Readers may be aware that we have been reflecting recently on who might be Hong Kong's next Director of Public Prosecutions. This is of interest because we gather that the present incumbent Kevin Zervos has expressed an interest in becoming a judge. But even if this does not come to pass, he will have to retire from this post next year since he will then have reached the retirement age of 60 for civil servants.
It would appear that filling this post is not well advanced since the initial step is to advertise the post internally, so that any senior Department of Justice prosecutor or government lawyer who feels he or she is suitably qualified can apply. This has not yet occurred, so any thoughts that an outside candidate is being considered are, perhaps, premature.
We are led to understand that there is a strong feeling that if an outside DPP is sought, it should be a Chinese Senior Counsel this time, given that all three DPPs to have been appointed since 1997 - Grenville Cross, Ian McWalters and Zervos - were expatriates. One possibility is Robert Lee Shiu-keung who is the former deputy DPP, who resigned early last year from the DOJ, and is now at the bar.
If, as we expect, Zervos is elevated to the High Court, the rules of the judiciary require him to take up the appointment before he turns 60 next year, as this is necessary if he is to qualify for various judiciary benefits such as, for example, enhanced pension rights. This, we understand, is why McWalters stood down as DPP in January last year, just two months before his 60th birthday, and having spent barely a year in office. Such are the intricacies of advancing through our legal system.
We hear that the previous government's proposed monster incinerator - which it suggested siting near the scenic island of Shek Kwu Chau - will not go ahead. It will be recalled that this controversial project involved building the incinerator on reclaimed land next to the island which is off south Lantau. The total project was expected to cost about HK$23 billion and was anticipated to handle a daily capacity of 3,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste.
When the Environmental Protection Department sought funding from the Legislative Council earlier this year, the project was shelved. However, there are a number of outstanding judicial reviews with respect to the project to be heard later this year. The original preferred site for the project was Tang Tsui near the landfill in Tuen Mun.
The project raised controversy after Donald Tsang's government decided that the political cost of locating it in Heung Yee Kuk leader Lau Wong Fat's fief was too great and Shek Kwu Chau "emerged" as the government's favoured location. Although it has been shelved, mysterious forces have been at work to advance the project. Groups such as the Hong Kong Islands District Association, a United Front organisation, was able to access government environmental funds to organise subsidised trips to Singapore and Taiwan to study incinerators. It is not known how the government proposes to deal with the problem of waste disposal.
The sparring between the green groups and the Airport Authority over a study to consider the social return on investment (SROI) of the third runway rumbles on. The green groups and the legislative council want the authority to carry out this study. The authority, which talks of wanting to become the greenest airport in the world, is prevaricating by saying that it, too, wants to study the social and environmental impact of the runway, but says it has yet to find the best method. It has so far ignored the SROI that was conducted for a third runway at London's Heathrow airport which contributed to the shelving of the project. This is not the outcome the authority is seeking. The green groups intend to hold their own meeting to discuss the carbon emission audit and the SROI, and to invite the authority to attend.
An item headlined 'Is making money an art?' in last Saturday's column, incorrectly described the former chairman of the Hong Kong Arts Festival Society as Charles Lee Xiaojia, due to an editing error. His correct name is Charles Lee Yeh-kwong who is also a former chairman of HKEx.