Saturday, 18 June 2011

More Government Faux Pas

In the news today there were two stories that showed the Hong Kong government is completely out of touch with reality.

First, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen finally admitted the city's housing prices are "quite frightening" and becoming more expensive because of mainlanders coming in and snapping up flats.

"Over the last 30 months, across this period of financial crisis, property prices continued to grow at 2 percent a month, which is quite frightening," he said in Melbourne on a week-long visit there. "We will do more to slow it down," Tsang said, "but we believe in the market, though. We don't want to do anything that would destroy the market completely."

Last month he told legislators at the Legislative Council that for the continuous rise of prices for new flats, "this trend is alarming to us".

While the government may try to install cooling measures in terms of mortgages, this hardly affects mainland buyers who come here with cash and buy properties outright.

Another shocking statistic from Centaline Property Agency says buyers from overseas and China account for one-third of luxury home transactions in the first quarter this year.

So what can the government do to cool the market and yet not interfere too much? And it took Tsang's administration this long to admit this is a problem? Or was it because Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council Wang Guangya hinted a few days ago that the Hong Kong government had to deal with housing issues before they became a political hot potato?

Second, the government wants to scrap by-elections claiming there is low voter turn out and it's a waste of money. Last year five pan-democrats, from the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats quit en masse to force by-elections as a form of referendum on the pace and scope of democracy in Hong Kong.

The government suggests that instead of by-elections whenever someone resigns, dies or is disqualified from office, that the runner-up take up the seat instead.

While it sounds efficient in a Hong Kong way, it's completely unconstitutional, as the Bar Association pointed out. The government's proposal is completely incompatible with articles 26 and 68 in the Basic Law and goes against the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Hong Kong is bound.

"The mechanism does not serve to express the free will of the electors," the association said in its submission. "Rather, it forces the choice of the back-up candidate upon them by operation of law. The electors are deprived, in substance, of their right to vote for the candidate to fill the vacancy."

As a result this could not be considered an election as the voters would not know who the back-up candidate was at the time of voting and the votes cast would not reflect their will.

The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau even dared to refute the association's submission, saying the government had consulted legal advice and that its proposal conformed to Basic Law. "The replacement mechanism can reflect the voters' general will," bureau chief Stephen Lam Siu-lung told legislators.

What does "general will" mean?

If there is a tight race between a pan-democrat and a pro-Beijing candidate and the former wins the election but later forfeits the seat for some reason, how would a pro-Beijing politician reflect the "general will" of voters?

Does Lam believe it doesn't really matter who fills the seat as long as the person is replaced?

Meanwhile 63 academics also signed a petition urging the government to drop its proposal, saying it would undermine the political foundations of Hong Kong.

One of the fiercest criticisms came from Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political scientist at City University. "The essence of election is to let the public choose who will represent them. It's shocking the government is doing this now. It's rocking the foundation of Hong Kong."

Perhaps this crazy incident will finally make Hong Kongers take notice and realize quasi democracy is in their hands and they need to exercise their right to vote to show how much they believe in it.

Otherwise, as we can see, the government has no qualms in taking that right away.

1 comment:

  1. the hong kong government is accused of ganging up with real estate developer to 'jip' the middle and lower class people. this is another obvious example.