• Sun
  • Apr 20, 2014
  • Updated: 5:27am
Column
PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 October, 2012, 7:51am

C.Y. Leung's political grandstanding amid tragedy

Albert Cheng says Leung's hospital visit and appearance next to a mainland official detract from the good work of search and rescue teams

BIO

Ir. Albert Cheng is the founder of Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited, a current affairs commentator and columnist. He was formerly a direct elected Hong Kong SAR Legislative Councillor. Mr Cheng was voted by Time Magazine in 1997 as one of "the 25 most influential people in new Hong Kong" and selected by Business Week in 1998 as one of "the 50 stars of Asia".  
 

Although a commission of inquiry is to investigate the causes of the Lamma ferry disaster in which at least 38 people died and scores were injured, police have so far arrested seven crew members, including the two captains. We may see more arrests as the facts begin to emerge.

From the information available so far, it appears that the accident might have been caused by negligence, while maritime regulations could also have been breached.

And while we can't comment further on the tragedy at this stage, it is necessary to scrutinise closely the way the chief executive and his government responded to the disaster.

The accident took place at 8.23pm on Monday and the owner of the Hongkong Electric boat immediately alerted all relevant departments. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his senior officials would have been informed of it not long afterwards.

In fact, from an interview given by marine director Francis Liu Hon-por and Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man, it's clear that the fire services, marine police and officers from the marine department arrived at the scene before 9pm to conduct search and rescue efforts. Almost 1,000 people were involved in the rescue operation by that time. Within a short period, more than 100 people were pulled out of the water, with some certified dead at the scene and scores rushed to hospital.

Ko said he was informed of the tragedy at around 9pm and immediately activated the emergency response system and diverted the injured to five different hospitals. Liu was evasive when questioned about whether it had occurred to him to alert the Guangdong authorities to help with the rescue operation, as facilitated by existing cross-border arrangements.

All the relevant local departments - the fire service, marine department, police and our hospital services - have shown their professionalism in dealing with the disaster. They did their best to minimise the number of casualties but, unfortunately, the Hongkong Electric boat sank very quickly, within minutes.

After Leung visited the injured at 11pm on the night of the disaster, he gave the impression that he had directed the search and rescue operation and requested assistance from the Guangdong authorities. And, as a result, things had gone as efficiently as possible.

Yet, Leung got it all wrong; his behaviour was not appropriate for the chief executive of Hong Kong. By going to the hospital to speak to reporters, he gave the impression that it was all a show. His presence there contributed nothing except possibly causing inconvenience to hospital staff who were trying to deal with an emergency.

And the presence of Li Gang, the deputy head of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, was totally inappropriate. With Li alongside Leung, addressing the media, it looked like the former was in charge of the rescue operation. The picture was clear: forget about "one country, two systems", or "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong". No doubt the public will perceive Leung to be Beijing's political puppet.

Most notably, Leung was careless about the professionalism our government departments have displayed. He effectively took away the credit from those who deserved it.

From what we have learned so far, Leung must have had a good grasp of the situation at about 9pm. It's understandable why he decided not to cancel the fireworks display; it would have caused more chaos. But he should have rushed to the scene of the disaster as soon as possible. Going to the hospital and appearing together with Li was purely grandstanding to gain political points. And taking credit for being the one who requested assistance from Guangdong was totally unnecessary - the system is already in place.

It is disturbing to think that Leung's actions could have been motivated by political considerations more than anything else. It also seems that the date of the start of the three days of official mourning in Hong Kong was set in order to avoid interfering with the official National Day celebration from October 1-3.

To the people of Hong Kong, Leung appears uncaring of the well-being of society. To his boss in Beijing, he will further drive a wedge between Hong Kong and the mainland and deepen distrust and discontent.

He has been in office for only three months and has already created so much political debris. He should resign to avoid causing further damage to Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Leung can take a leaf out of Li Ka-shing's book. Li and his family, as owners of Hongkong Electric, acted compassionately by offering financial and all-around assistance to the victims' families immediately after the accident. That's the kind of compassion we want to nurture in Hong Kong, not political grandstanding.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. taipan@albertcheng.hk

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This article is now closed to comments

elecnath
CY did what all noble leader would have done in times of tragedy, to show support and care.
Shut up AC.
hughbear
Albert Cheng is an irresponsible commentator. His views are divisive, and thoughtless.
The CE very correctly showed his care and leadership on behalf of all the citizens in HK at a critical and painful moment.
Albert Cheng is the one who should resign.
yeemayee
I don't agree with all CY policy but this article is all what is now wrong with Hong Kong. Instead of solutions there is now a group of people who like to complain. It is now very politicalized. Albert, what else do you expect him to do. If he does not visit the hospital, it shows he does not care and out of touch. If he visits the hospital then he is grand standing. Why does SCMP encourage this?
cheris823
had always respected albert cheng as a commentator but taking a hit at CY on this topic is uncalled for, especially suggesting CY should resign in the same article as the lamma ferry disaster.
ling2777
Perfectly agreed with most of the comments. This article is of bad taste.
wonambc
Everyone knows Albert Cheng is an ally of Donald Tsang, and he should be out of business together with Mr Tsang. His opinion is lopsided and subjective. He is basting the assocation with Chinese official, but he is partnering the Pro-china businessman Mr Wong to run a bankrupting broadcast company. AC is a disgraceful commentator and newspaper should be aware of this.
honger
Oh, coincidentally, Albert's radio project breathed its last on Oct 1. Unlike the Lamma ferry tragedy where he criticised "interventions" by mainlanders, he tried to force his mainland partner Wong to continue extending life support for his project.
Of course, his project is exempt from the standards he applies to others where the mainland is concerned ............
walkup
A very appropriate article.
comuller
Another inappropriate and disgusting comment on the pages of the SCMP, this time from Mr. Cheng. What happened to the kind and caring people of Hong Kong I knew when I lived there for almost 15 years? This is shameful, people die in a tragic accident and all you know is bashing the government and the mainland representatives for showing compassion.
honger
dear editor,
The IR title suggest AC is an engineer................so, exactly which uni did he get his engineering qualifications?

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