• Mon
  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 4:51pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 3:21am

Setting more rules won't solve Hong Kong's ills; enforce the ones we have

Hong Kong has all the rules, regulations and laws bureaucrats can dream of. But often the problem is that they don't bother to enforce them.

Whenever a government department sets up a new task force or an initiative claiming a particular type of crime or violation is on the rise, you can be sure of one thing. They are finally admitting failure or negligence. Or rather, the problems have become so glaring they have to do something, but not admit to having failed or been negligent.

So in the past week, we have the police launching the so-called "Reno Safe" scheme to fight against dodgy contractors and triads involved in building renovations as if it's a new crime. At the same time, officials have proposed licensing subdivided flats in residential buildings.

Triad-affiliated contractors and decorators have been a problem for decades. One favoured tactic is to start work, make a complete mess, then demand more money before work can resume. Often, the contractor or subcontractor is just dishonest and is not necessarily a triad. Substandard work and materials, inflated prices and abusive behaviour are all part of their way to extract more money from their victims. If you don't pay, sometimes they call in debt collectors. You can call the police.

Sometimes they respond, sometimes they don't bother. In any case, it's difficult to prove a crime has been committed, as it often looks like a commercial dispute. The police now say we have more ageing buildings in need of renovation, hence the need for the new scheme.

Meanwhile, the Transport and Housing Bureau wants to license subdivided flats to ensure fire and buildings safety. But don't we already have these safety regulations in place? Either the proposed licensing aims to lower existing safety standards or official inspectors simply have not enforced them effectively.

Subdivided flats came under the spotlight when a fire in such a tenement building killed nine people in 2011; and even development secretary Paul Chan Mo-po and his wife were found to have owned such a property.

Well, at least the government is waking up to long-standing problems that have been left festering for a long time.

Better late than never!


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This article is now closed to comments

Well Said Alex! The civil servants, especially the senior ones, are nothing but a bunch of lazy people collecting a fat pay cheque for doing nothing. Their attitude is "Don't rock the boat", and "Pass the buck".
Enforcing existing laws would be a good start. Some of the laws that should be enforced are the littering and no spitting laws. Since the fines have been increased from $600 to $1500 I have yet to witness a single person receive a fine. Maybe if the fine was reduced it would be enforced more often. Another area that needs strict enforcement is the MTR bylaws, no eating, drinking or smoking in the paid areas of stations and on trains. Years ago officers walked through the entire train from one end to the other educating passengers about the bylaw and enforcing it. In recent years I have only seen officers enter the first class car to enforce the rule regarding octopus authorization or first class ticket to ride in this car. The officers totally ignore the no eating or drinking rule even when they witness an infraction. Passengers spill sticky drinks on seats and the floor, throw wrappers, some oily, under the seats. If Hong Kong does need a new bylaw the MTR may consider implementing a law forbidding passengers from urinating or defecating anywhere other than in designated washrooms.
Maybe soon they'll get around to leaky air conditioners, illegally parked vans, and gratuitous horn honking. One can dream!
AL is most daring and perceptive in calling Hong Kong to enforce rules, regulations and laws. He may be risking his own safety, if not; we are seeing a misfit among us.
Hong Kong has a long time rule which is not to interfere into other people’s business. It seems such rule extends to officials as well. The rationale is to keep a harmonious society. In truth it is more looking for advantage in return by looking the other way. It is a very Chinese thing that you give me convenience (face); I will give you some in return, now or in the future. So don’t be critical because rules etc are unimportant.
Hong Kong as a modern city it should have its rules, regulations and laws build upon fairness. They should be comprehensible and enforceable. Stop the rallying cry in ‘rule of law’. Implementing wholly is really what counts.
Well said Alex! Whether it is about illegal structures, illegal parking in Central, idling engine ban (ha!), dripping aircons, littering, using indicators when driving, indoor smoking ban or jay-walking - we hear little of effective and purposeful (but fair) enforcement. I am the first to admit that I am often guilty jay-walking (but not the other offences ;-) but I also know that if there was a high chance of being "caught" and having to pay a hefty fine, I would quickly modify my behavior! Laws need to be enforced. This is best done with a big stick!
One can also fantasize
For the one who clicked ‘DISLIKE’, please explain. Tell me what you observe which differs from mine. If so, what is there to keep? Or you disagree that AL is taking a personal risk to say what he had said. Without some response, I shall only take your dislike as a fathomless but physical motion of one of your fingers. Be a little more thoughtful when you click next time so don't attempt to mislead me or the history of Hong Kong.


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