My Take

Shutting out the best and brightest from public service

Time and again we have seen talented people who wish to serve the public mocked, criticised and bullied simply for political purposes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 1:05am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 1:05am

Something is seriously wrong when we start attacking our best and brightest.

When you are a leading authority in science, medicine or architecture, it’s inevitable that the government or other public bodies will ask for your help from time to time. Yet by such associations, some of our most talented citizens – who often take up jobs out of a sense of civic duty – have become collateral damage. They risk becoming targets of criticism, libel, bullying and mockery by anti-government groups if they get involved in politically controversial issues.

Hong Kong architect ‘engaged’ to design Palace Museum ahead of Carrie Lam’s announcement of project

Take Rocco Yim Sen-kee, one of the few home-grown architects with an international reputation, and certainly our most bankable. His designs on the mainland and across the city speak for themselves. But his being hand-picked to lead the design of the Hong Kong Palace Museum at the arts hub in West Kowloon without a public tender means he is now being dragged through the mud with accusations of cronyism.

“Would you prefer a public tender that picks the one who offers the lowest bid price or someone with credible experience?” Yim asked. My question exactly.

The real reason for the attacks is that the planned museum is a joint mainland-Hong Kong project spearheaded by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who may well become the city’s next leader. That’s why the knives are out. Still, you may think the museum project’s bad public relations make everyone involved a fair game.

Okay, what about Professor Lo Chung-mau, a pioneer in liver transplants? He was hounded by trolls on the internet and students on campus in 2015 for allegedly faking his injuries when a University of Hong Kong council meeting was stormed by rowdy student activists. His HKU colleague, Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, the famous virologist, was smart enough to quit the council before radical students turned it into a war zone.

Top scientist quits HKU council, warning students against ‘opening door to Satan’ with violence

Earlier, those HKU Red Guards practically chased their previous vice chancellor Tsui Lap-chee – a world-famous geneticist who discovered the cystic fibrosis gene – from office for his alleged mishandling of heavy police security that surrounded a visit by then vice-premier Li Keqiang (李克強) to the Pok Fu Lam campus in 2011.

If this kind of political bullying continues, public sector service will be left only to the cynical, mediocre, sycophantic and talentless – or else to shameless populists and rabble rousers who claim to speak for “the people”.