Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Moving Further from the Truth

When the government moved offices, records 1,000 metres tall were destroyed
The Hong Kong government doesn't seem too keen to let us citizens know how we are being governed or perhaps misgoverned.

That's because it has made no effort to keep good records of its administration of the city, nor does it want to pass an archive law to protect existing and future documents.

Archives Action Group chairman William Waung Sik-ying blasted the government yesterday at a press conference, saying it behaves as if it is ashamed.

"We have the most inefficient government because it doesn't place any value on good records management. It doesn't have the people. It doesn't have the resources. It doesn't have the will," he said.

Waung went on to say the government "gives the impression of what it is doing, and therefore wants the whole world and Hong Kong people to forget about what it is doing."

An Ombudman's report into the appalling state of government archives drew attention to the large-scale destruction of documents, and not giving enough time to Government Records Services enough resources to vet and archive documents.

The report confirms what the group observed many years ago and repeats the Director of Audit's reports released over two years ago.

Waung, who chairs the Archives Action Group is a former High Court judge and includes another judge and archive experts. The group tried to help the process along by drafting an archive law four years ago, but nothing has been done.

The Archive Action Group says it best
Despite criticisms, the government continues to repeat its vague statement that it is taking "administrative measures" to address criticism of its dealing with archives. It referred the matter to the Law Reform Commission in June last year, which means it will probably be forgotten in the long list of things to look over and so by that time all the key decision makers will have left the civil service.

It was only last year that a paper was presented to the Legislative Council's panel on administration of justice and legal services, that said how long it took for the government to implement recommendations by the commission -- the average was five years, the longest 14.

Waung said the matter did not need to be referred to the commission, but instead the draft archive bill should be tabled in Legco and debated.

He explained that Hong Kong is going through a period of tremendous turmoil over political reform and this was generating lots of discussion within the government, but no system in place to record this for posterity.

In addition, Waung said, government officials might act differently if they knew what they said and did was being preserved in properly-kept archives.

"This is not just a question of records about a cultural heritage. It's also about our political future, about the well-being of our children, about the shape of the society we want to have. That's why it is so important to create proper records," he said.

May we remind readers of when the government moved offices to the strange black upside-down U-shaped building at Tamar, documents stacked up over 1,000 metres high were destroyed.

We have no idea what were in these documents and why they weren't preserved one way or another. All we know is that the government doesn't seem to care and has just deemed these tons of precious information unnecessary.

Perhaps Waung should have added that the government doesn't want to keep proper records because it doesn't want to be accountable for its actions because an archive law would put its feet to the fire.

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