Loh calls for greater community discussion
IN an innovative move, independent legislator Christine Loh Kung-wai yesterday published an alternative policy address, calling for greater input from the community in shaping government policy.
She conceded that although the role of the Legislative Council was restricted under the Basic Law, it should be able to contribute more by making alternative suggestions on how Hong Kong should be governed.
Ms Loh said the process of the formulation of the Governor's Policy Address was in essence 'controlled by a very small number of people'.
'Can it be sufficient, in any society with any pretensions to democratic values, for legislators and for public opinion merely to be able to say 'yes' or 'no' to bills and ideas that are put before them? 'Surely, it cannot be sufficient to leave so much strategic power in the hands of the unelected administration,' she wrote in the preface of her 83-article policy speech.
Outlining her address to a group of government officials, Legco colleagues, Executive Councillors and journalists inside the Legco chamber, Ms Loh said politics had arrived in the territory.
Legco should act as an 'opposition' and make alternative ideas for the possible routes of the development of Hong Kong.
Ms Loh's report coincided with the publication of a government progress report on the performance of the administration under Governor Chris Patten.
She called for suggestions on how to make the bureaucracy more accountable.
Ms Loh said she did not agree with Mr Patten's description of the relationship between the Government and the public as 'provider of public services and clients'.
'We're not clients. We are masters,' she said.
Ms Loh maintained there were two ways to 'institutionalise a high degree of accountability'. These were the introduction of the so-called 'sunshine law' forcing officials to reveal their property, and greater access to official information.
'We have to work out how to inject a greater chance for public participation in policy-making such as opening up the membership of advisory bodies.' In her policy address - of which 2,000 copies have been prepared - Ms Loh stressed the need to work out a systematic way of measuring the quality of life in Hong Kong.
'We are told that our per capita income is now similar to that of Canada. So what? Do we feel our quality of life has significantly improved? Our quality of life should be measured in real, human terms, not just the GDP figures,' Ms Loh said.
Citing traffic congestion in districts such as Tsing Yi and the northwestern part of the territory, she said the transport problem was deteriorating.
Ms Loh urged the Government to outline a definite timetable on urban renewal, which she said should be speeded up to provide more housing and improve living conditions in old districts.
She also urged joint planning of infrastructure across the border.
'Let us try always to think long-term about Hong Kong's interests, and let us be guided by the core values that have served us so well so far. Among these core values I include freedom, self-reliance and the rule of law. If we stay close by those, we shall not go very far wrong,' she concluded.