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  • Apr 17, 2014
  • Updated: 4:25am
PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 November, 2013, 8:47pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 3:51am

Squabbling over TV licences, Manila tragedy won't improve livelihoods

Michael Chugani says the rows over TV licences and the Manila hostage tragedy divert attention from important livelihood concerns

BIO

Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.
 

Here's what I think: maybe China should never have taken Hong Kong back. We would not have had the scandal-ridden leaderships of Leung Chun-ying, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Tung Chee-hwa. Who knows, Chris Patten might still be governor. By now, he would be a seasoned dodger of bananas flung at him in the Legislative Council. But Patten would have no qualms about allowing free elections. He would win hands down.

OK, I'm being flippant. But it's been 16 years since the handover and look at what China got lumped with: a restive population that cares more about TV licences and making the Philippines kowtow despite its recent typhoon tragedy than unaffordable housing, air pollution and rising poverty in a super-rich city. I bet if opposition politicians called for a mass protest against the wealth gap, the turnout wouldn't even be a fraction of the 80,000 who marched against the government's refusal to give Ricky Wong Wai-kay a licence.

Has our society lost all sense of what its priorities should be? You bet. We can test this by asking the question the late Ronald Reagan asked Americans when he ran against president Jimmy Carter: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

Ask yourself: if, at the end of Leung's term, homes remain unaffordable, many still live in subdivided flats, there are still 1.3 million poor people, and the air is filthy, but we have five instead of four free-to-air TV stations and a deep kowtow from President Benigno Aquino - are you better off?

That's what I mean by losing our sense of priorities when the people, politicians and the media focus more on TV licences than things that actually improve our lives.

Those who oppose the TV decision say they fear that the government wants to curb values such as free speech and entrepreneurship. But can anyone honestly say free speech and entrepreneurship have deteriorated in the month since Wong was denied a licence?

If anything, free speech has increased, with everyone having a go at the government. Even executive councillors have broken the collective responsibility rule by speaking their minds. And I have seen at least two restaurants go bust and taken over by newcomers in my neighbourhood since the licence decision. That's entrepreneurship for you.

Likewise, those demanding an Aquino kowtow insist it's not about revenge but retribution for the bungled rescue that left eight Hongkongers dead. The Philippines is a poor country. That's why its police force is klutz-class. Is it right to punish poverty no matter how tragic the eight deaths?

Blame the politicians and the media for where we are today. They have failed in their roles to lead and accurately inform society. Political self-interest has driven their agendas. And blame our inept government. Its explanation for its TV decision was as klutz-class as the Manila police handling of the bus hijack. I've always thought Hongkongers were a smart bunch. It's surprising how easily they fell into the frenzy whipped up by politicians and the media over the Manila tragedy and TV licences.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com

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22gt7
As a genuine Hongkonger, I would like to answer your question: “If, at the end of Leung's term, homes remain unaffordable, many still live in subdivided flats, there are still 1.3 million poor people, and …, but we have five instead of four free-to-air TV stations and … - are you better off?” Despite all the bluffing by the Government about solving the housing and poverty problem, most Hongkongers have little hope that the Government, who can’t even handle a relatively simple issue of TV licence, has the ability to make homes more affordable and to decrease the number of poor people. That is why Hong Kong government rating slumps to new record low. That is why the society will definitely feel better if we have five instead of four free-to-air TV stations. That is the sense of priorities of most Hongkongers. Do you understand, Leung Fan?
Will.I.Am
And there's fake HKers? You either are or you either aren't, geddid?
Will.I.Am
Great, that's why singapore needs more people like you, helping to make HK sh***y
rpasea
One aspect about the proposed Philippines sanctions that I haven't see discussed in the media if the legality of it. Doesn't the Basic Law mandate that international relations are the province of Beijing and not Hong Kong independently?
webtruder@gmail.com
Are you serious? If Beijing did it by itself and succeeded,it will mean that China and Philippines have improved ties.China actually has to push HK stooges to pursue this (That's why it doesn't make sense) while knowing that Aquino won't budge because we are not a country and making sure the demands are as vague as possible.Beijing is desperately trying hard to diplomatically isolate Philippines in the region in preparation for possible reactions when the verdict of the international court is released regarding the legality of claimed boundaries in the South China Sea.Making that country look like a nuisance as much as possible is the best way to minimize the damage.Beijing knows it may backfire if they do it so HK has to do it even if the side effect is bad for HK's image and makes HK looking like diplomatically independent.This explains the surprise why HK still pursues it while the country is flattened by a typhoon amidst disgust from foreign observers.Beijing is also willing to risk the diplomatic backlash for not aiding the country as much as it is expected.All political analysts were puzzled of Beijing and HK's actions lately until they arrived at this possibility .In short,HK if FU#ed either way.

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