• Thu
  • Oct 2, 2014
  • Updated: 7:47pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 4:58am

Huge destruction of government records continues

BIO

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.
 

It is with some regret that we feel obliged to take issue with our chief secretary, the admirable Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, over her written reply yesterday on the vexed question of Hong Kong's public records. Legislative Councillor Cyd Ho Sau-lan had asked, given Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's support for an archive law during his election campaign, if any progress had been made so far. Her question was much more detailed but that was the gist of it.

In her answer, Lam said: "Despite there being no dedicated archival legislation, the essential general principles of records management have in fact been implemented in Hong Kong through administrative measures."

This seems an unduly complacent response given that the director of audit was scathing in his criticism of the Government Records Service. Its 2011 report noted the service had failed miserably in practically every aspect of its remit. It is hard to imagine a miraculous turnaround in such a short time.

The most stunning aspect of Lam's reply was the revelation that in the second half of last year, 23,189 metres of documents were destroyed with the permission of the agency's director. This is a phenomenal number of records - it is equivalent to 55 times the height of the Two IFC building. There was considerable dismay among those concerned about the state of the government's archives when they learned that prior to the move to the Tamar offices, 1,181.7 metres of records were destroyed within six months (three times the height of Two IFC). At the time, archivists said it was impossible for such an amount of documents to have been properly screened over that period. In the past six months, almost 20 times this volume was destroyed, so they would have been subject to considerably less scrutiny.

If these extraordinary figures are correct, then the government's management of its records is not getting better as Lam maintains, but is getting much worse. The Law Reform Society is going to consider the matter of an archive law, but if this rate of destruction is maintained, there will be precious little left to archive.

 

Police swoop on Duddell Street

Our police force seems to go from one extreme to the other in dealing with illegal car parking. One day it appears totally nonchalant, the next day it's as if somebody flicks a switch and it is all-aggressive.

A reader writes with dismay at an unusually forthright display of action against illegal car parking in Duddell Street, Central. On Monday at 11am, seven motorcycle police blocked the street, which is a dead end, and barred pedestrians from entering and motorists from leaving. All illegally parked cars were ticketed. Then they let everyone out, which caused some chaos, we are told.

Our reader's complaint was that the police stopped him from getting to his car, which was in a car park. Hey, but you can't make an omelette without cracking a few eggs, as they say. Heavy-handedness aside, this is all to the good, but Duddell Street is not one of the main problem areas. Check Ice House Street at lunchtime and Prince's Building, and outside Fook Lam Moon restaurant in Wan Chai.

 

Print me a steak

Many are familiar with 3D printing - a technology that is going to revolutionise manufacturing. The technology, sometimes called additive printing, has been around for some years and has already been used to manufacture jewellery, cars, toys and furniture. But the BBC reports that US company Modern Meadow thinks it can take the process to a new, and, in our opinion, a more revolting level - by printing artificial raw meat with a bioprinter. This is a rather more complex process involving stem cell technology and living cells. It is similar to attempts at printing artificial organs for transplants.

The company has secured US$350,000 from Paypal co-founder and early Facebook backer Peter Thiel. The firm has already produced a prototype but says it is not yet ready for consumption. Unsurprisingly, the inventors are struggling to come up with a name for this product. Man-made meat or lab-made meat doesn't have quite the appeal, say, of New Zealand grass-fed rib-eye steak. Another team at Maastricht University in the Netherlands is working on a similar project and hopes to produce an artificial hamburger later this year, albeit at a cost of HK$2.5 million.

 

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

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