LET ME SAY first that I have some sympathy for the plight of Ho Choi-wan. She is 73 years old, receives an Old Age Allowance of HK$705 a month and her only other source of income to pay off a monthly rental of HK$2,110 for her public housing flat is the HK$8,000 a month her son makes as a lorry driver. I also have a question for her. Ms Ho, were you acting entirely on your own initiative in the lawsuit you launched last week to make the Housing Authority reduce your rent or did a public housing tenants lobby pick you as their candidate? Just asking but I think other people would also find it interesting to know. Ms Ho's complaint, which we described at greater length on our front page on Sunday (Woman, 73, launches rent challenge) is that average rents in public housing are meant to be 10 per cent of average household income but the ratio is now higher for her housing estate because the Housing Authority continues to defer a rent review. A subsidiary complaint is obviously that this is an overall ratio but the actual ratio for her and her son is 24 per cent, just under the 25 per cent at which rent relief kicks in. We shall leave this aside for the moment. There are plenty of people in Hong Kong whose housing costs are more than 24 per cent of income. Of more importance is this matter of whether the overall 10 per cent limit has been breached. It has become a general complaint among public housing tenants who claim that their incomes have dropped with the economic slowdown while their rents have not. Let me note that this has yet to be proved. The evidence in support of it is anecdotal while the hard figures on changes in nominal wages and public housing rents indicate that nothing of the kind has occurred. The real point at issue here, however, is that sympathy for Ms Ho (a perfect candidate for a test case, which is why I asked my first question) might lead us to brand the Housing Authority a bunch of heartless bureaucrats who should immediately reduce rents. This would be both unjustified and economic nonsense. The fact is that a third of our population enjoys some of the lowest rents on earth through the largesse of the Housing Authority while also getting free education, free medical care and free social services of all sorts. Few of these people pay any tax and the number of luxury cars in the car parks that come with their homes tells you a little of what all this does for their disposable income. These are the last people from whom the rest of us should entertain any whinge. The fact that there are a few Ms Hos among them should not mislead us. She is nowhere near as representative of them as she is easily made to appear. We treat these people extremely well. And this strongly suggests that the remedy for Ms Ho, if we agree that she deserves relief, is not through a reduction of rent. By all means let us consider raising the Old Age Allowance or some other measure of social assistance to help her but let it be precisely targeted. If we do it through a general reduction of rents, the clumsiest means of all, what we will really do is give a further undeserved benefit to hundreds of thousands of others who already do very well by us. It is in fact long past time to get rid of this 10 per cent rule and make public housing tenants pay a fairer share of their housing costs. If this lawsuit leads to anything it should be an immediate reconsideration of this outdated policy. And I still have that question, Ms Ho. If you are doing this entirely on your own then say so but if some group is hiding itself behind you then please tell it to declare itself. It would tell the rest of us a little more about what is actually happening here.