July 1 march

March not connected to Sars

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 July, 2013, 3:37am

I refer to Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee's column ("Another July 1, another hurdle", July 7).

In her article, Mrs Ip airbrushes herself out of what brought 500,000 Hong Kong people onto the streets on July 1, 2003. Not a word to acknowledge that she herself led the government's campaign to enact Article 23 and "anti-terrorist" legislation.

Her central claim is also less than a half-truth. She says that the demonstration was brought on by "an unfortunate confluence of unique and tragic events".

It is true to say that it was brought on by the "government's unsuccessful campaign to enact" Article 23, but not that it was a matter of luck, or connected to severe acute respiratory syndrome or to the economic consequences of Sars for homeowners.

Sars was over for Hong Kong by late May 2003. Economic recovery began shortly thereafter, according to several studies, and stimulus packages announced.

Nor is there any evidence to support her claim that hundreds of thousands of homeowners were on the street that day because of the fall in the value of homes.

The indices show residential prices had fallen just as much between 2000 and late 2002, when there was no such social unrest.

Between October 1997 and 1998, home prices fell by as much as 60 per cent, but homeowners were not then on the streets in their thousands, demanding heads or a fully democratic government. In fact, the transaction indices show that the biggest falls in home prices following Sars came later in 2003, after the demonstrations and after her own resignation as security secretary.

Mrs Ip and her colleagues then in government had no electoral mandate. They failed to understand the will of the Hong Kong people.

They pursued a deeply resented legislative programme against that will, which brought people out to protest in unprecedented numbers.

The populace came out despite Sars, which had led us to shun the streets and crowded places, not because of it.

Mrs Ip's half-truths are aimed at placating those unfamiliar with the benefits of regular, fully democratic change to an accountable government.

They aim to persuade that our political rights are secondary to economic improvement, so those she does serve may deny us the former while promising the latter.

Nigel Kat, Queensway