Remove illegal banners, political or not

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2013, 2:57am

People Power, the pan-democratic group, raises a good question when it criticises the government for failing to take down illegal banners put up by an anti-Falun Gong organisation in busy roadside areas across the city. Those posters are a nuisance and dangerous distraction to drivers.

But then you have to ask why lawmakers Raymond Chan Chi-chuen and Albert Chan Wai-yip only target posters and banners put up by the Hong Kong Youth Care Association - and not those by the Falun Gong, which presumably are just as illegal.

The offending banners have appeared in Causeway Bay outside the Sogo department store, near the Hung Hom train station, the Star Ferry terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, the Wong Tai Sin Temple, and along Nathan Road as far as Mong Kok. Many of them were put there to counter posters first installed by the Falun Gong, banned as an evil cult on the mainland but free to practise in Hong Kong.

People Power's double standard undermines its criticism of the government's lax enforcement when it comes to removing unauthorised political adverts. Indeed, some of the Falun Gong's antics and protests are even more obstructive and disturbing.

Outside Sogo, religious members regularly put up not only giant banners but gruesome photos of alleged torture victims and an exhibit on organ harvesting sometimes featuring a live actor and a mannequin. I am sure that if they were put on film, the content would be classified as unsuitable for children.

I make no judgment about the legitimacy of the youth group's messages or those of the Falun Gong. They both enjoy the same freedom of speech as the rest of us, just as they both must follow the same laws as everyone else - rules are rules.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the Lands Department are highly efficient when it comes to removing unauthorised publicity material. But they pussyfoot when the offending material is put up by political groups. Parties from both the pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps have exploited this official reluctance, leading to eyesores across town.

It's time to crack down on all unauthorised ads, political or not.