Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2012, 4:21am

Poverty commission rich in irony

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 TVB’s Straight Talk 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.
 

So, you think the new poverty commission will finally rid Hong Kong of its shame - a society where tycoons blow millions on weddings while bent old women scavenge to survive? Stop dreaming. That's because Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is heading the commission.

What does a bureaucrat know about poverty? She's highly paid, lives in a government mansion, rides in a chauffeured car and owns overseas properties. How can she understand subdivided slum flats, caged homes, poor elderly people who live on handouts, and families struggling to survive on a minimum wage of HK$6,000 a month?

She recently said she sleeps well. She even gave her own work performance 10 out of 10. So if she's already doing a perfect job, what more can she do to help the 1.15 million poor?

The 22-member commission has four bureaucrats, and even a property tycoon. Ask yourself why tycoons are allowed to control everything from property and supermarkets to pharmacies and mobile phone services. A poverty commission headed by a bureaucrat with an iron rice bowl will insist on bureaucratic solutions. We've already seen where that took us with the last poverty commission headed by Lam's predecessor, Henry Tang Ying-yen. Mix a property tycoon with that, and God help the poor.

Property cooling measures won't tame the lunacy

Housing chief Anthony Cheung Bing-leung says the latest measures to cool the property market are working. Don't believe him. Sales have dropped, but prices have budged only a bit. Owners are refusing to make big price cuts. Buyers are refusing to buy unless they get much more than the 3 per cent to 5 per cent cut on offer.

If the cooling measures were meant to stop flat sales then they are working. They are not working if they were meant to make flats more affordable. Prices will soon resume their upward march. We have an insane market. Nothing short of a sledgehammer solution will tame the lunacy.

Elsie Leung has right to make a fool of herself

In Hong Kong free speech is open to all, even to those who use it to make idiots of themselves. One such person is former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie, now a senior member of the Basic Law Committee. Public Eye disagrees with the outcry against her rants. We should not hinder her right to make a fool of herself.

First she scolded our top judges and the legal community, saying they were clueless about the relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing. As a lawyer herself we can only take that to mean she believes she alone in the legal community understands this relationship. When she was castigated for essentially saying politics rather than the law should guide certain rulings, she indignantly defended her right to free speech. Guess where she was when she did that. In the mainland. All the jailed dissidents must have choked on their prison rations. Then, in a further exercise of her free speech rights, she said we should change Hong Kong's legal system without waiting out the 50 years of no change guaranteed by the Basic Law. Change in what way? She has said judges ruled wrongly in right-of-abode cases. Should we then have a legal system that ensures judges will always rule the right way according to Elsie Leung? Maybe we can call it Elsie's law.

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