PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2011, 12:00am

Justice chief cannot get involved in case

I argued in an article for the secretary for justice, as a political appointee, to withdraw from involvement in the prosecution process, as has happened in England and Wales and elsewhere, and for the control of prosecutions to be vested in an independent director of public prosecutions ('Free to decide', February 10).

That call has been thrown into sharp relief by the alleged assault on the chief executive at the Museum of History, and the subsequent police investigation of a suspect.

A case of this type will invariably be referred to the Department of Justice for legal advice, yet real problems of perception may well arise at that stage.

The secretary for justice is not only a political colleague of the alleged victim, but was appointed by him, and sits on his Executive Council. The notion that the secretary can properly wear two hats in this situation, one as prosecutor and the other as minister, is clearly untenable.

Justice must not only be done to a suspect, but be seen to be done. This may not be blindingly obvious to the suspect or the public if a political appointee who was given his office by the alleged victim takes the decision to prosecute.

The decision-maker must be someone who is manifestly independent of the case and the parties to it, and in this situation that must mean the director of public prosecutions (DPP). The secretary for justice should withdraw from any involvement in the case, not least because it has already acquired political overtones.

It has been reported by Xinhua that mainland organs have been calling for a prosecution, even before the police investigation is complete and legal advice has been given. If that is correct, it underscores the need for the secretary for justice, as a political appointee, to withdraw altogether from any involvement, and to do so publicly.

The decision must be that of the DPP alone, and the secretary for justice should not seek to influence the decision, one way or the other.

This case is a graphic example of the problems that can arise when politicians do not disengage from the prosecution process. The process must not only be depoliticised, but be seen to be so. The sooner prosecution decisions are taken independently by a DPP who is a politically neutral civil servant, the better it will be for everyone. The case, inevitably, has wider ramifications.

Hong Kong's old colonial arrangements in respect of the control of prosecutions are no longer fit for purpose, and have been superseded by events. Such arrangements have already been scrapped in England and Wales, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere in the common-law world.

If the secretary for justice were now to take concrete steps to modernise the system, this would not only reassure the community, but would also burnish our credentials at the international level.

I. Grenville Cross SC, Kowloon Tong

Violence harms HK's reputation

I was shocked by the alleged attack on the chief executive. I wonder why something like this can happen and the phrase 'no smoke without fire' comes to mind.

We have seen some lawmakers misbehaving in the Legislative Council and this trend seems to have spread beyond the Legislative Council chamber.

Our lawmakers should be role models for Hong Kong's teenagers. It sets a bad example when young people see such bad behaviour in Legco.

Of course, there is room for improvement within our government, but violence can never be tolerated. It does not solve the problems that exist in the SAR and harms Hong Kong's reputation. People who disagree with the administration should put forward concrete ideas.

We need to stay calm and show respect for each other.

Karen Ng, Kwun Tong

Incentives plea for green cars

The administration seems to be trying to get people to switch to small economical electric cars.

It has installed charging points across the city to address the anxiety electric car owners may feel.

It has also purchased a number of Mitsubishi electric cars based on a small Japanese 'Kei'-class city car, with one being on display at the last open day at Government House.

Also, free test drives were available at the Science Park recently.

But getting the Hong Kong public to adopt small city cars may be a bigger challenge than adopting electric cars.

In the past 12 months, the number of registered small city cars under 1000cc engine size dropped 1 per cent to 4,365 vehicles, while the fastest growing segment are private cars with an engine size of more than 4500cc that had a growth of 10 per cent, leading to 14,891 registered vehicles.

Perhaps the government could look at other incentives for adopting zero- or low-emission cars to persuade users to adopt them, such as priority parking in prime locations and dedicated toll lanes, as price is obviously not the only factor stopping early adoption of city-friendlier cars.

Edward Rossiter, Beacon Hill

UN can help maintain peace

After the rebellion in Egypt, there followed similar unrest in other cities and countries in the region, such as, for example, Tripoli in Libya.

I think in these countries there must be better communication between governments and their citizens.

All governments should try to understand the views of their citizens. They have a responsibility to do this.

I believe the United Nations Security Council can help to maintain peace globally by acting as a communications bridge between different countries.

We can have a peaceful world if there is co-operation and collaboration.

Through mutual co-operation and understanding, we can prevent conflicts from breaking out and make the world a better place.

Ruby Wong, Kwun Tong

Pedestrians at risk on roads

The Lantau villages in the valley behind Mui Wo are supposedly not accessible by car.

They are linked by a network of emergency vehicle access roads (EVAs), narrow brick roads, just wide enough for police, fire and ambulance vehicles.

Private cars and motorbikes are banned, or are supposed to be.

In practice, police turn a blind eye and the EVAs are now used by heavy plant, private minibuses ferrying people to the ferry and private cars and motorbikes.

I have a question for the police and insurance companies.

These EVAs are heavily used by schoolchildren, pedestrians, cyclists and Mui Wo's many wheelchair-bound elderly.

They are patently not suitable for fast vehicles.

I was almost flattened by a speeding motorbike on Thursday.

Police permit 24/7 abuse of these EVAs, but I understand that normal vehicle insurance does not cover accidents on them, because they are not public roads.

In the inevitable event of a collision between a vehicle and an adult or child, will the Lantau police please confirm that they will take full responsibility and liability?

Anna Woodfield, Lantau

Be wary of online strangers

People develop relationships online through various ways, such as online gaming, dating, instant messenger programs and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Some people hope for a relationship.

Online dating appears to be straightforward and there are stories of people meeting through the internet and getting married.

But, there also distressing stories of people having a horrible experience with someone they have met online. People must take care when forming relationships online and should not meet anyone unless they feel sure that they can trust them.

Joyce Fong, Sheung Shui

Internet can be addictive

The problem of internet addiction has had tragic consequences for some Hong Kong teenagers.

Parents are concerned about the effect the internet can have on their children.

The internet has had a major impact on our world and users have derived many benefits from it. But there is also a negative side to computer use.

Some secondary students are preoccupied with websites and are unable to control the amount of time they spend online.

This can adversely affect their academic results.

The key to dealing with this issue is to change the attitudes of these teens.

What is needed is a concerted effort on the part of the parents, schools, the media and the government to help curb this problem of teenage internet addiction.

Ringo Chan Ka-chun, Tsuen Wan

Explanation not very helpful

Like many other people, I have become used to relying on the internet for information. My faith in this source was somewhat shattered the other evening.

My granddaughter had written the word 'endorphins', on a project she was doing for school, I asked her if she knew what endorphins meant.

What a silly question. Of course, she didn't. Neither did her grandmother.

Ever the helpful grandmother, I logged onto the internet.

'Endorphins,' I read, and then, 'Endorphins are endogenous, opioid, polypeptic compounds.'

'So, now we know,' I said, and went and made myself a cup of strong coffee.

Helen Heron, Sai Kung