waters, clean air and a dazzling blue sky, just like in the API.

Pesky street sleepers won't stay still

Here's a dirty little secret about our street sleepers. There are more of them than the government wants you to believe. Our bureaucrats play a numbers game to dupe us all. Street sleepers who don't sleep in the exact same spot for at least seven days in a row are not counted as street sleepers. That's right, if you sleep on one side of the street today and cross over to the other side tomorrow, you're not counted. That's how our bureaucrats keep the numbers low. Until recently you're also not counted unless you're asleep in your spot by 10pm. Who in Hong Kong goes to sleep by 10pm? Even the noise law doesn't kick in till 11pm. Anyway, help groups kicked up a fuss, and now the bureaucrats work later into the evening counting the street sleepers. Those who are in the same spot, naturally.

Can-do spirit alive, wrinkles and all

It was nearing lunch hour in busy Wan Chai when Public Eye saw her, a shrivelled old woman in her 70s. She had stopped at a traffic light with her huge cartload of scavenged cardboard boxes, all flattened so she could pile them higher than her shoulders. When the walk sign flashed, she couldn't get the heavy cart moving again. She heaved and shoved, a strenuous effort that contorted her face. By the time she got it going again the light had returned to red. But she wasn't going to let that stop her. She weaved through the many lanes of speeding traffic on Hennessy Road until she got to the other side. Is that the 'can-do' spirit the government is talking about in its multimillion-dollar redesigned BrandHK logo? If yes, then why not dump the flying dragon logo with its three new tails that cost HK$1.4 million to add and use the old woman's wrinkled face as our new logo? She symbolises the true Hong Kong more than any dragon.