Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang is rattled by the threat to his grandiose concrete-laying plans posed by citizens who expect his government to draw up environmental impact assessments properly.
In January, a 66-year-old resident of Tung Chung applied for a judicial review of the government’s environmental go-ahead for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, arguing that the EIA had been faulty in, essentially, ignoring public health. The court agreed and work on the white-elephant mega-project is now delayed. Never a very graceful loser, Sir Bow-Tie now accuses (without naming) the Civic Party, which helped the woman, of deliberately trying to wreck the Big Lychee’s economy.
He is backed here by construction interests standing to rake in billions from building pointless hardware all over the place and by the pro-Beijing camp because the bridge is coordinated by the central government. We are invited to believe that the public is also wholeheartedly behind the administration and demanding that something be done about the evil, radical CP. There are even mutterings about getting the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to do one of its magic legal disappearing tricks by ‘interpreting’ some part of the law to mean the opposite of what it clearly says.
A readable summary of the case says that among the faults in the government’s procedures were:
- lack of a baseline assessment predicting the future air quality without the projects;
- incomprehensible model used to predict future regional air quality;
- failure to assess ozone and SO2 as key pollutants in EIA study;
- failure to conduct public health assessment or hazard assessment; and
- failure to include known harmful pollutants such as Toxic Air Pollutants (TAPs) and PM2.5.
The government is appealing the court decision and doing its usual evasive sulky teenage schoolgirl routine and whining about how malicious forces are “trying to hinder economic development, job creation and further Mainland integration,” without mentioning its slipshod EIAs, let alone the impact of air pollution on our lungs. Its allies claim that it is judicial, not environmental administrative, procedures, that are being abused.
The HKZM Bridge is an idea 20 years late: the aim is to open up the west bank of the Pearl River estuary for Hong Kong-owned sweatshops and enable thousands of trucks carrying containers of plastic junk for Walmart direct to our sea port. But it is now the 2010s; the factories are moving inland in search of lower wages, Hong Kong port is entering its sunset phase, and the more original-minded and alert among us no longer cling to the idea that the city’s economy will collapse without millions of metal boxes trundling through town all day and night. Oh, and there’s our lungs too.
It seems to be open season on the Civic Party right now. The illogical proposal to ban Legislative Council by-elections to prevent quasi-referendums involves plentiful amounts of CP-bashing, and of all the supposedly illegal structures perched atop politicians’ homes, the pro-establishment media are curiously obsessed with CP legislator Ronny Tong’s.
And we have a chief executive ‘election’ next March. Officials are saying that there probably will be more than one candidate on the ballot (presumably to spare everyone involved in the farce the additional embarrassment that arose from the uncontested exercises before Tung Chee-hwa’s second and Donald Tsang’s first terms). It could be that they are resigned to someone scraping enough nominations to run from the token pro-democrats on the Election Committee, and that the person will, as in 2007, be from the Civic Party, with its taste for flamboyant stunts. So here’s another weapon Beijing’s appointee can use if we get to have another TV debate: “My opponent is a proven referendum-hugging, card-carrying builder of illegal rooftop extensions who vandalizes essential infrastructure projects and seeks to prevent us from integrating with the motherland.” Henry Tang is no doubt rehearsing as we speak.
Opponents of concrete-laying be warned…