Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 June, 2010, 12:00am

Shark's fin query rightly sticks in officials' craw

Aren't governments supposed to lead by example? So why are our government officials using taxpayers' money to treat themselves and their buddies to shark's fin soup? The environmental group Green Sense asked government departments if they had banned the dish from official banquets and staff dinners. Almost all the departments refused to answer. Forget for a minute about the environmental damage caused by the slaughter of so many sharks. And forget about the cruelty of slicing fins off sharks and then dumping them back into the sea to suffer an agonising death. Let's just focus on the pricey dish itself. Why should taxpayers finance the extravagance of departments that insist on shark's fin soup at official functions? Who are they trying to impress? What makes it all even harder to swallow is the attitude of the Environmental Protection Department. It bombards us daily with TV advertisements about living green yet it won't say if it dishes up shark's fin soup at its functions. Surely, it should take the lead in weaning Hong Kong off its love affair with the dish.

A minister who can't ignore public opinion?

Visit Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah's blog if you have time. But forget it if you can't read Chinese. Our top officials don't think you matter enough for them to waste time on an English blog. Anyway, Tsang writes in his blog that the government's 'Act Now' campaign has changed Hong Kong politics forever. He says legislators and the government can no longer ignore public opinion. Really? Does that mean the government will finally heed public opinion in cracking down on greedy property developers? Does it mean the government will resume building home ownership flats, which is also the wish of the people? Does it mean the government will finally end supermarket rip-offs with a fair competition law, which is a long-stated wish of the people? Does it mean the government will side with the wishes of the public rather than big business on a minimum wage law? Should Public Eye go on? Most legislators are on the side of public opinion on all these issues. What say you, Mr Tsang?

Developer wears its greed on its sleeve

Public opinion was against a law allowing property developers who acquire 90 per cent of old buildings to force the remaining owners to sell. People saw this as yet another government kowtow to developers - allowing them to buy cheap and sell expensive. But the government pushed the law through anyway. Now a developer is forcing out elderly tenants from a prime Caine Road building that is old but in good shape. The only reason it's being torn down is that the developer can make big bucks from a new luxury building. Will the government listen to the people and scrap the new law?

Free speech in the home of the brave

Public Eye would like to thank Helen Thomas who, until recently, was the doyenne of the White House press corps. She exposed the myth that in a democracy even people who disagree with what you say are supposed to defend your right to say it. Powerful people in America didn't like what Thomas said. But instead of defending her right to say it, she was fired from her job. All she said was the Israelis should 'get the hell out of Palestine'. Public Eye is not saying we agree with her. Some of her quotes lacked historical understanding. But surely, in the US of all places, her right to free speech should be defended. But no. The Obama administration condemned the 89-year-old Thomas, who has covered 10 presidents. And the White House Correspondents Association called her comments indefensible. Indefensible? Can Public Eye assume that from now on US politicians and all those self-righteous correspondents who cover them will no longer defend the rights of mainland dissidents to speak out against China's leaders? If those dissidents are punished, can we expect silence from the Hearst newspaper group, which fired Thomas?