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  • Oct 31, 2014
  • Updated: 12:52am
Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 2:52am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 2:52am

Lesson No 1 in the school of hard knocks


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 ATV’s Newsline 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.

Lesson No 1 in the school of hard knocks

At the risk of sounding xenophobic, mainlanders should stop bitching about their Hong Kong-born children being allocated Primary One places in schools far from the border that had not been on their list of choices. Priority should always go to children actually living in the district. If mainland parents without the right to live here do not want their Hong Kong-born children to travel long distances, they can rent flats and hire nannies to look after them. Local parents live here, pay taxes and contribute to society. Mainland parents do not. Their children qualify for school places simply because they were born here at a time when it was allowed. They chose to give birth here and should shut up and face the consequences if they want a Hong Kong education for their children, instead of threatening to sue the Education Bureau. It's not xenophobia; it is fairness.

We're choking on our leaders' dirty lies

Promises, promises. First, we had Tung Chee-hwa promising in his 1999 policy speech that Hong Kong's air would be comparable to that of London and New York by 2005. He was going to get rid of polluting vehicles and more. None of that happened. Then we had Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's comical "Action Blue Sky" campaign in 2006. Tsang finished his two terms as chief executive with the city having even filthier air than when he started. Next up was current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who hired clean-air crusaders Wong Kam-sing and Christine Loh Kung-wai as the top two honchos in the Environment Bureau. Leung has been in office two years now; last Sunday the city experienced the filthiest air we had seen in a very long time. Promises, promises. Read that as lies, all lies.

Make it your business to open your eyes, Mr Chow

It appears Chow Chung-kong, who stepped down as Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce chairman last week, is clueless about the political mood in the city. And yet he is an executive councillor who advises C Y Leung on policy matters. Chow fears a survey showing Hong Kong's political-stability rating falling from third to eighth place may spook investors. He does not want investors looking at Hong Kong in the same way they do Thailand, he says. Wake up, Mr Chow. We have political discontent because of people like you. You advise on political and business policies, yet have no clue why the people are restive. A handful of tycoons own 60 per cent of the city's wealth. We have the widest wealth gap in the developed world. Median household income has risen only 10 per cent in the past decade. More than a million Hongkongers are considered poor. Homes are unaffordable. Elderly people collect cardboard boxes to make ends meet. Fix all that and we will be No 1 in political stability.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and television show host. mickchug@gmail.com



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Indeed, the oligarchs dominated system is a problem not just for HK, but for China, the US and the UK as well. Japan and small well-functioned democracies are less affected by social inequalities, but they have other problems.
That's the point. Every city or nation has a unique set of critical issues. First, one must agree on what one's grievances are in descending priorities before a set of "productive" political issues could be framed into goals. Now we can talk about how to organize politically to meet these goals.
Blind faith in populist elections with the kind of destructive hate passions just won't cut it. Does a belief in an Almighty God lead to Einstein's equivalence principle? Does a fanatical faith in elections help to select effective leaders? If anything, Democracy Cult dogmas and single issue obsessions are always a nonstarter.
At my wits end of not knowing what to do with rabid SCMP readers, I sometimes try humor:
Catching me in the right mood, I may use reason as is done here. But in no circumstances would I dignify hate-Chinese fluent English speaking mad dogs with direct answers to their vengeful vitriol.
I like Mr. Chugani. Writing an SCMP column, he should tone down his single issue emphasis and wealth envy.
‘First, one must agree on what one's grievances are in descending priorities before a set of "productive" political issues could be framed into goals.’
I think this is exactly the job cut out for leaders elected or not in acting upon grievances (from public).
Leaders must articulate and set priority not to mention who also have the courage to discard unwarranted grievances or requests. It may sound too rational a process like in a scientific pursuit. But after all, in US college there is the Political Science one can major in and I just wonder if it is part what would be taught in the classroom. (Funny, I don't think any US President were a Poly Science major).
Conversely speaking, general public has no obligation or the ability to do what leaders do. General public's obligation is to keep an eye on the leaders making sure general public’s interests are being served. As you may know, that is where and when all the fights begin. Not necessary all s h i t hitting the fan.
Mr. Chugani,
Just a rude reminder. From 60s into early 70s, the US, the UK and Japan were experiencing air and water pollution crises. You could see the air you breathed in Los Angeles. Pennsylvania skies were often blackened from soot emitted from steel mills. In London, fish floated belly-up at Thames. Everywhere you walked around in Ginza, Tokyo, you found pedestrians wearing face masks.
To these countries' credit, their governments legislated new laws mandating pollution control devices for their industries and power generating plants. Even then, it was at least 2 decades before one could breathe again freely in Tokyo and eat the catch from Thames. Pennsylvanian home owners now can do without power wash every two years for sidings of their houses. Los Angeles is also seeing less smog and many sunny days.
Even with political will and generous spending budgets, one should not expect HK to improve soon.
Whenever I am in the Caribbean, I remember fondly the same star studded skies in childhood at the Memorial just a stone throw from Star Ferry.
Get real! It will be a long slog to clean up this mess.
Forget about politics and elections and stop undermining our SAR government. Our leaders may be incompetent. All the more reason to have meaningful dialogs with them and help them to restructure our outdated bureaucracy.
Small-minded HKers must not fantasize that everything from the West is best, not the least its Democracy Cult and its dogmas.
To whymak,
Hong Kong has been blaming air pollution blowing from the factories from north of the border. The massive shutting down of factories there now leaves Hong Kong naked in lies that Hong Kong actually makes its own filthy air.
There is a reason why Hong Kong officials are so seemingly inept to clean up the air. They don’t run Hong Kong. The special interests do which control our livelihood no less the officials’ too.
If we blame the officials only then we are barking at the wrong tree. The real intruders are up in a tree hiding. Just look at the Hong Kong Electric, it could be the largest single source of the fifthly air in Hong Kong. Yes it may be underestimating the time needed to clean up our air even using history elsewhere as a guide.
But I have a hunch if 30% of our electricity supply is from Guangzhou’s nuclear power plant, Hong Kong may immediately see blue sky much much more often.
And yes, we need to support our government to clamp down the special interests to clean up our air .
Too much talk and too little action by Christine Loh.
Time is against you and it will not remember you kindly if you continue to be a talking head....we need resolute action for this declining situation. Don't get the British disease of endless talking and no action.
Do you really want Mainlanders to rent more property in HK? Won't this push up rents? Isn't the author a renter who always complains about increases in his rent? Very simplistic argument.
Very well put on all three counts and I commend your in-depth and in-tune article..........we need more people like you in HK who are not afraid to point out the losers in our society.
How About
Good on ya Michael!
I found some of mainlanders have taken it for granted that Hong Kong society should treat them better local people. Nonsense! Working in one border check point of Hong Kong, I found some of them always behaved unreasonable, for example, they, on the one hand, arrogantly complain that waiting in line for getting on buses is inapplicable to them because of their contribution to the Hong Kong economy. They blame it on the Hong Kong government to have made such inconvenience caused, wasting their time. On the other hand, they’ll beg for tolerance and sympathy when having done something illegal, defending themselves that they should be forgiven due to unfamiliar with the conditions and cultures of this city. I don’t mean to criticize them, just advising those mainlanders should behave themselves properly in an alien condition.
Well said, on all three counts.

The appointment of Christine Loh was indeed one of the most hopeful things that occurred when CY & Co took office. And she too has been one big disappointment.

Power corrupts I suppose, because Ms Loh once sincere and lofty environmental ambitions seem to have been neutered. She speaks grand words, but in the past two years, we have seen next to zero action.

Instead, she has allowed the waste collection/recycling reform to get stuck in of those lengthy public consultations with endless trials that serve no other purpose than to slow things down sufficiently to allow vested interests to 'adjust' and escape scathe-free while covering policy makers' backs and shielding them from any responsibility the making of an actual decision would entail. And so, we still have no clarity on our increasingly urgent landfill/waste problem. Any half-decent municipal government would have dealt with something so basic ages ago.

And with regards to the anti-pollution measures that were announced with so much fanfare over a year ago: they were already too little too late back then, but have since been softened and delayed further.

It is all being done at snail pace, while Ms Loh now enjoys her HKD 220,000 per month under-secretary salary on our costs. She must have bought a good air purifier for her home with that money I imagine. Or maybe ExCo members get the air imported from Switzerland as part of their benefits? I wouldn't be surprised.




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