Goodwill to all in Legco love-in

Sweetness and light burst forth as the Legislative Council votes for peace, love and understanding.

The lawmakers could have passed a motion of no confidence in Chief Executive Donald Tsang, but didn’t. Sir Bow-Tie’s palling around with grubby second-tier tycoons and their luxury yachts and jets shocked the public and damaged Hong Kong’s reputation. But no favours seem to have been granted; it was harmless Gatsbyesque fun for an easily impressed little bureaucrat. He would have gone down in history for giving civil servants Saturday mornings off – now he will be remembered for sleaze at its most embarrassingly pathetic. It is punishment enough. (I hear that he believes his moment of defining greatness was the constitutional reform package of 2010. This one. Remember it now?)

Our legislature could have demanded some sort of puffed-up inquiry to discover whether Chief Executive-elect CY Leung called for the use of tear gas to convince protestors of the advantages of the Article 23 Security Law in 2003, but again it didn’t. The allegation was made by disgraced ex-lots of things Henry Tang, which isn’t a great recommendation. The alleged comments were uttered in an Executive Council meeting and thus technically confidential and probably not even recorded. It does sound like the sort of thing the stereotype authoritarian Transylvanian wolf-man would say – but maybe that’s what we’re supposed to think. Most of us have more important things to do, and CY has no shortage of ways to redeem himself once he actually takes office.

And Legco members could have suspended their own colleague ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung for getting a two-month jail sentence, but, yet again, they didn’t. He didn’t shoplift, defraud or build an illegal basement. He was opposing not only a ridiculous government’s ridiculous measure but the way officials were going about it – such as packing a supposed consultation exercise with fake supporters to keep opponents out. Plus, it’s Long Hair: a national treasure, with far and away the highest IQ in the legislature, and who may not even be especially averse to a bit of martyrdom for his many causes.

In practice, of course, these three examples of harmony were bitter struggles in which both pro-establishment and pro-democracy camps failed to get their way, thanks to Legco voting rules designed to favour the former. But all three outcomes spare us some tiresome grandstanding and serious distractions from more pressing issues.

Like this: the cost of a planned 12-km road has gone up 50% to… HK$25 billion. That’s over HK$2 billion a kilometer, or – if my calculator is correct – say HK$2 million a yard. Or over HK$50,000 an inch. I’m not sure what materials they are going to use, but I think I have a solution to the cost overrun: make the road out of diamond-encrusted gold instead.

This is the sort of thing legislators should be looking at. One person who would, but probably won’t be able to, is Mr Paul Zimmerman, a District Council member in Southern Hong Kong Island. In order to qualify to run for one of the five new functional constituency Legco seats representing district councils – to be directly elected at large by all voters – he needs to be a Chinese citizen (he is currently Dutch). He submitted an application some time ago, but the Immigration Department say it will take them until after the Legco elections in September to process it. “Because of the long queue.” (Ex-civil servant Mike Rowse’s application took six weeks.)

Article 67 of the Basic Law allows up to 20% of Legco seats to be occupied by foreign nationals and Chinese with overseas residence. It is left to local legislation to decide how to implement the 20% ceiling. One way would be to let anyone run in elections and find a formula to eject some in the event that foreigners/etc exceeded 20% of those elected. Instead, 12 specific Functional Constituencies are classed as open to foreigners/etc. These include law and banking (both represented at some stage by UK passport-holding Hong Kong Chinese), accounting, tourism, engineering, insurance and others. The new district council members’ seats are not included.

There is a school of thought that the current system of restricting foreigners to certain FC seats conflicts with Basic Law Article 25, which guarantees equal treatment for all residents. Thus a foreign passport-holding Hong Kong resident could go to the courts and demand the right to run in a geographical constituency. There is also a school of thought that being in Legco is verging on pointless at the best of times, and you are better off working outside its hallowed chamber.

 

The weekend is colourfully declared open with something for all those right-thinking people who find that Thai water-throwing festival tiresome…

 

 …and proof you can photograph anything if a cute girl is in the picture.

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18 Responses to Goodwill to all in Legco love-in

  1. Big Al says:

    In the sub-Standard today “According to an aviation expert, it is ‘almost impossible’ to open the door of a aircraft in flight because of the air pressure pushing against the door from outside. Even a strong and well-trained man could not succeed, said the expert, who asked not to be named”. Air pressure pushing against the door from outside? Well-trained in door opening at altitude? What a fuckwit. Probably works for government. No wonder he didn’t want to be named!

  2. Tse Guo Vera says:

    Nice to see Long Hair and Land of No Cheese getting props in today’s blog. Hemmers, are you becoming a man of the people?! Happy weekend all.

  3. groot oore says:

    One of the problems Hong Kong’s massive budget surplus creates is that all those dooses in Legco don’t give multi-billion dollar requests for funding the kind scrutiny they deserve.

    Not that it would make a difference. The priority of all the construction projects currently underway seems to be to enrich developers and the foreign construction companies that guzzle from the same trough. Improving networks, connectivity, etc, is just to help with the marketing package.

    Hemmers is right: You would have a far greater impact on Legco by standing outside the chamber and urinating on the door rather than by trying to find answers inside it.

  4. Big Al says:

    @ Groot Oore

    Oh, I don’t know. The LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs gave due scrutiny to EPD’s request for $15 billion to build the most expensive waste incinerator in the world. At the end of a scintillating 2+ hour debate this morning the EA Panel told Edward YAU (Secretary of the Environment) to sod off. Ha! Looks like Shek Wu Chau gets a reprieve, at least for now …

  5. groot oore says:

    @ Big Al

    Nice one! Especially after the irritating Yau got himself in a huff in the SCMP this morning, stamping his foot and grumpily telling everyone “okay, you find me a better way, then”.

    But there is obviously a pot of gold at the foot of the incinerator rainbow, so there might be a delay, but it will be built.

  6. Joe Blow says:

    Today is Adolf’s Geburtstag.

    Cheers !

  7. Real Tax Payer says:

    What I completely fail to understand is why these construction costs go up by amounts ranging from 20 – 50% within a couple of years.

    The responsible govt departments blithely quote these enormous cost increases every time a project comes back for funding, the LEGCO finance committee approves them almost as a matter of course (” only 35 % increase compared to last year? That’s great ! We expected at least 50%”) , and then f*&k me when the project is finished it is anything from 50 -100% over the approved budget (“sorry – la. We got it wrong again” )

    Where in the world do costs increase 30 – 50% EVERY YEAR for public works? I bet that Cheung Kong building costs for their private housing estates don’t escalate that fast, if they even escalate at all

    I have been selling industrial equipment in China for over 20 years for a European company, and if we do increase the price at all for the same item apples-for-apples ( sometimes we even lower prices) , it’s measured in the range of 1 -3 % every couple of years, on top of which we fix out priced in China in US$ so we also have had to absorb the huge EURO/ US$ exchange rate difference

    Also our FS routinely gets his budgets wrong by 50 – 300% on the income side

    If there’s one thing CY should fix ( apart from our lousy air) it’s to put the whole govt – and LEGCO – through a primary school course in arithmetic, starting with the FS.

  8. Probably says:

    @Big Al,
    I’m not sure I’m reading you correctly At altitude an airplane has higher pressure inside the cabin than outside. Therefore regardless of the air pressure generated by speed on the side of a plan the emergency door would open easily and fly off into the wide blue yonder.
    Do we remember those Bond films where the protagonist is on a plane and during the fight sequence the door is opened at altitude and persons get sucked out (the door that is)?
    Who is this so called expert you quote.? Obviously not someone with a basic understanding of O-level physics.

  9. Joe Blow says:

    @Probably, what you say is probably true, but it would still take a good deal of force to push that door open in mid-flight at altitude, just because of the air-pressure generated by speed. Probably more force than f.e. a lithe trolley dolly could produce (either male or female).

  10. Walter De Havilland says:

    If I may add to the discussion on aircraft doors, a departure from the normal stuff we prattle on about here. Even assuming the door is not in automatic mode (“Cabin crew, doors to manual”) the official was right to state the door could not be opened in flight. To open the door it needs to be pulled inwards against several atmospheres of air pressure inside the cabin; once pulled inwards the mechanism then allows the door to hinge out. This design allows doors to seal into the airframe with the inner pressure of the cabin pushing against them. The seal improves with attitude as the lower pressure outside creates a bigger difference. No one is strong enough to defeat the pressure exerted on the doors.

  11. The Meister says:

    All modern passenger airliners have ‘plug door’:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plug_door

    Due to the geometry involved, a plug door must be moved partially inward before it can be opened. It is physically impossible to open after the cabin has been pressurised.

  12. Jon Dica says:

    So how did they open the doors mid-air on AA Flights 11 and 77, and UA Flights 175 and 93?

    By all the logic above, the plane would have had to be landed/depressurized first. And clearly that’s not what happened.

  13. smog says:

    Eh? They opened the doors to the cockpits. They didn’t open the doors to the outside!

  14. Probably says:

    And, at the risk of starting numerous conspiracy theories, how did D.B. Cooper jump out of the plane?

  15. Walter De Havilland says:

    D. B. Cooper jumped from a 727 fitted with an aft stairwell and door that could be opened in flight. This type of door opens outward and drops down from rear of the aircraft, just below the tail structure. Richard McCoy, a former Green Beret, did a copycat jump in April 1972 from a 727. He survived.

    D.B. Cooper also survived, he evaded capture and is currently working the day shift in the Wellcome supermarket on Lockhart Road. Elvis does the night shift.

  16. Real Tax Payer says:

    The weekend is over and surely no-one is reading this thread any more, so I want to post one of those mind-bending op-eds that really forces me to re-think everything

    Usually it’s Jake vd K that writes things which force me to to re-think everything I ever thought , devoid of emotion ( “impale all tycoons/ ET is a BAD THING / etc” )

    Now comes this humble voice of reason ( read below)

    I consider myself above average IQ and academic prestige ( high class degree, Ph D etc) and whatever other academic qualifications you may add , but I must admit that even with age and “wisdom” on my side, I still cannot grasp the overall “thing” re “what needs to be done to fix HK right” ( except out lousy AIR)

    As to how someone like CY will approach this I have absolutely no idea.

    Good ol’ Tung, bless his cotton socks, was a BJ- friendly stooge. Donald- bureaucrat was the immediate stand-in when we, HK PEOPLE, fired Tung with a half million 1 July March. But Donald over-reached himself and started to think – and behave – beyond his station. So Silly. Read your use-by date Donald !

    Now comes CY…. Expect CHANGE ! I pray for good

    (But I bet Bella is wrong – no dracula here )
    ________________________________

    Don’t remove Hong Kong illegal structures
    Philip Yeung says a tough line will invite an environmental and social headache

    Apr 23, 2012

    An ugly battle at the barricades is looming over the removal of illegal structures. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the secretary for development, is threatening to slap demolition orders on guilty owners by June 30. Meanwhile, villagers are banding together for an organised act of civil disobedience. This is bad news for chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying.
    Clearly with the appetite for a fight, Lam insists that the law is on her side and she is simply there to enforce it. If governance were that simple, we wouldn’t need highly paid ministers to preside over our affairs. Government is about the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In this case, I fail to see what good an iron-fisted approach will accomplish, other than the hollow victory of upholding a law that is more honoured in its breach than in compliance. Remember, this is a law that many property owners in Hong Kong have flouted – from the chief executive and former chief secretary on down.

    Illegal structures are a Hong Kong vexation. Nowhere else is the problem so widespread or combustible. This is largely because, in overcrowded Hong Kong, every property owner wants to make the most of an expensive piece of real estate.

    Typically, the government is blind to the collateral costs or the unintended consequences of its actions. Here, we must ask: who would benefit from dismantling the illegal structures? I don’t see any potential beneficiaries.

    But I see plenty of victims, the prime one being the environment. At last count, in 1999, there were 800,000 illegal structures in Hong Kong. Who knows what the figure is now. How many landfill sites would we have to build for the debris created from removing the illegal structures? It’s an environmental disaster that is entirely man-made and wholly unnecessary. The law is fuzzy on the height of old village houses accommodating up to six families. Where would these displaced residents go?

    Another casualty is social harmony. For years, the government has collected property taxes on the illegal additions. In land-hungry Hong Kong, can we really afford to limit village houses to just three storeys? The university near where I live in the New Territories has to send its students far off campus because of a housing shortage. Taller village houses would help. In urban buildings, why ban energy-saving rooftop patios? And what is wrong with basements that do not violate height restrictions?

    The sensible solution is a general amnesty. But that doesn’t mean violators would get off scot-free. It comes with a hefty fine plus higher rates. Also, two conditions must be met: the illegal structures must be structurally sound, and not encroaching on public land. Villagers have said they will pay the penalty. The extra revenue could go into a special fund towards building accommodation for cage-dwellers and other renters in distress. This move should pacify urban violators who were previously punished. In high-rises, the government can pick off violators one by one without incident. But villages are tight-knit communities. If the government swoops in to dismantle the structures by force, it will be met by organised resistance, much like the ugly scenes in mainland villages in land disputes. I, too, see blood being spilled, and whole communities embittered – to what purpose? Thanks to the teeth-baring minister, Leung will have a bloody mess on his hands come July 1.

    Lam has been touted as an able and tough minister. Hong Kong has no shortage of tough ministers who came a cropper when their dogged determination hardened into intransigence.

    Anson Chan Fang On-sang was deaf to warnings about rushing the opening of the new airport, turning it into Hong Kong’s international red-faced moment. The city needs supple minds and soft ears, not sharp elbows. Tearing down homes and evicting people may look tough but it is the surest way to give our new leader the rockiest start, and that’s not what we need after a bitterly divisive election.

    Philip Yeung is a senior communication manager at a Hong Kong university. [email protected]

  17. Walter De Havilland says:

    @RTP. I’m impressed with your qualifications. I have a cycling proficiency badge and can swim 500 metres. Does that exclude me from commenting here?

  18. Real Tax Payer says:

    @WDH

    If paper qualifications mean anything I would could out near tops

    But I have lived long enough to to understand that this is all total BS

    ( BTW : a famous Apple guy – or was it a MSN guy ? – was sent off to Harvard Business School for year. When he came back he just wrote ” 2/3 x HBS = BS”

    As to how CY can grasp all today’s issues, let alone solve them successfully is far beyond my comprehension

    As to how the CCCP runs China so well – I can only guess that their IQs ( and political acuity level ) is in the high 180’s

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