Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Paul Chan: Earnest or Full of Hot Air?

Does Development Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po really mean what he says?
We like rags-to-riches stories, and Hong Kong Development Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po is no exception.

Yesterday he told secondary students near Shek Kip Mei about his impoverished life growing up in a squatter camp.

"Not only did we have to share a kitchen, but we didn't have our own toilets either," he recalled. "We had to walk quite the distance to use a public toilet. I still remember that when I first saw toilets with seats... I couldn't get used to them. I remember that if you looked down into the public toilets, you could see insects crawling around. To this day, thinking about those toilets makes me shudder."

Hmmm, too much detail!

While gambling and drugs were rife, he said he had to work after school and struggled to keep up in university because he had not been taught in English before. His family also lost their home in one of many fires that affected the camps.

"Because I come from a poor family, my parents couldn't give me much of a leg up in my career," he said. "But it doesn't matter, because we have friends: in secondary school, we studied in groups; at university, we collaborated on student organizations. People you meet outside work... these people are your assets."

Chan became an accountant and lawmaker before joining government.

But as a government official he has faced a number of scandals, including ties to a firm that owned subdivided flats; conflict-of-interest accusations over farmland that would rise in value due to a scheme his bureau was pushing through, and last year he and his wife were defeated in a libel trial after he and his wife accused their daughter's classmates of cheating.

When he was challenged about the farmland, Chan quoted the Bible to defend his record of public service. And as he ended his speech to the students, he quoted evangelist Rick Warren.

"If we come into money, it's not meant for us or our family. We should share it with those in need," he said. "We should share our blessings with other people... If we get into positions of power, we shouldn't forget that that power should be used to help the least privileged."

Oh really? Are you going to share what you've made? Or how about getting Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah to loosen the public purse strings?

While Chan had it tough going to school in the 1960s, things in Hong Kong were still relatively egalitarian. These days students that don't have laptops and know how to use the internet, are completely left behind in the digital divide.

We wonder if he realizes this, but perhaps he's been too busy claiming his daughter's classmates were cheating...

Chan seems to prefer sending out trial balloons of policy ideas on his blog than have discussions with the public, and then gets into trouble with possibly benefiting handsomely from his own department's policies.

Many don't believe he's the right person for the job.

But we're wondering that if he believes "we shouldn't forget that power should be used to help the least privileged", then how about giving us a leg-up on democracy and granting us true universal suffrage?

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