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Letters to the Editor, September 2, 2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 3:53am

Political strife is damaging HK's prospects

The controversy over teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze's verbal abuse of police officers has created a political crisis in Hong Kong.

It has divided the community, between those who support her and those who do not. Although it was just one incident, it has served to show that our society has become split into pro- and anti-government elements.

I welcome people from all walks of life expressing their views, but many now do so with a mixture of anger and desperation. Instead of calm discussion and debate, we now have rallies and protests on what seems to be a weekly basis.

The situation is often made worse by some exaggerated media reports and exploited by politicians who want to take advantage of public dis- unity. This undermines public confidence.

Some surveys are now indicating that Hong Kong is becoming less competitive while other Asian cities, such as Shanghai, Singapore and Taipei, are moving forward. This should be a wake-up call for all Hongkongers to take a long, hard look at our future, for the sake of ourselves and future generations. Where will we stand on the international stage two decades from now?

More mainland cities are being given the green light by Beijing to establish free-trade zones.

If they do well, more investors might feel they no longer have to use Hong Kong as a gateway to the mainland market and we will be left behind.

Rather than expending our energy on internal disputes, I wish Hong Kong citizens could join together, find common ground and work to rebuild a harmonious society so that we have the collective strength to face new challenges.

Mannie Lee, Sha Tin


Time to cut out the inane propaganda

I refer to Albert Cheng King-hon's column ("Government information officers should serve the public, not political masters", August 23) and agree with the gist of what he says.

The Information Services Department's website states that it serves the government as public relations consultant, advertising agent and news agency.

However, it does not make clear how it intends to serve the public. It gives the impression of being a portcullis to keep the public at bay from the administration's ivory tower. Information is a two-way street so this department should be acting as a bridge between the community and the bureaus and departments.

These columns raise many criticisms and searching questions of government, together with sensible suggestions. Letters seldom receive an adequate (if any) official reply.

It would be a good start for the Information Services Department to ensure bureaucrats are aware of these letters, and that answers are given.

To my mind, this would be correctly fulfilling its public relations role, rather than the distribution of an increasing amount of inane propaganda.

P. C. Law, Quarry Bay


Pollution is already serious on The Peak

I am in agreement with J. Lee Rofkind about the proposed boutique hotel on The Peak ("Lugard Road hotel plan defies belief", August 23). How much more traffic and the disturbances that it brings must we have to endure on The Peak?

So many tour buses already travel up and down The Peak every day.

This can put pedestrians at risk because often they come round corners at high speeds and occupy half the opposite lane.

I actually encountered this situation in my car as I was driving up the road and the driver in the oncoming bus was not even looking ahead. There was almost a head-on collision.

The exhaust fumes are very unpleasant and the heavy traffic affects all residents on The Peak and slows down commuters trying to get to work who have to crawl behind the buses at 20km/h.

I come from a very popular tourist country, Switzerland, where the government protects the environment and is extremely conscious of the need to protect the welfare of its inhabitants.

I have lived here for 25 years and have seen regression rather than progress in matters like this hotel.

On The Peak, there is heavy traffic and the pollution it causes. You see litter everywhere and a lot of empty apartments.

I can only hope that eventually we will see improvements.

Christina Hellmann, The Peak


Amend Basic Law to restore Privy Council

Until 1997, as David Donald reminds us, Hong Kong benefited (for free) from the world's greatest common-law court, the Privy Council ("Court ruling based on a common sense of justice", August 13).

He notes that Hong Kong was then free to make its own common law, while acknowledging that the Privy Council considered the needs of client jurisdictions. Drawing on the best judges in the Commonwealth, it is an internationalised court, not a colonial court.

Being geographically insulated from the intrigues of local politics and vested interests - and in any event due to the calibre of its judges - the Privy Council is a pricelessly independent asset which countries who so chose could ill afford to lose.

In one of the last appeals from New Zealand, the Privy Council corrected a miscarriage of justice caused by local appellate judges making factual findings which should have been decided by a jury.

The senior Australian judiciary has been accused of illegitimate judicial activism by usurping the powers of parliament and disdaining precedent.

In 2012, the national archives revealed that two high court judges secretly conspired with the governor general, a former state chief justice, in the 1975 dismissal of the Gough Whitlam government.

Expense alone precludes Hong Kong or anywhere else from developing a court equal to the Privy Council.

The Court of Final Appeal comprises only four permanent judges, supplemented by non-permanent judges with insecure tenure. Historical conditions in 1997, that are now less acute, prevented retention of the Privy Council.

Sixteen years from the handover, it seems worth considering amendment of the Basic Law to restore the Privy Council in the form of a court of last resort beyond the Court of Final Appeal. In its sovereign interest, Beijing would retain ultimate power to interpret the Basic Law.

As a member of the European Union, even Britain permits appeals from its highest local court to an international court in the universal interest of upholding the rule of law.

Michael Scott, Tsim Sha Tsui


Efforts made to educate boat operators

I refer to the letter by Ian Polson ("Powerboat dangers to swimmers", August 25).

The Marine Department attaches great importance to marine safety and a series of educational seminars and publicity campaigns have been conducted to remind boat operators, swimmers and divers to take appropriate safety measures when taking part in activities at sea.

An announcement in public interest and publicity leaflets and posters on raising the awareness of water sport safety have been promulgated to the general public.

Boat operators, swimmers and divers should not only pay attention to their own safety but also the safety of others in the vicinity.

Each party should take appropriate safety measures to avoid any possible risk. For boat operators, they should always proceed at a safe speed and keep a sharp lookout for swimmers and divers.

When there are swimmers and divers in the vicinity, they must slow down and give them a wide berth. For swimmers and divers, they should use appropriate equipment such as highly visible floats to indicate their presence in the water. Guard boats are highly recommended to be employed for providing escort and immediate assistance.

We have been in contact with Mr Polson in following up the complaint and for promoting the safety of open water swimming.

Marine Department officers will continue to patrol the speed-restricted zones, waters in the vicinity of popular beaches and water sport areas. We will watch out for any illegal or reckless boating activities and take enforcement action accordingly.

Warren Li, senior marine officer/harbour patrol section (1), Marine Department


Strike right balance with new projects

There have been reports in the Chinese press about the new Park Metropolitan block in Kwun Tong having one-man [second] balconies in each flat.

Although regulations have been introduced regarding saleable areas of flats, developers are still finding ways to get round them.

This is what has happened in this case of what amounts to an unusable balcony.

The government always has to try to strike a balance between development and citizens' expectations.

However, the Urban Renewal Authority, one of the developers of Park Metropolitan, appears to be always profit-oriented.

The government needs to look into this matter and ensure that any necessary modifications are made with future projects.

Tony Cheung Ka-wai, Lam Tin


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This article is now closed to comments

Another point. Anyone who thinks Hong Kong judges, including in the Court of Final Appeal, cannot act incompetently or expediently, arguably obstructing justice, is in cloudland. They should talk to lawyers who represent ordinary folk – such as a hapless ship’s captain – unable to afford the elite chambers from where most senior judges emerge. And to judges overruled for doing what judges should do. A visiting judge drove the CFA’s 1999 right of abode decision that astonishingly claimed power to bind the National People’s Congress, from which resulted unfair local and international criticism of China after the Standing Committee of the NPC interpreted the subject provision of the Basic Law. Judges obtained exemption from the 2002-2005 civil service pay cuts, using an expensive consultancy report written with flagrant inaccuracies by the same visiting judge. Consultants must have no financial interest in the subject of a consultancy. There followed a CFA decision, written in worse conflict of interest by the consultant judge, upholding the pay cuts in a judgment that was even more inaccurate. The same judge wrote a judgment of the CFA which usurped the powers of the Legislative Council and ignored the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as incorporated in the Basic Law by excising “ordre public” from an ordinance regulating freedom of assembly. Reprehensible judicial inaccuracy also occurred before 1997, but never in the Privy Council.
Michael Scott
The point is that Hong Kong is a common law jurisdiction and deserves the services of the world's most competent and independent common law court. Its judges cannot (and would not) be quizzed in the Hong Kong Club for their views on pending cases, such as evidenced in an SCMP column advocating civil service pay cuts. Ask Captain Kulemesin, currently languishing in prison on questionable procedural, factual and legal grounds introduced by the Court of Final Appeal, if he would use another tier of appeal. It is the interests of justice and the correction of miscarriages that are paramount. China recognised that in the Joint Declaration, and it would not sacrifice sovereignty one iota were it to see fit to amend the Basic Law to restore the Privy Council in the people's interest in the administration of justice under the rule of law.
"Hong Kong is an inseparable part of China and to accord any authority to an external judicial body would be an unthinkable and intolerable abridgement of China's rightful sovereignty over Hong Kong."

There are several sovereign states that allow the referral of cases to the Privy Council, however I do agree that they give up some of their sovereignty to do so.

The only way for a Basic Law amendment to happen is if China agrees to it since they have veto power. Therefore it is ultimately up to Beijing to decide whether or not cases can be referred to the Privy Council, and it is very doubtful that they would find this acceptable. Besides the legal system for the most part is in good shape. Other institutions in HK however are in trouble.
The URA is a disgrace, always putting profits and the rights of developers over the needs of working people, with the collusion of government of course; where is the social dimension to these policies?
@ Michael Scott "Amend Basic Law to restore Privy Council"
How utterly absurd! You still don't get it , do you? We are ONE COUNTRY. The appeal process for any nation must be routed through the sovereign state's highest legal organs.
Why don't also suggest that the USA legal appeal system is amended so it includes the Privy Council if their own Supreme Court comes out with a ruling that their citizens are uncomfortable with ?( They used to be a Colony and part of the now (British) Commonwealth.)
Are you one of the nutters waving colonial flags in the streets at weekends?
All agreed and fine by me, but one little thing: the USA is not part of the 'British' Commonwealth of Nations, and never was. For one thing, the US gained independence a good 150 years before the Commonwealth arrangement was first more or less formalised (Balfour 1926).
Please read the letter. It does not mention the USA.
Dear jve,
Sorry, I should have followed my own advice when first reading these exchanges. I read Captam's comment too quickly to register that it mentioned the USA. However, the US Supreme Court is among the most politicised and judicially activist in the common law world. The High Court of Australia and courts in some other countries which ditched the Privy Council have been similarly activist, endangering judicial probity, the separation of powers and the rule of law.
Mike Winkle is a joke that reads the history book backwards
Since Anglo Li’s abdication and the firing of brouhaha
the CFA of HKSAR has turned a new chapter
Having replaced the p council’s jurisdiction over HK long ago
CFA may soon take over the p council’s role in British affairs
The judicial telomere of the British empire is shortening fast
What many non-permanent justices are drawing is in effect pension fund
When it runs out, they would have to turn to charity


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