Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 3:14pm

Dockers' strike is a struggle to restore the city's soul

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.
 

It's easy to mistake the dockers' strike as just that. But it's more than just industrial action for better pay and conditions. The strikers and their supporters consider it a struggle to restore the soul that Hong Kong has lost to the greed that permeates our society. Why do you think so many ordinary Hongkongers are cheering on the strikers with millions of dollars in cash and food donations? Would they be as pumped up if the strike had been against just any other company and not Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT), which is controlled by tycoon Li Ka-shing? Of course not. Once loved as a rags-to-riches superman, Li is now loathed by many Hongkongers. They see him and the other tycoons as having sold Hong Kong's soul to feed their greed. And that's what spawned the anti-tycoon term "property hegemony". And it's also why union leaders fronting the dockers' strike are purposely hurling out Li's name to pump up the people even though subcontractors, not Li's company, are directly responsible for pay and conditions. When union leaders reveal horror stories of crane operators having to work 12-hour shifts without even proper toilet breaks, and dock workers earning less now than a decade ago, the people get worked up. They are angry and aghast that a profitable Li-owned company could be so heartless. By cheering on the strikers they are venting their pent-up anger against what they see as an unfair society controlled by tycoons and the business lobby that has produced unaffordable housing, increasing poverty and the widest wealth gap in the developed world.

 

It's time for democrats to wake up to reality

Has Public Eye gone over to the dark side? Some say we've betrayed democracy. But let's get this straight: is it an act of betrayal to democracy to say it's idiotic for the democrats to make the right to confront the central government the cornerstone of their universal suffrage battle? We call it knocking some sense into the democrats. Must Public Eye say it over and over again? Mainland leaders will never allow anyone who opposes the central government by questioning the legitimacy of its communist rule to become the city's chief executive. Please wake up and smell that fact. Don't be suckered into a stalemate in the battle for credible universal suffrage starting in 2017. It would give Beijing the perfect reason to renege on its promise.

 

Market-cooling measures finally biting … just a bit

At last, we can smell blood. Just a whiff, but it's a start. Market-cooling measures are finally biting. Home sales are dropping; they fell nearly 30 per cent last month. But that's just sales, not prices. A drop in home sales is meaningless for those priced out of the market if it isn't matched with a drop in prices. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying promised to make housing affordable. The cooling measures were meant to put a brake on rising prices too, not just sales. Home prices are at preposterous levels. Some greedy home sellers, sensing they may have exhausted their greed, are cutting prices. Property developers also smell the change in the air. They're rushing their flats onto the market before the cooling measures bite hard. But prices need to come down a lot more. The greed that has contaminated our property market must be exorcised. Leung says he has the guts to confront the property developers. Well, then start smelling the blood and go for the kill. Impose cooling measures that actually force prices down. And slap rent controls on our vulture landlords. It's best to kick when the other side's down.

mickchug@gmail.com

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