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Hong Kong's tainted water scare

Let government departments take the rap over Hong Kong lead-in-water scandal, poll indicates

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2015, 7:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2015, 9:11am

A combined 41 per cent of survey respondents think either the Housing Department or the Water Supplies Department should take the rap for the lead-in-water scandal, while over one-third believe the four main contractors should take the blame.

The Democratic Party sponsored the poll, which interviewed 854 Hongkongers from the middle of last month to early this month.

Helena Wong Pik-wan, the Democrat lawmaker who first exposed the lead problem in early July, said the result indicated a strong demand for government officials to be held accountable for the crisis. A total of 29 per cent of survey respondents blamed the Housing Department and 12 per cent the Water Supplies Department.

It has been over three months since the scandal broke, initially unnerving residents of Kai Ching Estate in Kowloon City after lead levels were found to exceed the World Health Organisation standard of 10 micrograms per litre in drinking water. Government tests have uncovered excessive lead levels in the water of 11 public housing estates, one private residential development, three primary schools and three kindergartens.

About 140 people, mostly children under six, had blood lead levels exceeding the WHO standard of 5mcg per decilitre.

“While so many Hongkongers think that the government should be held liable, the two interim reports by the Water Supplies Department and the Housing Authority just identified the source of contamination, then pointed fingers at the main contractors and plumbers,” said Wong. “The forthcoming [independent commission] report will also not identify officials responsible – all three are breaching Hong Kong’s public opinion.”

Believing that the only way to get the full picture is for lawmakers to invoke their special powers through a formal investigation, pan-demcrats will propose a resolution calling for the creation of a select committee to probe the lead-in-water scandal at today’s Legislative Council meeting.

A similar motion has already been rejected twice. “We urge the pro-establishment lawmakers not to blindly support the government and sacrifice the interests of affected residents,” said Wong. “If the government thinks it did nothing wrong, then it shouldn’t be afraid of Legco’s investigation.”