Sze unleashes flurry of perplexing prattle

SECRETARY for Constitutional Affairs Michael Sze was cornered. Those troublesome new girls in the back row were tormenting him with awkward questions about human rights.

He decided to try a new defence technique: surrealism.

Anna Wu had asked for public consultation on human rights.

Mr Sze replied: ''This is a sort of apple pie and motherhood question.'' Legislators' eyes widened.

Mr Sze continued: ''Difficult to say no. But to say yes would commit us to the sort of undertaking whose ramifications I am not so sure. So if I may, I will give a bureaucratic answer.'' Then he plonked himself back in his seat. Members stared at Mr Sze and each other.

But Ms Wu refused to be thrown off track by the secretary's dazzling display of obscurity.


She asked, gently: ''May I ask what the answer is? I am quite lost.'' Mr Sze gave a surprised look, as if he were saying: ''Oh you want the answer now , do you? Why didn't you say so?'' He wearily rose to his feet again, and said: ''I think, frankly, that the, the, draft reports we provide to the United Kingdom, as I said, are factual. And fact is fact. And one cannot turn it into fiction.'' By this stage, members were worrying that Mr Sze had been working too hard.

Outside the chamber, civil rights were also under the spotlight.

A group of protesters from Kennedy Town had had their human rights grossly violated by the Hongkong Government, which had blatantly failed to provide their district with a Mass Transit Railway station.

But members were distracted, having the uncomfortable subject of corruption on their minds.


Ronald Arculli read out an impressive list of statistics which showed that a huge number of people had been assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption with their inquiries.

At the end of his speech, Mr Arculli thanked the commission and added: ''Sir, on behalf of members of this community, who have assisted the ICAC in so many ways, I wish to join in this tribute.'' Nobody laughed.


Then it was time to discuss a new phenomenon seen in Hongkong's rural areas. Large swathes of the New Territories now look like Legoland. They are covered with massive stacks of multi-coloured rectangular boxes, courtesy of the shipping companies.

Jimmy McGregor wanted to know what Environment Secretary Tony Eason was going to do about it. ''I ask the secretary not to hide behind good intentions,'' Mr McGregor said.

Mr Eason, who was sitting (but not really hiding) behind Attorney-General Jeremy Mathews, rose to his feet. ''I shall try not to hide behind anything,'' he said.


Then new boy James Tien announced that he had an idea. Why not build multi-storey buildings, similar to car parks, in the New Territories and put the boxes inside, so no one can see them? Mr Eason promised to consider the suggestion, but did not go so far as to pledge to beautify the countryside by covering it in multi-storey car park buildings.

Fred Li leapt to his feet. He wanted to bring up some gas. How come the Government always opted for Towngas in their housing developments, and not other forms of gas? Gordon Siu, Secretary for Economic Services, gave members a physics lesson. There were different types of gas. Towngas was lighter than air, and tended to rise and disperse, but liquefied petroleum gas was heavier than air. When it leaked, it seeped intothe ground.

The gas emitted by members was clearly lighter than air, as it dispersed into the atmosphere without any noticeable effect.