Letters to the Editor, November 13, 2016

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 November, 2016, 12:18am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 November, 2016, 12:17am

Independent probe is clearly the best option

The lack of transparency on infrastructure and community projects, especially when something goes wrong, is a source of perennial frustration for the Hong Kong public.

It invariably comes as a breath of fresh air when we are treated with openness and ­respect. This is precisely what happened when the independent review panel released the findings of its inquiry into the partial collapse of the Married Inspectors’ Quarters building at the Central Police Station ­compound (“Holes blamed in historic Hong Kong police ­station wall collapse”, November 3).

Given that the revitalisation project is supposed to set high standards in conserving and revitalising a heritage site into a community asset, public confidence in its successful completion was at stake.

We need to know what happened, why it happened, and whether it could have been ­prevented.

Only then can the necessary lessons be learned – not just for this project, but other conservation initiatives in the future. A mishandled or hushed-up investigation can potentially erode public trust in the value of heritage preservation.

It is noteworthy that the investigation was not done “internally”, but by an independent review panel comprising professional engineers and experts. Technical knowledge is obviously crucial to the determination of likely causes, but the importance of arm’s length objectivity cannot be ­overstated.

The credibility of the findings from the Central Police Station case is further strengthened as the panel did not assign blame. That will come in due course from the Buildings Department. But when you take liability out of the equation, we are more likely to be presented with an ­impartial and unbiased picture.

Indeed, the independent ­review panel set an excellent example in presenting a clear picture of its findings, using animation and illustrations to take the public through the chain of events.

The review panel made it much easier for people without an engineering background to follow and understand what had happened.

If a non-taxpayer-funded project can be handled in such a responsible manner, the government and other public ­bodies can scarcely excuse themselves from accounting for future mishaps as openly and objectively.

Ho Chak-shing, Ma On Shan

Mob-mentality politics won it for Trump

How did we get President-elect Donald Trump?

For years, both political ­parties were busy making promises but had no intention of keeping them. It took a mob- mentality man to wake us up. That’s how we got him.

I pray he listens to the voters who got him elected and I pray he makes an all-out effort to ­deliver on his many promises.

Herb Stark, Mooresville, North Carolina, US

Beijing should not have interfered

While I am not pro-Beijing, I disapprove of the behaviour of two localist lawmakers during the oath-taking ceremony in the Legislative Council – Sixtus ­Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching.

They used abusive language which showed disrespect for Chinese people and sought to belittle China.

However, Beijing’s intervention was not necessary as Article 104 of the Basic Law is very clear on how the oath should be taken. Also, the High Court in Hong Kong had not yet ruled on the oath-taking in a judicial review and was pre-empted by the ruling of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

Given that we have “one country, two systems”, Beijing should not have interfered in Hong Kong’s judicial system, which should be allowed to ­remain independent.

Ruby Ho Sum-yu, Kwai Chung

Legal tussle in Ireland similar to oath saga

The Legislative Council opening session, and what happened subsequently, is not the first occasion when there has been a row over the taking of an oath by legislators. There is, however, a solution from history.

In 1921, following the Anglo-Irish Treaty that established the Irish Free State (bringing the union with Britain to an end), those opposing the treaty (because it partitioned Ireland) refused to take the oath of allegiance that was necessary before a person who was elected could take up his parliamentary seat. As a result, a large group of MPs abstained from the first parliament that was elected. However, in 1926 all election candidates were required to promise that they would take the oath if successful.

Even though the oath hadn’t changed, those who refused to take it in 1922 took it anyway after the next general election. Their leader, Eamon de Valera, declared he was merely signing a piece of paper to take up his seat in parliament, and that the oath could be taken with a “mental reservation”. His party won a majority six years later and abolished the requirement for the oath anyway.

Insofar as the subsequent Hong Kong High Court judicial review proceedings are concerned, history might have something useful to add, too.

In 1949, while a case was pending before the High Court in Ireland about who was entitled to certain funds held on trust for a pre-independence political party that was, by that time, largely in abeyance, the government of the day introduced legislation that decided their ownership and required that the case be summarily dismissed, without notice to the other parties, on the application of the attorney general.

The broad parallels with current events in Hong Kong are uncanny. However, the High Court in Dublin refused to comply, on the basis that the law was unconstitutional, and trespassed on the separation of powers between parliament, government and the courts. The Supreme Court (Court of Final Appeal) agreed. Is there a lesson here that’s worth noting?

Dr Ciaran Craven SC, Dublin, Ireland

HSBC must fix overseas ATM problems

I sympathise with Ian W. ­Johnston’s letter (“Not able to use HSBC card at its Malta banks”, November 5).

HSBC aligning itself with China’s UnionPay has caused years of difficulties for its local customers when travelling ­overseas.

The cards do not work in countries where one would expect them to, and local branches of HSBC distance themselves from the Hong Kong bank, to whom they refer the problem.The bank needs to sort out its ATM availability overseas.

Christopher Ruane, Lantau

Capsule beds not better than cage homes

I can see problems arising from the introduction of capsule, single-size bed spaces (“‘Space capsule’ pods an upgrade from ‘coffin homes’ ”, November 7).

Each pod will have a fire extinguisher, but if there is a fire how easy will it be for the ­occupant to get out quickly?

Also, the businessman behind this idea plans to have 10 pods in a 700 sq ft flat and this raises privacy issues for tenants.

With so many capsules in such a confined space, tenants could surely not enjoy any real privacy.

I don’t really see how these so-called homes can be better than cage homes or subdivided apartments. In fact, in some cases they may even be worse.

I do not think the government should ­allow these ­capsules to be rented out to ­tenants.

Ronnie Tse, Tseung Kwan O