My Take

Spat demeans academic and minister

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 2:35am

The spat between Baptist University and the government is a bit like the snapping between the two main characters in Dumb and Dumber.

Since that silly Hollywood comedy already has a prequel, perhaps university president Albert Chan Sun-chi and food and health chief Dr Ko Wing-man are aiming to make a sequel.

Dr Chan has thrown a temper tantrum by threatening to quit and encouraging his students to boycott classes.

Why? Because his university wants an adjacent plot of vacant public land in Kowloon Tong to build a Chinese medicine hospital. Does Hong Kong really need such a hospital? We may or may not, but Dr Chan doesn't bother to explain this to us.

It hardly needs to be pointed out that just because a piece of government land is next door doesn't mean you are entitled to it. Dr Chan said his university had made an "informal" request for the land. What's wrong with a formal application for a plot worth billions of dollars? Since it has not made a serious application, it can hardly blame the government for not handing it over voluntarily.

Call it the "Long Hair" conversion of Hong Kong's body politic. Dr Chan and his university deputies should consider running for the Legislative Council. They will feel very much at home there, given their tactics and threats.

This is not to say we should side with the government. Dr Ko was so upset that he practically denounced Dr Chan in public this week. Dignity please, Dr Ko, you are a minister.

The plot is zoned for government, institutional and community (GIC) use. But even as a public consultation is under way about its future, the government has put it on a list of GIC sites to be converted to build housing to ease a supply shortage; in this case, most likely to build luxury flats.

Does it make sense to build more overpriced apartments when the government wants to deflate the property bubble? We certainly don't have a luxury housing shortage with a quarter of a million flats left vacant, mostly by property speculators.

The university probably has a case for the plot to remain a GIC site, or even for its own use. But present a reasonable formal case first, Dr Chan, before going "Long Hair" on us.