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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 8:29pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 5:17am

It's official: Hong Kong has poor air quality


Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.

The government's Audit Commission published two reports yesterday which are a damning indictment of the previous government's record on monitoring air quality and its lamentable efforts at improving it. The two reports, Implementation of Air-Quality Improvements Measures, and Monitoring and Reporting of Air Quality show a remarkable level of failure in meeting its obligations under the air pollution control ordinance, and in taking very obvious steps such as getting old polluting diesel-engined vehicles off the road.

This is something that think tanks and environmentalists have been advising for years and yet the EPD has barely done anything.

The EPD has no shortage of information as to the sources of air pollution, but it has just been highly ineffective in enacting improvements. Even with the power stations, the one area where gains were made, the Audit Commission notes: "Nox [nitrogen oxides] emission allowances set for local power plants to be effective from 2015 and 2017, would significantly exceed those proposed by the EPD consultant." Elsewhere the report notes "the EPD has never achieved its performance target on API (not exceeding 100 on any day in a year) since setting the targets in 2006-07".

Professor Anthony Hedley, who set up his eponymous environmental index, has called the government's air pollution index, "a complete piece of fiction". We suppose the Audit Commission should be congratulated for saying what many people have known for quite a long time.

There are new leaders at the EPD and a lot of people have high hopes they will enact measures to improve the environment. There are also many sceptics who believe it is just too hard to effect the necessary changes in Hong Kong. Let's hope they're wrong. These reports give it considerable ammunition to attack the problems.

The administration has agreed with both reports and says unequivocally that "the protection of health is the key guiding principle in the formulation of air-quality improvement measures," and achieving the World health Organisation guidelines on air quality is a long-term goal.

IPO conundrum

We hear that the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) has tightened up on A-share IPOs. In early October there were 819 companies on the waiting list for IPO approval, but 47 of them have recently been told that there is no chance of getting to the last round of the process. Yao Gang, a vice-chairman at the CSRC .said recently the regulator wanted IPO-ready companies to improve information disclosure before listing. This is seen as a sign that the regulator is tightening requirements and this, hopefully, will lead to better quality companies being listed and improving investor confidence. At the same time the CSRC is loosening its requirements for small and medium-sized companies to list on Hong Kong's stock market.

This, readers may recall, was part of the "gift package" vice-premier Li Keqiang announced during his visit to Hong Kong last year. This has led suspicious minds to wonder why the mainland is imposing tighter conditions on its own listings while loosening them for firms seeking to list in Hong Kong.

Saving The Party

We have noted before that one theme which is gaining ground in the mainland is the public declaration of the assets of senior Communist Party members and officials. It will be recalled that President Hu Jintao said last Thursday that failure to deal with corruption could bring down the party and the state it controls. The magazine Caijin reports that in response to this speech a number of senior officials have stated they had no problem with publicly declaring their assets.

These included chief of China's Intellectual Property Office, Tian Lipu; Yu Zhengshen, Secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the CPC; and Communist Party Secretary for Guangdong province, Wang Yang, who said all officials would likely be required to do this in future. However, there remains a rearguard action from the likes of Jiang Zongfu, deputy mayor of Linxiang, Hunan, who said the measure would cause "social chaos" as asset-rich officials would be deemed corrupt while those declaring few assets would be accused of lying.

Contact Us Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com


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This article is now closed to comments

John Adams
Howard : your column is one of the very few English language columns that really "tell it as it is " re air pollution. Please keep up the good work.
I really am disgusted at how pathetically Donald Tsang's administration handled this issue .
His re- "election" slogan was "I will get the job done" , but we should have asked what the "job" was. Obviously, as far as air pollution was concerned, Donald considered his "job" to be to "do as little as possible for as long as possible"
Well .......... he sure "got the job done" :-(
And how !
And now we have even more work to do to catch up and clean the skies.
You don't need official figures to confirm that, just count the number of blue sky days. Or goto monk kok or causeway bay and sit there for few hours.
What air Pollution? "The life expectancy in Hong Kong is among the highest in the world ... you can come to only one conclusion: we have the most environmental-friendly place for people, for executives, for Hong Kong people to live" - Donald
dont expect someone with a form 5 education (donald) to understand causality. he is a top notch moron.
Deng had long life being a chain smoker, why stop smoking if you want to live as long as him? Sounds like a commercial!


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