United Nations

Two success stories show Hong Kong at its best on global stage

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 2:58am


Related topics

Developing countries tend not to allow the issue of consumer protection to get in the way of the drive for economic progress. Rather it is seen as a luxury that becomes affordable when development goals are met. When the UN Conference on Trade and Development steps in to help them build consumer-protection frameworks and looks for someone to head the project, you would think it would turn to bastions of Western consumerism in North America or Europe. It is testament to Hong Kong's standing in some areas that the UN has appointed the retiring chief executive of our Consumer Council, Connie Lau Yin-hing, to chair a working group to help developing countries.

Lau follows in the footsteps of the city's former director of health, Dr Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, who was recently appointed to a second five-year term as director-general of the World Health Organisation, a UN agency.

At first glance Hong Kong - a compact financial and transport hub identified with business freedom, and the centre of global alerts over severe acute respiratory syndrome and bird flu - seems an unlikely headhunting ground for either of those posts. But that does not reckon with a diverse media and political scene that ensures public interest accountability, or regard for a world-class public-health system built from colonial foundations.

Both women stood tests of fire in the frontline. Chan made her name fighting the H5N1 flu virus and Sars, surviving bruising inquiries into the latter. On Lau's first day as consumer affairs chief a media storm broke over the exploitation and mistreatment of mainland tourists, followed by the collapse of Lehman Brothers bank, which led to 10,000 complaints to the council about mis-selling of securities.

Wider recognition of their service and achievements is a reminder that while Hong Kong may seem endlessly in conflict over progress towards democracy, political scandals, property prices, the wealth gap and the like, from the outside we are seen to have our act together in some things that make a difference to people everywhere.