Lai See

It's official: Hong Kong has poor air quality

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 3:07pm

The government's Audit Commission published two reports yesterday which are a damning indictment of the previous government's record on monitoring air quality and its lamentable efforts at improving it. The two reports, Implementation of Air-Quality Improvements Measures, and Monitoring and Reporting of Air Quality show a remarkable level of failure in meeting its obligations under the air pollution control ordinance, and in taking very obvious steps such as getting old polluting diesel-engined vehicles off the road.

This is something that think tanks and environmentalists have been advising for years and yet the EPD has barely done anything.

The EPD has no shortage of information as to the sources of air pollution, but it has just been highly ineffective in enacting improvements. Even with the power stations, the one area where gains were made, the Audit Commission notes: "Nox [nitrogen oxides] emission allowances set for local power plants to be effective from 2015 and 2017, would significantly exceed those proposed by the EPD consultant." Elsewhere the report notes "the EPD has never achieved its performance target on API (not exceeding 100 on any day in a year) since setting the targets in 2006-07".

Professor Anthony Hedley, who set up his eponymous environmental index, has called the government's air pollution index, "a complete piece of fiction". We suppose the Audit Commission should be congratulated for saying what many people have known for quite a long time.

There are new leaders at the EPD and a lot of people have high hopes they will enact measures to improve the environment. There are also many sceptics who believe it is just too hard to effect the necessary changes in Hong Kong. Let's hope they're wrong. These reports give it considerable ammunition to attack the problems.

The administration has agreed with both reports and says unequivocally that "the protection of health is the key guiding principle in the formulation of air-quality improvement measures," and achieving the World health Organisation guidelines on air quality is a long-term goal.

IPO conundrum

We hear that the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) has tightened up on A-share IPOs. In early October there were 819 companies on the waiting list for IPO approval, but 47 of them have recently been told that there is no chance of getting to the last round of the process. Yao Gang, a vice-chairman at the CSRC .said recently the regulator wanted IPO-ready companies to improve information disclosure before listing. This is seen as a sign that the regulator is tightening requirements and this, hopefully, will lead to better quality companies being listed and improving investor confidence. At the same time the CSRC is loosening its requirements for small and medium-sized companies to list on Hong Kong's stock market.

This, readers may recall, was part of the "gift package" vice-premier Li Keqiang announced during his visit to Hong Kong last year. This has led suspicious minds to wonder why the mainland is imposing tighter conditions on its own listings while loosening them for firms seeking to list in Hong Kong.

Saving The Party

We have noted before that one theme which is gaining ground in the mainland is the public declaration of the assets of senior Communist Party members and officials. It will be recalled that President Hu Jintao said last Thursday that failure to deal with corruption could bring down the party and the state it controls. The magazine Caijin reports that in response to this speech a number of senior officials have stated they had no problem with publicly declaring their assets.

These included chief of China's Intellectual Property Office, Tian Lipu; Yu Zhengshen, Secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the CPC; and Communist Party Secretary for Guangdong province, Wang Yang, who said all officials would likely be required to do this in future. However, there remains a rearguard action from the likes of Jiang Zongfu, deputy mayor of Linxiang, Hunan, who said the measure would cause "social chaos" as asset-rich officials would be deemed corrupt while those declaring few assets would be accused of lying.

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