Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 January, 2011, 12:00am

Greed that puts lives in danger

Every time you tell yourself our property developers can surely sink no lower with their greed, something else happens to make you shake your head in disgust.

But the sickening story of The Icon luxury development in Mid-Levels is not just about greed. It is about greed so extreme that it involves abuse of fire-safety rules. When fire-safety rules are abused, people could end up dead. That's what we're talking about with The Icon, not just buyers being given what they have described as 'rubbish dump' flats. It is lunacy that flats with living space of barely 400 square feet cost HK$10 million.

Greed on the part of developers, buyers and speculators, combined with a government too gutless to confront the property tycoons, created that lunacy. Would The Icon event have happened if the government had dared to impose tougher rules on home sales instead of allowing the developers to police themselves?

This outrage involves a possible conspiracy between developer Winfoong International and some buyers to flout fire rules by converting closed kitchens into open ones without government approval. Why buyers would agree to put their own lives at risk this way is something Public Eye has no answer to. But greed knows no boundaries.

The sickening story unfolded when some buyers couldn't believe they had been handed unfinished flats that looked like construction sites. A normal government would have been so rattled by the public fury over developers behaving this way that it would have moved swiftly with tough new rules. But ours is not a normal government. It is a kowtowing one. Developers do what they do because they know they can get away with it. And the record shows they have.

It's official - our flat prices are insane

So now we know. Now we have the numbers. Hong Kong's homes prices are at such a lunatic level that the average home costs more than 11 times the average annual household income. That makes us the world's most overpriced housing market. Public Eye didn't need an international housing affordability survey to tell us that. Surely you also knew few can afford a home except the filthy rich. And our overpaid bureaucrats, of course. They live in nice, subsidised homes paid for by the people. Maybe that's why it's not government policy to bring down home prices. Why bother when the top bureaucrats are not affected? Only you are.

Oblivious bureaucrats kill with their silence

Will you be the next to die? You never know with Russian roulette. One minute you're alive, the next you're dead.

Everyone in Hong Kong is being forced to play Russian roulette. There's no other way to describe the findings of a University of Hong Kong study that showed that for every kilometre of reduced visibility, an extra 70 people died each year over the past decade.

The gun gets more loaded every time the visibility drops. So if you look out the window and see smog, be careful. You could be next. Public Eye woke up on Monday morning to hear the news that air pollution had reached very high levels yet again. Yesterday, too. We can now recite the announcement, having heard it so many times. We looked out the window and panicked. Filthy smog. Could we be the next to die?

So how seriously are our overpaid bureaucrats taking the study? The answer to that can be found in the government's silence. No reassuring words. No promises of speedy action to clean up the air. Nothing. An extra 70 people die every time smog causes our visibility to drop by another kilometre. That's what the experts found. And all we have is silence from our bureaucrats.