Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 February, 2011, 12:00am

Our invisible officials could use Obama's guts

How often do you see our top officials agreeing to be quizzed by the media? Hardly ever, you say? You're right. That explains why you probably don't even know who some of our top leaders are. Did you know that the secretary for justice is a fellow named Wong Yan-lung? He makes himself so invisible to the people that Public Eye likes to call him the phantom of the government. The previous phantom was former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan, who, as the second-highest ranking government official, never faced the people. Just before he left, he gave an 'interview' to journalism students who were allowed to ask him only pre-arranged questions. Why is Public Eye bringing all this up? It's because we were astonished to see US President Barack Obama agreeing to be questioned by Bill O'Reilly of Fox News. The rabidly rightwing O'Reilly and Fox are among Obama's most hostile critics. Yet the president agreed to be questioned on TV. The live interview aired just before Fox broadcast the Super Bowl, which has a huge TV audience. Obama was confident enough to use this opportunity to connect with the people. It's not the hostile questions that matter, it's how you answer those questions - something our officials know nothing about. It took guts for Obama to face O'Reilly. But guts is not a word Public Eye would associate with some of our top officials.

All talk and no action on calming home prices

What are they waiting for? Headline after headline tells us property prices are soaring again. Some have shot beyond even the preposterous levels we saw in 1997. It's lunacy gone mad. The market has given the finger to the government's effort to cool prices. Our bureaucrats have tough-talked about more cooling measures, so what are they waiting for? Haven't they seen the headlines? Or don't they have headlines in cloud cuckoo land?

It's a cool Wellcome if you don't read Chinese

Be careful about shopping at Wellcome if you don't read Chinese. You could end up paying more for what you buy without knowing it. Wellcome receipts no longer list in both English and Chinese the items you've bought and paid for. It's now only in Chinese. This means if you've bought things on sale but were charged the full price, as often happens, you won't know if you can't read Chinese. Public Eye phoned the supermarket chain for an explanation but all we got were 'er' and 'ah' and 'very sorry' from the lady at the other end. When we pressed for a clearer explanation, she said the chain would now instruct checkout staff to print English receipts for shoppers who look foreign. We hope the checkout staff, who barely earn a minimum wage, can instantly tell the difference between a Chinese and a Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese. What about all those Chinese from Canada and the United States who can't read a word of Chinese? Wellcome is owned by Dairy Farm, which is owned by Jardines - an old British hong. Do the gweilo bosses at Jardines all read Chinese, or do they shop at rival ParknShop instead?

The people's waterfront? Only in theory

Public Eye doesn't want to rain on anyone's parade, but are we a society for the people or for the privileged? The authorities sealed off a big chunk of the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront walk by the Cultural Centre on Lunar New Year's Day so that the privileged could have exclusive use of it for that evening's parade. It started at 8pm but the people were denied access to that prime part of the waterfront from midday onwards. Metal barricades had warning signs making clear the area was for invited guests only. Do the authorities not know the waterfront and the Cultural Centre are for the people, not for the privileged? Maybe they don't know. Maybe that explains why they sealed off the area a full eight hours before the parade. You need ample time to prepare to make sure the privileged have a good time.