Feathers fly as farmers play chicken with police

OUTSIDE the building, the male chauvinist pig farmers were making a statement. But since, even under Chinese customary law, pigs cannot fly, they chose to make their point with chickens.

As a former correspondent for Poultry Week, From the Gallery knows startled chickens not only leap into the air but also leave signatures.

So we decided to duck out gracefully and leave the police to cope with the flap. We escaped though the hallowed portals of the Legislative Council building to watch the battle of pigs and pigmen from the safety of an upstairs window.

However, Legco is no shelter from manure of the bovine variety . . . But let us not be tempted to stoop to unparliamentary language.

The truth is that some members now pose probing, waffle-free questions. And on the government benches, a number of spokesmen have learned to give evasive answers, deliver themselves of terminological inexactitudes and economise with the truth with terse aplomb.

Attorney-General Jeremy Mathew's method of coping with awkward questions is to stonewall imperturbably.


Yesterday it was that embarrassing little decision to have Cathay Pacific pilot Ian Wilkinson bound over to keep the peace instead of prosecuting him under the Offences Against the Person Act for allegedly wounding his wife that came back to haunt him.

With the distressed wife watching from the visitors' gallery, Mr Mathews contented himself with repeating the ''facts'' read out in court - facts which Ann Wilkinson disputes - and then refused to explain the reasons behind the Director of Public Prosecution's decision not to proceed with the case.

In response to persistent questioning, Mr Mathews resorted to that argument of cornered bureaucrats the world over: ''It is not appropriate for me to give reasons for decisions made in relation to any particular prosecution.'' The decision, he told a sceptical chamber, had been taken with regard to ''the interests of the victim'', as well as to ''those of the accused and to the wider public interest''.

Even when Moses Cheng said that his description of Mrs Wilkinson's injuries conflicted with medical records and photographic evidence which showed she had been beaten, slashed and strangled, Mr Mathews refused to be drawn.


Legislators were unimpressed.

Elsie Tu even took the trouble of coming out of the chamber to offer Mrs Wilkinson support and advise her to take civil action against her husband.


But good humour was quickly restored when Fred Li returned to every member's favourite topic: noisy concerts at the Hong Kong Stadium.

More than 180 complaints, he fulminated. Environmental Protection Department advice unheeded. Why were Urban Councillors and the general public not informed of the EPD's advice at an earlier stage.

It was at this point that the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands caused what he later referred to as ''a small constitutional crisis'' by uttering the dread words ''Jockey Club'' in his answer.


Legco President John Swaine stopped the proceedings and, to general consternation, asked Mrs Tu and Andrew Wong to step outside for a few moments.

Mr Wong soon returned to take the President's chair and explain that because Mr Swaine was chairman of the Jockey Club, and Mrs Tu, Madam Deputy President, represented the Urban Council, he had been asked to take over.

Fair enough. But here was the real constitutional crisis. Nobody could work out how to address him.


''I suppose I should call you Mr Deputy President,'' essayed Mr Li.

Marvin Cheung tried ''Mr Acting Deputy to the President''.

Moses Cheng suggested ''Mr Deputy to the President''.

From the Gallery would like to propose giving Mr Wong the official title ''Mr Madam Deputy's Understudy''.