Time to say goodbye to One Country, Two Systems – SC Yeung

EJ Insight » Hong Kong

Zhang Dejiang (inset) stressed that all powers and authority in the Hong Kong SAR come from the central authorities. Photos: HKEJ, CNSA

Zhang Dejiang (inset) stressed that all powers and authority in the Hong Kong SAR come from the central authorities. Photos: HKEJ, CNSA

As pro-Beijing politicians prepare to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the central government has sent one important message: Our beloved city has no core values other than those based on Beijing’s values.

As such, Beijing has driven the final nail in the coffin of the “one country, two systems” principle, which is supposed to govern our city’s return to Chinese sovereignty.

On Saturday top state leader Zhang Dejiang urged those people in the territory who are still clinging to their “independence” dream to wake up to reality, stressing that all powers and authority in the SAR are franchised by the central authorities.

Speaking at a conference on the 20th anniversary of the Basic Law in Hong Kong, Zhang made it clear that Beijing wants to further tighten its grip on the territory.

Zhang said Beijing has the right over the filing and approval of local laws, the power to appoint the chief executive and other principal government officials, the right to interpret the Basic Law, to decide on issues relating to the SAR’s political development, to order the chief executive and to listen to the CE’s reports on the discharge of his or her duties.

He said all these rights should be detailed and known to all concerned. In short, Beijing wants to make it clear that it is the boss while Hong Kong is a mere employee.

Does the Hong Kong SAR have any right to do something on its own, without Beijing’s authorization?

The answer is none whatsoever.

Zhang stressed that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy is authorized by the central government. Hong Kong and China have not entered into a separation of powers arrangement. Hong Kong cannot stand against Beijing by invoking its autonomy.

Thus, Hong Kong has the responsibility to perform its duty under the provisions of China’s constitution on national security.

That’s the reason why the incoming administration of Carrie Lam must work out a plan to legislate Article 23 of the Basic Law. That’s Beijing’s order.

Zhang said the ruling team of Hong Kong SAR should be composed of people who respect the ethnic Chinese, fully embrace the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China over Hong Kong, and will not harm the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.

It seems quite obvious that Beijing does not want foreigners to be a part of Hong Kong’s ruling class, meaning its government officials, police officers and, most importantly, judges.

Hong Kong considers judicial independence as one of its core values, believing that it is essential to isolate the judiciary from political and other outside influences, something which gives confidence to global investors.

But now, Beijing wants the ruling class to respect the ethnic Chinese. What exactly does this mean?

Hong Kong prides itself as an international city. So what’s the point of Beijing trying to promote nationalism on top of the “one country, two systems” framework?

In fact, the foreign judges and officials who chose to remain in the city after the 1997 handover has cast their vote of confidence in Beijing’s rule over Hong Kong.

But that’s not enough for Beijing. It wants to have the final say in the choice of all senior officials in the territory, to establish the criteria for their appointment and monitor their performance, and that pertains to their loyalty not only to the Hong Kong SAR but more importantly to the People’s Republic of China.

That seems to imply that foreign judges may not be qualified to serve in Hong Kong in the future as patriotism becomes an essential factor.

So Beijing has all the rights and powers to oversee Hong Kong affairs, from policy making to official appointment of those running the judiciary system.

All this means that Beijing will play a more direct role in Hong Kong in the future and will work towards its integration with the mainland.

Thus, incoming Chief Executive Carrie Lam will have little else to do apart from awaiting Beijing’s orders on how to run the territory.

The latest statements from Beijing indicate that the new administration will have to work for the legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law, even though Lam herself has indicated that she prefers dealing with livelihood rather than political issues first.

And so as Beijing celebrates the 20th anniversary of the handover, Hong Kong people should reflect on the central government’s plans for the territory and how different they are from our own idea of what Hong Kong should be.

– Contact us at english@hkej.com



UGL case: Why we have to do the unthinkable against all odds – Dennis Kwok

EJ Insight » Hong Kong

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying insists he has the power to interfere in the Legco probe into the UGL case, and it is necessary for him to do so. Photo: CNSA

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying insists he has the power to interfere in the Legco probe into the UGL case, and it is necessary for him to do so. Photo: CNSA

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding have been caught colluding with each other to compromise the ongoing Legislative Council probe into the UGL case. Both admitted to the collusion.

According to commonly accepted moral standards, both of them should have formally apologized to the public and stepped down.

Unfortunately, under the reign of CY Leung, common moral rules and political decency that are taken for granted in any truly democratic society simply don’t apply in our city.

Instead, more than one week into the saga, the two have shown no remorse for what they did, let alone apologize and resign from office.

Over the past week all that Chow did was to continue to repeat his “three nos” on television: “there was no violation of the law, no breach of the Legco rules of procedure, and no cover-up” involved in the entire incident.

Our chief executive is even worse. Ever since his collusion with Chow came to light, CY Leung has remained as defiant and disdainful as ever in front of the media, insisting that he has both the “power and necessity” to do what he did.

Therefore, as he claimed, he was fully justified in interfering in the Legco probe and what he did was proper.

And it just got worse. Without even bothering to try to explain away his misconduct, Leung tried to divert public attention from the scandal by coming after lawmaker Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong relentlessly in public and demanding that he quit the Legco probe panel.

The CE has sued Kenneth Leung for defamation over the UGL accusations he has made, and as such, it will constitute a serious conflict of interest if he continues to stay on the Legco panel conducting the probe.

In the face of CY Leung’s blatant abuse of his executive power, I believe what the Legco should do right away is to hold him and Holden Chow accountable for their misdeeds by impeaching them simultaneously so as to uphold justice and restore public confidence in our legislature.

Although there is no statute in Hong Kong against abuse of power, dereliction of duty, or interference in Legco investigation committed by the chief executive, the Basic Law has laid down a mechanism through which the CE can be removed from office under such circumstances.

Under Article 73, once a motion of impeachment against the chief executive moved jointly by at least one-fourth of the lawmakers is passed, the Legco can trigger the impeachment process by commissioning the Court of Final Appeal to set up an independent inquiry into the matter, and then write a final report to the Legco.

If the independent inquiry finds the CE guilty of any of those charges, the next thing the Legco will have to do is to move a motion to impeach the CE and put it to the vote.

Once the motion is passed by a two-thirds majority, the Legco will have to officially submit its decision to impeach the CE to the central government, and let it decide what to do.

As far as the process of removing a Legco member from office is concerned, Article 79 of the Basic Law clearly stipulates that it requires a two-thirds majority in Legco to pass a motion of impeachment against a lawmaker for misconduct, violation of the oath of office or dereliction of duty.

Once the motion is passed, the lawmaker in question will automatically be removed from his or her office.

In fact, the pan-democrats in Legco have already tabled a motion of impeachment against both Holden Chow and CY Leung to the Legco president, which will be put to the vote on June 7.

Our impeachment motion against Holden Chow is based on the grounds that 1) he has inappropriately tried to influence the direction of an ongoing Legco investigation and thereby violated the standard procedure, 2) he has lied about the details of his collusion with the chief executive, and 3) his act has seriously undermined public confidence in the impartiality, credibility and independence of the Legco.

As far as CY Leung is concerned, we are impeaching him on grounds that his improper interference in an ongoing Legco investigation into his alleged misconduct amounts to contempt of the legislature, thereby constituting a dereliction of duty under Article 73 of the Basic Law.

True, we are perfectly aware that impeaching a CE who is about to leave office in a month’s time won’t make much difference, not to mention that the chance of such a motion getting passed is almost zero.

However, as people’s representatives who have been elected with a public mandate to enforce oversight on the government, we are both duty bound and morally bound to do the unthinkable.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 26

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at english@hkej.com




Suzanne Pepper

The political spotlight fell briefly this month on two cities half a world apart, to reflect contrasting images of Beijing’s Hong Kong dilemma. Washington D.C. and the former Portuguese colony of Macau make for unlikely partners in this exercise. But together they illustrate the two competing dimensions of the Hong Kong problem that must be reconciled if a solution is ever to be found combining Hong Kong’s political ideals and Beijing’s idealized image of what Hong Kong should be.

Hong Kong’s last British governor, Christopher Patten, recently told a Washington, D.C. audience that Hong Kong had not been given what it thought it had been promised by Beijing when Hong Kong was transferred from British to Chinese rule 1997.

He was speaking by video link from London at an event hosted by the United States government’s Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC). The May 3 forum addressed the question, “Will the Hong Kong Model Survive?”, and was billed as an assessment of those promises after two decades of life under Chinese rule. *

Three other guest speakers had flown to Washington from Hong Kong for the May 3 event. They were veteran democracy campaigner Martin Lee Chu-ming 【李柱銘】and his most famous young successor Joshua Wong Chi-fung 【黃之鋒】, plus Lam Wing-kee 【林榮基】. Lam is one of the Hong Kong booksellers caught up in the cross-border legal case last year that did as much as anything else to shake Hong Kong’s confidence in its autonomy.


The original “one-country, two-systems” model included many promises. British negotiators had insisted that these all be written down in black and white for future reference and legal assurance, and this the Chinese did.

The promises were written into a new Basic Law constitution promulgated by Beijing in 1990. It says that Hong Kong’s way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years from 1997 and universal suffrage elections would be introduced. It also promised a high degree of autonomy, judicial independence, that local people would be running Hong Kong, and much else.

Patten’s comments were the most provocative. He pointed to the apparent abduction from Hong Kong of one of the booksellers and most recently of a Chinese businessman. Both were wanted for interrogation by mainland law enforcement authorities. Patten said their cases were symptomatic of Hong Kong’s eroding autonomy.

He called on China’s current president, Xi Jinping, to reassure Hong Kong that his government remains committed to the promises made by China’s then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s.

Deng’s promises were those made first to the British and then written into the Basic Law. They were intended, as the saying went in those days, to put Hong Kong hearts and minds at ease before 1997. Patten noted that they are not at ease today (Ming PaoApple, May 4).

 The Washington scene was calculated to provoke howls of protest from Beijing: a selection of its most prominent adversaries gathered together on enemy turf, the much-proclaimed source of Hong Kong’s continued resistance and Beijing’s innermost fears about subversive challenges to its authority. Beijing typically blames either London or Washington or both for all its Hong Kong political headaches (May 2 post).

Sure enough, for days afterward, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing media railed at the most recent affront. One headline proclaimed: “The Feeble Old Traitor Begs for American Interference in Hong Kong.”  The reference was to Martin Lee (Ta Kung Pao, May 4).  Another declared that “Martin Lee and Joshua Wong Sold Out Hong Kong in Return for Glory.” (Wen Wei Po, May 4).  Yet another: “Patten’s Anti-China Heart is Still Beating. He continues to Incite Hong Kong Youth.” (Ta Kung Pao, May 5).

In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry dismissed the CECC hearing as another instance of misguided foreign meddling in China’s affairs. All the promises made to Hong Kong were being properly kept. Claims to the contrary derived either from ignorance or prejudice (China DailySCMP, May 5).

Soon afterward, however, the spotlight shifted and fell on Hong Kong’s neighbor, Macau. The former Portuguese colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1999, two years after Hong Kong made the same transition.

The occasion in Macau was an inspection tour by the third most powerful man in Beijing’s ruling Communist Party hierarchy. Zhang Dejiang【張得江】is responsible for overseeing both of the new ex-colonial Special Administrative Regions: Hong Kong and Macau.


In Washington, speakers addressed the question, “Will the Hong Kong Model Survive?”  From the other side of the question, they served an unintended purpose by illustrating all that’s wrong in Hong Kong as Beijing sees it.

This allowed Zhang’s commentary throughout his May 8-10 visit to serve as the rebuttal by showcasing all that’s right about Macau’s new life under Chinese rule. The two SARs have the same one-country, two-systems model and the promises made to both were, almost, the same.

The contrast between them could not have been more striking. For Hong Kong, the mood was somber and foreboding.  Macau was all sunshine and smiles, the template for what Beijing evidently expected its SARs to be and still does: communities living in easy acceptance of mainland-style political ways and means … with few protests, demands, or political challenges.

For those unfamiliar with the setting, Macau is 40 miles east of Hong Kong, across the Pearl River Estuary. The population at 650,000 is much smaller by comparison with Hong Kong’s 7.3 million.  Macau’s economy depends on tourism and gaming with gambling casinos the main attraction. These were established long before the Portuguese left and have developed further under the post-1999 administration.

The Portuguese colony always maintained a much smoother relationship with Chinese authorities than did British Hong Kong. And unlike the British who had hopes of staying on indefinitely, Portugal entertained no such ambition. In fact, Lisbon officials had reportedly offered to return Macau to China at least twice before the deed was finally done in 1999. **

Zhang Dejiang’s visit was preceded by press teasers advising Hong Kong to stand by for a “major announcement” (SCMP, Apr. 29).  But he came and went without making any such breaking-news headlines. Instead, the message was conveyed each day, at every stop along the way, with Zhang’s itinerary seemingly chosen to illustrate Hong Kong’s fallings by comparative example.

On arrival at the airport, Zhang was greeted by Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on and extended best wishes from Beijing. Zhang said he had come to encourage, to inspect, and to experience first-hand Macau’s work in implementing the central government demands (Ta Kung Pao, May 9).

Later in the day as he began his rounds, he said one-country, two-sytems is a success in Macau. It works willingly as a Special Administrative Region and effectively implements the central government’s “comprehensive jurisdiction”【全面管治權】 (Ta Kung Pao, May 9).

The phrase was one that had caused much consternation among Hong Kongers when they read the central government’s June 2014 White Paper. This document preceded and prepared the ground for Beijing’s August 31, 2014 decision on electoral reform, thereby setting the stage for the Occupy movement that broke out soon after.

The White Paper explained, in effect, that Hong Kong had not yet grasped the essence of its relationship with Beijing and was expecting a degree of autonomy that the post-colonial sovereign had not granted.

Whether Beijing had never intended to grant such autonomy or was reneging on pre-1997 promises became a matter for debate, yet to be concluded. Probably it was never intended, but that’s another story.   In any event, the August 31st decision dismissed all the Hong Kong public’s electoral reform proposals that they had been invited to submit. Beijing mandated instead its own restrictive mainland-style design.

As for Macau, it accepts Beijing’s interpretation of the relationship evidently without reservation. Zhang praised Macau for accepting the central government’s comprehensive jurisdiction and for guaranteeing a high degree of autonomy all at the same time. What exactly he meant by high degree of autonomy was not reported (Wen Wei Po, May. 9).

The next day, May 9, Zhang had a busy schedule. In the morning, he spoke to a gathering of about 100 community leaders. His speech was full of praise for Macau’s accomplishments. He told the audience they must cherish Macau’s experience, strengthen its foundations, and promote development (Wen Wei Po, May 10).

His next stop was Macau’s Legislative Assembly where he, in effect, rounded on all the things Beijing doesn’t like about Hong Kong by praising Macau’s positive example on each point. He praised legislators for safeguarding national security by passing the same legislation that Hong Kong has kept on the back burner since the 2003 protests. Macau also has a Basic Law and its Article 23, like that of Hong Kong, mandates national security legislation.

Zhang noted that Macau had made good use of national development trends to improve its own economy although much more needed to be done on that score. Hong Kong has balked at the same kind of cross-border economic and infrastructure projects that Macau has accepted without complaint.

For the future, Zhang expressed three hopes. First, legislators should take their oaths-of- office seriously, respect the nation, the law, the executive-led system, and so on. Second, legislators should focus on the needs of economic development. Third, they should maintain the proper patriotic spirit and respect legislative procedures by rejecting disruptive behavior like filibustering and violence (Ta Kung PaoWen Wei Po, May 10).

No need to explain what put all those ideas in his head. Certainly not the behavior of Macau’s legislators who have no need of such admonitions.

Macau’s assembly has 33 members including 14 who are directly-elected, and 12 indirectly-elected by Functional Constituencies, as in Hong Kong. An additional seven members are appointed by the Chief Executive … as were all Hong Kong’s colonial-style Legislative Councilors before reforms began in the mid-1980s.

From the Legislative Assembly he moved on to Macau’s Court of Final Appeal where he made several more pertinent points, not all of which were directed at Hong Kong.  He said that although Macau lived under the one-country, two-systems model, judges must respect both the national constitution and Macau’s Basic Law. The rule-of-law should be maintained along with social order. Legal authorities should protect the legal interest of all, control various kinds of criminal activities, and resolve every case according to the spirit of the law, fairly and justly (Ta Kung PaoWen Wei Po, May 10).

He also stopped by the women’s association where he praised their patriotic cultural activities (Ta Kung Pao, May 10).    His audience of Macau-based representatives from mainland organizations, offices, and enterprises was at least twice the size of the Macau representatives audience (Wen Wei Po, May 11).

Only one key sector remained and it was saved for last.  Actually, Macau’s young people don’t need lecturing either, except for perhaps a few who might be tempted by the example of Hong Kong’s rebellious younger generation. At the University of Macau, Zhang spoke to an audience of about 100 invited educators and student leaders and went out of his way to praise national patriotic education.

Hong Kong’s proposed new national education curriculum was shelved after protests by students, parents, and teachers in 2012.  But Zhang didn’t need to mention Hong Kong’s resistance since everyone got the point when he said that in Macau everyone …  the Chief Executive, the government, and education workers as a whole … all firmly supported the correct direction of education policy, which underscores the great patriotic tradition of Macau compatriots.

He also said Macau is a universally recognized success in implementing one-country, two-systems, a “role model” in that regard. It has proven the model works and it has a great future. And education has been a key factor in that success story (Ta Kung Pao,Wen Wei PoChina Daily, May 11).

Zhang Dejiang’s visit provided the perfect occasion to moralize on every point where Macau excelled and Hong Kong is failing to meet Beijing’s expectations as to what a good one-country, two-systems model should look life.

In praising Macau, Zhang also left no doubt as to who’s boss and who he thinks has the ultimate right to judge. Not Washington, London, or Hong Kong, but only Beijing.

The key to the difference lies in Patten’s assertion that Hong Kongers didn’t get what they expected. But both Hong Kong and Macau were promised the same thing … within the same one-country, two-systems framework. Beijing is also treating them the same, or trying to. It’s just that Macau is running smoothly and Hong Kong is not.

The other half of the equation, of course, is that Beijing didn’t get what it bargained for either. Beijing thought Hong Kong was like Macau: an a-political colonial backwater. To date, Beijing’s only solution for this miscalculation is to try and force Hong Kong into the one-country, two-systems Macau mold … while blaming Patten and Washington for the mismatch.

Beijing seems to be hoping its solutions will eventually prevail and Hong Kong’s resistance will fade. At least that’s the scenario Beijing’s surrogates are projecting.

Meanwhile, for the next year or so, the field should be cleared to test Beijing’s assumptions. London will be bogged down by Brexit. And Washington will be distracted by the Democrats’ determination to impeach President Trump. That should give Beijing some breathing space to see if Hong Kong dissent is really just the work of outside agitators. If it isn’t, Beijing might actually feel obliged to start recalibrating its solutions.

The challenge for Martin Lee’s successors during that time will be to demonstrate how committed they are to their cause, and how determined to continue resisting the intrusion of mainland political ways and means.




** Pepper, Keeping Democracy at Bay, pp. 150-51; Lo Shui-hing, Political Development in Macau, pp. 22-3, 31-2.


Posted by Suzanne Pepper on May 18, 2017




Standing on the side of bigotry – Stephen Vines

EJ Insight » Hong Kong

Wrong side: (From left) Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen and legislators Priscilla Leung and Junius Ho are opposing a court ruling that would enhance the rights of LGBT people. Photos: Reuters, HKEJ

Wrong side: (From left) Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen and legislators Priscilla Leung and Junius Ho are opposing a court ruling that would enhance the rights of LGBT people. Photos: Reuters, HKEJ

The Hong Kong government has, not for the first time, chosen to stand on the wrong side of history by trying to overturn a rather modest court ruling that would enhance the rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

By coincidence this move coincided with a landmark ruling from Taiwan’s high court that paves the way for Taiwan to become the first Asian country to embrace the right of same-sex marriage.

Instead of joining the advanced countries of the world in seeking to eliminate discrimination between people with different sexual orientations, the government has chosen to side with a group of bigots and religious fanatics who are busy peddling a fake “family values” campaign to keep the SAR firmly in the nineteenth century.

They belong to a coalition claiming to represent 27,00 individuals, 60 civic groups and five lawmakers and have been celebrating the government’s decision to fight a court ruling that would give a gay civil servant’s same-sex partner (married overseas) access to the same spouse benefits of other married couples.

In fact, this court decision is highly limited because it specifically excludes the applicant from also securing a married person’s tax benefits. However, it is a chink in the armor of discriminatory legislation infuriating the usual suspects.

One of the more rabid advocates of discrimination, legislator Priscilla Leung, said she feared that the court decision would lead to the collapse of the marriage system, and just to prove that her ignorance is complete, she suggested that it could also lead to the legalization of polygamy.

Honestly, where to start with this nonsense?

However, Leung is not alone as her fellow pro-government legislator Junius Ho, who rarely passes up an opportunity to air his ignorance, predicted that the ruling would lead to chaos in society.

This same bunch of bigots also whipped themselves up into a lather when the HSBC headquarters building temporarily had its landmark stone lions clad in the rainbow flag of the LGBT movement.

Yet, admittedly limited, public polling evidence from a poll conducted by the Chinese University for the Equal Opportunities Commission suggests that the bigots are in a minority and that most people recognize the need to end discrimination against LGBT people.

However, the bigots have some very powerful allies in high places, most notably among the senior ranks of the civil service where officials pride themselves on their strict adherence to Christianity, not of course the type of Christian belief that embraces tolerance and love but the bitter kind of practice that insists on a moral code to be applied to all citizens regardless of their beliefs.

This pro-discrimination lobby is so powerful that it even succeeded in blocking the decriminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults until 1991, way after most other societies had done away with laws that were responsible for making the lives of many (especially) male homosexuals a misery.

Britain passed a law back in 1967 and the then colonial governor Murray MacLehose saw no reason why Hong Kong should not follow suit; however, he was persuaded not to act by a powerful civil service cabal.

Fast forward to 2017 and the incoming Chief Executive Carrie Lam says she does not want to touch this issue because it is controversial and she would prefer to wait until consensus has been achieved.

Let’s be clear what this means – consensus will never be achieved. Indeed, the history of social reform against discrimination ranging from the horrors of racial discrimination to abolishing the inferior legal status of women and a myriad of laws discriminating against people on grounds of their faith have all met with stiff resistance.

Reform only comes about when there is courageous and determined leadership. Lam has to decide whether she is on the side of bigotry or courage.

Meanwhile, even in Taiwan there has been disappointment over the attitude of President Tsai Ing-wen who advocated same-sex marriage as part of her presidential campaign but went quiet as pressure mounted for action to back her pledges.

It has taken a ruling in Taiwan’s high court to force the government to act and, to be fair, there is no indication that it will not do so.

What Taiwan will discover, as has been discovered in countries as varied as South Africa, Brazil and, yes, even conservative old Britain, is that once the law has been put in place it has rapidly gained widespread acceptance and this allegedly controversial issue quickly fades from the public discourse.

The bigots in Hong Kong kind of know this and that is why they fear reform, precisely because they understand that once it is enacted there will be no turning back and they will have lost forever.

– Contact us at english@hkej.com



Why Ko Wing-man is unlikely to be in Carrie Lam’s team – Yu Kam-yin

EJ Insight » Hong Kong

Dr. Ko Wing-man is highly respected in the medical sector. But it is rumored that Carrie Lam had had a bad experience in working with doctors and is likely to let him go. Photo: CNSA

Dr. Ko Wing-man is highly respected in the medical sector. But it is rumored that Carrie Lam had had a bad experience in working with doctors and is likely to let him go. Photo: CNSA

With July 1st just around the corner, Chief Executive-designate Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is busy putting together her cabinet.

Although old faces are likely to dominate the incoming administration, some new faces are also expected in her governing team.

Among them is Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, the incumbent undersecretary for food and health, who is seen succeeding Dr. Ko Wing-man as the bureau’s next chief.

That the incoming leader is allowing Ko to go and didn’t even bother to persuade him to stay, according to sources, provides a stark contrast to her apparent eagerness and aggressive effort to keep Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung in her team.

This has raised some eyebrows not only within the Food and Health Bureau but also in medical circles as well.

Ko, who is among the very few senior officials in the current administration with high public approval ratings, has been held in high regard by his colleagues and members of the health sector over the years, largely because of his high level of competence, charisma and gentle character.

In a sense, he has remained the heart and soul of the Food and Health Bureau who is able to inspire his colleagues and command respect across the political spectrum.

There is talk, in fact, that some officials in the bureau are dismayed that the incoming chief executive has given him the cold shoulder.

The rumor is that Lam is determined to let go of Ko, regardless of his popularity and competence, because there has been bad blood between her and doctors.

This ill feeling toward doctors, it is said, dates back to the 1980s when she was serving as deputy director of the Department of Health.

According to the rumors, she had a serious difference of opinion with members of the medical sector in the course of drafting a blueprint on how to enhance medical services for the grassroots, and didn’t get along with the doctors who advised her on the plan.

Some even said she had old scores to settle with several leading figures in the sector, hence her holding a grudge against them.

As far as Prof. Sophia Chan is concerned, basically everybody who has ever worked with her would agree that she is a very nice and approachable person.

However, some in the medical sector have raised doubts about whether she is qualified and convincing enough to lead the Food and Health Bureau and oversee the entire public health service system.

They point to the fact that Chan began her career as a nurse, not as a properly trained doctor, which raises the question of whether she would be able to gain respect and recognition from the medical sector, in which seniority and qualifications count a lot.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 25

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at english@hkej.com



CEDD unaware of contractor using falsified concrete test results

EJ Insight » Hong Kong

The CEDD says it was not aware that the date stamps on concrete samples for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai Macau Bridge project had been altered. Photo: CNSA, Highways Department

The CEDD says it was not aware that the date stamps on concrete samples for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai Macau Bridge project had been altered. Photo: CNSA, Highways Department

The Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) said the test dates on concrete materials for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge project submitted by an outsourced contractor were altered.

CEDD said it learned from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) only this month that samples other than the intended materials could have been used, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Director of Civil Engineering and Development Lam Sai-hung said its staff noticed discrepancies in the test reports last July. Employees of the contractor later admitted they adjusted the time on the testing equipment in order to meet the requirements in the contract.

Lam said the change would not have a significant impact on the bridge construction as it was only a “management issue”.

He said the strength of concrete materials after it is formed for 28 days and 30 days is largely the same. The contractor was supposed to conduct regular tests on the concrete materials after 28 days.

The CEDD has ordered that no one other than government supervisors can alter the date and time on the testing equipment.

The contractor, Jacobs China Ltd., will receive a failing mark from the department for the quarter, Lam said.

However, private engineer Simon So said the punishment will only lower the chance of Jacobs China winning tenders and it will last only three months to a year at the most.

So said the punishment is overly lenient.

Jacobs China Ltd. provides services to 26 government projects and the relevant departments will be informed about the incident, government sources said.

Lam refused to make further comments, saying the matter is being investigated by the ICAC.

Also, Director of Highways Daniel Chung did not say which sections of the bridge were involved in the the falsified test results.

Legislative councilor Lam Cheuk-ting said the CEDD underestimated the consequences when the incident came to light.

But Secretary for Development Eric Ma said he is confident the bridge will open as scheduled.

– Contact us at english@hkej.com



Hong Kong is wasting a third of its water | News | Eco-Business | Asia Pacific

Fixing the city’s water problem will take more than plugging a few leaks.

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Hong Kong is leaky.

Despite being one of the world’s richest cities, it’s annual loss of water from leakage and theft is a whopping 32.5 per cent of total production, or 321 million cubic metres (m3).

Such losses are avoidable. For example, Tokyo managed to reduce its freshwater leakage from 20 per cent in 1955 to barely 2 per cent today. Even cities that are much poorer than Hong Kong do better. Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh reduced its losses from 60 per cent in 1998 to just 6 per cent in 2008.

The enormous scale of water leakage is costing the city an estimated 1.35 billion Hong Kong dollars annually (US$173 million). It’s estimated that the Water Supplies Department (WSD), which overseas water supply and sanitation, lost nearly HKD 17 billion (US$2.1 billion) from 2004 to 2015 as a result.

“There is an illusion that Hong Kong has an infinite source of fresh water supply,” says Evan Auyang, chairman of environmental think-tank Civic Exchange, which has released a report on Hong Kong’s water woes titled The Illusion of Plenty. He blames the losses on low water tariffs, gaps in water agreements, and poor implementation of water conservation rules.

Generalised overview of Hong Kong’s water supply 

Source: Civic Exchange


Authorities in Hong Kong have been trying to fix the water problem for a while now. According to the Civic Exchange report, total water loss in Hong Kong was 26.5 per cent in 2010, with losses from the government’s mains supply pipeline accounting for 20 per cent of total production. Other causes of loss included illegal extraction, inaccurate metering and poorly maintained pipelines on private property.

To resolve the issue the WSD launched a programme to plug the city’s pipes, setting a target to reduce water loss from 20 per cent to 15 per cent. This effort was successful, with 91 per cent of the mains network leakages repaired.

But in 2015, five years after the intense drive, fresh water loss actually increased from 26.5 per cent to 33 per cent.   

While losses from the mains network declined to 15 per cent of production, other categories spiked significantly. In particular, losses on private property increased more than five-fold to 14 per cent of production.

We suggest that a circular water management system should be adopted, in which water is recycled for reuse by the city.

Evan Auyang, chairman, Civic Exchange

Water guzzler

Each year Hong Kong consumes 1.25 billion m3 of water. This includes 820 million m3 of fresh water, with the remainder seawater. On average, per capita consumption of water in the city is 224 litres, of which 132 litres is freshwater and 92 litres is seawater.

Taken alone, the per capita freshwater consumption is 21 per cent higher than the global average. But when the use of seawater is included (Hong Kong is one of the few countries to use it for flushing toilets) consumption doubles to twice that of the global per capita average of 110 litres.

Other cities with similar freshwater constraints as Hong Kong use much less. Singapore has reduced per capita consumption from 170 litres a day in 1998 to 151 litres in 2015. Shanghai does even better at just 106 litres per day. In contrast, Hong Kong’s total consumption (freshwater and sea water combined) has grown by a quarter since 1998.

Take it or leave it agreement

As Hong Kong grew in the 1960s its water scarcity increased. In 1965, in a bid to resolve the problem, it struck a deal with China’s mainland government.

The DongShen Agreement resulted in the Dongjiang-Shenzhen Water Supply Project, which imported water to the city from the Dong Jiang River. The agreement, which is still in place also provides water to seven cities in China, including Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Huizhou and Dongguan.

To further streamline the water supply from Guangdong the DongShen Renovation Projectwas initiated at the cost of RMB 4.7 billion (US$680 million) in 1998. The Hong Kong government contributed nearly half the cost with 2.36 billion Hong Kong dollars (US$303 million).

“Such a massive investment itself speaks to Hong Kong’s massive reliance on Guangdong,” says Evan. Guangdong province today fulfils 65 to 90 per cent of Hong Kong’s freshwater supply, with local resources contributing the rest.

But a year after the DongShen Renovation Project, the city’s Audit Commission pointed out that Hong Kong was being forced to take a full allocation of water irrespective of how much the city used. Hong Kong does not consume its entire 1.1 billion m3 allocation from Guangdong, typically consuming under 820 million m3 of Guangdong water. Between 2010 and 2012 the city utilised 73 per cent, 89 per cent and 76 per cent of its allocation, respectively.

Hong Kong asked the Guangdong authorities to change the deal in 2014 so that payment would be made for actual supply only. But the Guangdong authorities made it clear that the existing deal guarantees Hong Kong at least 99% of its 1.1 billion m3 allocation, and changing the deal would mean the loss of that guarantee, with Dongjiang waters being allocated elsewhere.


Fixing Hong Kong’s water problem will take more than plugging a few leaks.

For a start, the structure of the WSD means that many city departments must get involved before even simple repairs can be undertaken. The city’s development bureau is in the process of installing smart metres to check leakages and improve metering accuracy but with poor service and insufficient inspections from WSD, combined with ageing private housing – by 2047 nearly 326,000 private housing units will be over 70-years-old – the city faces an uphill struggle.

Hong Kong needs a multi-pronged approach to reducing water loss and consumption, according to Sam Inglis, an environment research analyst and one of the Civic Exchange report researchers. “One of the best approaches would be to shift from a complete engineering-based approach for water conservation to social awareness and a hike in the water tariff,” he says. The water tariff has not been revised since 1995.

Evan points out that the city must also look toward other sustainable sources of water, particularly as climate change may reduce river flows in the Pear River catchment, reducing the annual flow of the Dong Jiang River.

“We suggest that a circular water management system should be adopted,” says Evan, in which water is recycled for reuse by the city.


Bridge flaws would not force reconstruction: govt

Bridge flaws would not force reconstruction: govt
Acting Transport Secretary Yau Shing-mu (2nd right) says no problems with the safety of the bridge have been found so far. Photo: RTHK

Acting Transport Secretary Yau Shing-mu (2nd right) says no problems with the safety of the bridge have been found so far. Photo: RTHK

Acting Transport Secretary Yau Shing-mu

Highway officials on Thursday said even if construction problems are identified with the scandal-hit Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, there will be no need to tear any part of it down.

The ICAC’s arrest this week of 21 people over alleged faked construction tests has raised concerns about the safety of the bridge.

But Acting Transport Secretary Yau Shing-mu said visual inspections and a series of non-invasive tests have not revealed any abnormalities and construction will continue as scheduled.

“After the initial inspection of the concrete structure done over the last few days, there’s no sign of distress,” Yau said.

The Director of Highways, Daniel Chung, added that “even if it fails the requirements eventually, reconstruction is not the only way. There are several ways to address these sorts of deficiencies.”

Officials said additional checks will be carried out on the Hong Kong section of the bridge as well as the link between Tuen Mun and the airport, which is still under construction.

Some of the 21 people arrested, all staff of a contractor working on the bridge project, are alleged to have altered dates on tests carried out to determine the strength of reinforced concrete. Yau said, however, that such falsified tests would have little impact on safety.

However, officials did not address allegations that some lab technicians had replaced the concrete samples with other high-strength materials when conducting tests.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said he was disappointed with the government’s response to the bridge corruption allegations.

“The government departments cannot confirm which area is affected by the suspected problematic concrete. Without the concrete information, I doubt whether the government can deal with the problem properly”, Lam said.

Lam, who’s a former investigator with the ICAC, said the anti-graft body should waste no time in sharing information from its investigation with the government. He said the law provides exemptions for the ICAC to disclose investigation details if there is a justifiable reason.


Occupy activists’ case moved to District Court

Occupy activists’ case moved to District Court

Eastern Magistracy on Thursday transferred a case involving nine key Occupy movement activists to the District Court, despite an objection from one of the defendants.

A lawyer for League of Social Democrats member Rafael Wong said they wanted the case to be tried in the High Court, but did not offer a reason, and asked for an adjournment until July.

But magistrate Kenneth Chan rejected the request, saying he doesn’t have the discretion to do anything other than ceding to the prosecution’s application to transfer the case.

The magistrate added that any adjournment at this stage would be meaningless and cause an unnecessary delay.

The defendants, including the co-founders of the 2014 civil disobedience movement Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, as well as lawmakers Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, are facing public nuisance and incitement charges.

Their bail was extended until they appear in the District Court on June 15.


Lawmakers kick off debate on missing laptops probe

Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai says the incident could discourage some people from voting. File photo: RTHK

Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai says the incident could discourage some people from voting. File photo: RTHK

Lawmakers on Thursday started a debate on whether to invoke Legco’s special powers to probe the loss of two government computers containing personal data on all Hong Kong voters. 

Electoral officials stored the laptops at the back up site for the Chief Executive election in late March, even though the vast majority of voters do not have the right to cast a ballot in the leadership race.

Officials had insisted it was unlikely that the data, such as ID card numbers and addresses, had been compromised as it is properly encrypted. 

The computers remain missing.

Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai, who moved the motion, said the loss of the computers has undermined trust in the government as well as its credibility.

“The government has made no progress to find out … what happened, this might discourage people from [casting a vote] in the coming elections,” he said.

But the Undersecretary for Constitutional Affairs, Ronald Chan, said a probe by Legco would be unnecessary.

“Since a criminal investigation and the relevant reviews by the Privacy Commissioner have not been completed, we believe it’s not necessary or appropriate to set up a select committee,” he said.

At Legco’s House Committee last month, a probe proposal was voted down by chairwoman Starry Lee after a vote ended in a tie.