7th June 2013
From Lung Mei to How Hong Kong Government Mislead the Public
That CY Leung’s government ignored environmental evaluation reports and pushed forward the Lung Mei Man-made Beach project by approving its contract does not only demonstrate the unreasonableness of the Hong Kong SAR government, but also highlights the fact that given the strong evidence provided by the opposition in stopping various projects, the government can only push forward its plans without reasoning with the public. The government has been using different tactics to mislead the public or conceal the truth from the public, and creating false public opinion that “the society generally supports the government’s plans”. Below are a few recent examples to illustrate the trickery:
Tactic 1: low profile or conceal facts. When conservation groups began to take action against the demolition of the Star Ferry Pier in 2006, the government said that it has completed all procedures required by law and no objection was raised, hence the demolition carried on. All the efforts the conservation groups put into it had gone to waste. I was actively involved in conversation of the Tsui Sha Tsui Bus Terminus. In 2003, the government announced the plan and not much information was announced afterward. As the conservation activities began in 2009, no information was distributed via media during the three legally required procedures. Even in the gazette, it was described as “road work” and not a single mention of the demolition of the bus terminus. This tactic is clearly used to minimise public awareness of the issue and prevent opposition to the government’s plans from arising.
Tactic 2: weaken the oppositions’ power of persuasion. The government began to use this tactic after the Star Ferry Pier and Queen’s Pier incidents. Take the High-Speed Railway incident as an example, when the opposition raised numerous objections to the plan, including the sites of the railway, revenue, the potential risks of building the entire railway underground, and the legal impossibility of implementing “co-location of immigration and customs facilities”, the government kept saying these are not problems to be worried about, without addressing the criticisms.
Tactic 3: discredit the opposition by any means possible, for example: the government kept highlighting the benefits the High-Speed Railway would bring to the people of Hong Kong, especially “improve the convenience for operating businesses in China”, and created the illusion that “the opposition are trouble- makers that stop businessmen making money”. The government also used the same tactic for the third runway plan. The government kept droning on that most of the opponent’s sole concern was the conservations of dolphins, and created a public climate that “environmental protection and development are mutually exclusive”. This made ordinary citizens hate the opponents, and many opponent’s opinions about the practicality and effectiveness of the third runway due to the China air space restriction could not be heard by the people of Hong Kong.
The most severe example of this tactic is to continue to exaggerate the adverse impact of not implementing the plan on Hong Kong society. In connection with the High-Speed Railway project, for example, the government stressed that “by delaying the construction, an average of HK$5 million (US$645,000)of economic benefits will be lost every day”, and tried force the opponents to stop their campaign. The same tactic was used when the government canceled the Rent Control Ordinances in 2002. The government exaggerated the problem of “squatters”, and created the mainstream ideology of “protect the individual landlords”. The result of the cancellation of the ordinance is “Hong Kong citizens cannot have stability and peace of mind without buying a flat: hence the property developers’ hegemony”. Another tactic is to “defame the oppositions as fighting for their own interests”, for example the government said “the compensation for Tsoi Yuen Tsuen villagers are higher than normal”.
The opposition have a lot more supporters and a lot stronger reasons in matters including “North-East New Territories Development Plan”, “Guangdong-Hong Kong Cross Border Self Drive Tour” and “National Education”, so the government was forced to suspend these plans or “launch in different stages” in order to fool the public. In conclusion, the government pushing forward the Lung Mei Man-Made Beach plan is a test for the people of Hong Kong. If the public continues to be ignorant, CY Leung and his government will have carte blanche to continue these moves. The biggest threat will be Article 23. So the people of Hong Kong should stop turning a blind eye attitude.
Jacky Lam Hung-tat
Public Affairs Commentator