Lamma ferry crash

The Lamma ferry tragedy, political corruption - 2012 broke Hong Kong's heart

From a chief executive plagued by scandal, to an infighting judiciary, 2013 begins on a thorny path

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 December, 2012, 5:35am

Time flies. Tonight, midnight gunfire and a fireworks display over Victoria Harbour will mark the end of another year. It has been a turbulent one for Hong Kong, and it seems to have brought more confrontation and pain than harmony and peace.

The most tragic and heart-breaking event was the Lamma Island ferry collision in which 39 National Day revellers died.

The families' grief is incurable, and the special inquiry hearing, which will soon reopen, continues to bring back painful memories.

This has also been a year of confrontation, socially and politically.

The tension between Hongkongers and mainlanders continues to escalate.

The prevalence of parallel trading by mainland visitors has upset Hongkongers who say this has caused the price of the city's goods to go up.

Another source of social conflict is the influx of mainland mothers, blamed for taking up beds in local maternity wards.

Politically, our government has been on a rocky path since then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was accused of accepting treats from tycoons.

The crisis only continued after the handover to C.Y. Leung.

We don't need a crystal ball to predict the thorny path that lies ahead for him.

The illegal structure saga is expected to return to haunt Leung next year, while the media will keep a watchful eye over his administration, which has already been plagued with a string of scandals since July.

It began with former development minister Mak Chai-kwong facing allegations of housing fraud and continued with Mak's successor, Paul Chan Mo-po, getting in a tangle over a sub-divided flat .

More recently came the suspicion that Executive Councillor Franklin Lam Fan-keung had profited from inside information in the sale of two flats. Leung's political problems are expected to deepen with an avalanche of unresolved social issues, from expensive housing to the widening wealth gap.

In an affluent city such as Hong Kong, any citizen would be outraged to still see elderly people collecting cardboard in the streets or working as cleaners to make ends meet.

To firm believers in the rule of law, the most saddening moment of 2012 would be seeing the city's judicial system come under what Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary called a "storm of unprecedented ferocity".

The storm is thought to have been sparked by scathing remarks about our judges made by former secretary for justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie.

Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, who is now in Elsie Leung's former post, also made the controversial decision to ask the Court of Final Appeal to refer to the National People's Congress Standing Committee for clarification of its own 1999 interpretation of the right to permanent residency under the Basic Law.

Instead of ending this column with cliches like "every cloud has a silver lining" or "there's light at the end of the tunnel", I shall say silver linings and sunshine will not come unless we embrace the challenges.