Transport chief comes off rails at terminus

Public allegedly kept in the dark over ceremony handing over controversial port area at West Kowloon cross-border express terminal to mainland authorities

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2018, 8:10pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2018, 10:32pm

If there were demerit points for government officials like drivers, transport and housing minister Frank Chan Fan would have reached the limit, and then some.

Penalised drivers have to take a mandatory safety course. What would it be for bumbling ministers? Not getting the boot, though, since our government has an extreme tolerance for incompetence.

The MTR construction fiasco at the Sha Tin-Central link would have sent Chan back to management retraining. The latest row is over a “secretive” handover ceremony of the checkpoint area administered by the mainland at the cross-border express terminus in West Kowloon. How about public relations 101 for Chan?

The public was allegedly kept in the dark over a 15-minute ceremony on Monday night to hand over a 105,000 square metre port area to mainland authorities, represented by Guangdong provincial government deputy secretary general Lin Ji.

The public and the press only knew about it when the government released a picture of the two men shaking hands.

Critics denounced it as “secretive”. Officials couldn’t agree on what it was. A government press release called it “a ceremony” where 100 mainland and Hong Kong officials attended. But after the controversy broke, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the chief executive herself, said it was only “a little working level handover procedure”.

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With some 100 officials from both sides? Let me guess. Since we built the station, we needed to show mainland secret agents where all the interrogation rooms and hidden passages are, so they could move in their torture and surveillance equipment while getting a feel for the lay of the area to practise the kidnapping and rendition of victims. Their bosses might not want to wait until the victims cross the border, even though they would be taking mainland-bound trains anyway, but seize them in the port area – just to risk public exposure.

Some people in Hong Kong are already convinced that will all happen at the terminus. Even if the government opened the whole place for them to inspect, they would not change their minds.

Chan, of course, knew that. So he probably thought, let’s get this handover thing over with quickly and quietly, and don’t call the press. Send them a photo and a press release afterwards.

But how would already suspicious people react to such “secrecy”?

Lam has now ordered the MTR and all government departments to respond promptly to any public concerns about the rail express. Let’s hope Chan get the message.