Tsang walks the walk on car-free day

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 September, 2010, 12:00am

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen led by example yesterday when he supported the city's second World Car Free Day by shunning his chauffeur-driven limousine - and walking to work.

Not that the short distance from his official residence, Government House, to attend Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in Caine Road, then back home before walking to work at the government offices proved too taxing for Tsang.

Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-ren and Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung also backed the initiative to cut private-car use - launched globally in 2000 and now supported in more than 1,500 cities in 40 nations - by sharing a taxi to get to work. Professor Gabriel Leung, undersecretary for food and health, said he took a minibus.

Yet Greenpeace, the event's organiser in Hong Kong, said it was disappointed that a number of government officials had not been more vocal in expressing their support. Eight Hong Kong ministers contacted by the Post said they travelled to work by various modes of public transport yesterday, including the MTR, buses, minibuses and shuttle buses. Another minister was on sick leave yesterday, while three others were away.

Prentice Ko Wai-muk, of Greenpeace, said: 'Last year, [the ministers] announced beforehand that they would join the campaign, but this time none replied to our queries.'

Hong Kong's government has been urged to take a more active role in the campaign; governors of 127 cities on the mainland have signed a charter pledging to organise the annual car-free day. Greenpeace said Hong Kong had one of the world's highest vehicle densities - averaging 315 cars per kilometre of road - with more than 430,000 registered private cars generating an average of 3,427 tons of carbon emissions each day.

This year 220 businesses - five times last year's number - had urged staff not to drive to work yesterday, Greenpeace said.

About 7,500 people, including Civic Party lawmaker Audrey Yu, signed up for the car-free campaign on the internet - more than twice the number last year.

Yet taxi driver Low Shih-cheng said that Hong Kong's traffic was no lighter yesterday. 'Traffic in Central, Causeway Bay and the Cross-Harbour Tunnel was just as heavy,'