There is now a social trend. That is, if you are a public official, whether a government official or a Legco member, and do not declare your personal interests, you are liable to have to step down. Even if you follow the rules and declare your personal interests, there may still be criticism that the system of declaration is not up-to-date and the information disclosed is not sufficient. You will still be asked at length about information outside your area of declaration. If you answer slowly, you will be criticized for holding back information. If you, within the allotted time of your questioning, answer according to the questions, you will be criticized for “squeezing the toothpaste,” or working to rule.
Another point talked about often is that Hong Kong citizens’ expectations for public figures have been rising. Even though we have to care about public feelings (that is a fact), the fact remains that everyone is bound to have a different view even on a common subject. The public figure is bound to be at a loss as to whose requirements he or she should follow and fulfill. Therefore, the fairest way is to act according to the rules of the government departments or according to the rules governing declaration of interests. This will make sure that there is a rule for the persons concerned to follow. Therefore, if the public official declare his interests according to the rules, even if people think that there is insufficient information and that the declaration system is imperfect, we should give the public official the benefit of the doubt, judging him, in principle, to have “made the grade.”
Now we go back to the Secretary for Development Mr Paul Chan Mo-po. In his early days as Secretary, he already discovered that the land in question falls within the New Territories Northeast Development Area. He immediately declared his interest to the Chief Executive. Moreover, he stressed that he, his wife, and his children are not interested parties in the development area. The Chief Executive himself confirmed that the secretary had already made the necessary declaration.
The Secretary has followed the rules to make the necessary declarations, and has repeatedly divulged the necessary information about the agricultural land. In fact, the Government has in place a system and mechanism of procedures, which government officials should follow strictly. In this way they can “fit the bill,” and will not be penalized. Now the Secretary, although he has declared his interests, has been fiercely attacked, raising the question: what use is the declaration system? Of course, however strict and stringent the system is, there is always room for improvement. However, before the improvements are made, we should still follow the current system in place. Otherwise, you are doomed if you did not declare your interests; you are also doomed if you did. In this situation, where is reason and fairness?
Some people will say, if you don’t investigate you won’t know if there has been non-disclosure of information. According to the media, the ICAC has opened a file to investigate this incident. I believe that if the ICAC has begun its investigations, we have no reason to appeal to Legco under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance to do its own investigation, before the probe by the ICAC is complete. Doing so will send society a wrong message: Legco does not trust ICAC. The Legco probe is bound to be not as complete and thorough as the ICAC’s. If the ICAC finds the secretary to be in the wrong, he will be penalized.
My colleagues have said, why do we not appoint an inquiry committee under the Ordinance? If this is done, the Secretary can prove to everyone that he is innocent. However, this is like saying to a healthy person: why shouldn’t I cut you open to prove that you do not have diseases, so the case can be closed? I believe that appealing to use the Ordinance will give the person thus investigated great psychological pressure and torture, which is no different from cutting him open. If there is not sufficient evidence, we should not indiscriminately appeal to use the Ordinance.
As I said in Legco last week, I thought that after Legco had reconvened, the first discussion topic would be something important for Hong Kong, like the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone?
However, we found that we are still spending time on the internecine strife. The fact is that people of all ages have told me that Hong Kong has spent a lot of time on this kind of internecine warfare in recent years and the society has stalled.
An example is that the status of Hong Kong as the number one cargo-loading city has been in recent years overtaken by Singapore and Shanghai. Shenzhen is also said to be overtaking HK.
In addition, before the Hong Kong Handover, Hong Kong and Singapore were “neck to neck” in economic developments. But now Singapore’s monthly household income is almost twice that of Hong Kong’s. Faced with this, why do we remain unmoved? Why do we continue to spend time on this self-spending and impairment?
The most worrisome thing is that the Central Government is also not viewing Hong Kong optimistically. In Shenzhen, it has created the Qianhai Area; in recent days it has established the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone. Analysts have said that the Central Government is “cloning” Hong Kong. When Hong Kong missteps, it will be replaced. I of course do not want to see this happen. But if the free trade zone takes away Hong Kong’s business by just 10 percent or 20 percent, Hong Kong will be in trouble. It will even deteriorate Hong Kong dangerously. At that time, its status as an international financial center will be, like its status of number one cargo handling, a thing of the past. We should know that destroying something is easier than constructing something. Even if we work as a team to develop Hong Kong’s economy now, results will not be imminent in a short time. I personally hope that the people of Hong Kong will reinvest themselves in constructing our society and not be inebriated with “self-spending.” Otherwise our next generation will blame us for not creating, but stirring up trouble. As the Chief Secretary for Administration has explained just now, the decisions of the Development Bureau are not personal decisions of the Secretary. It is hoped that we should start from scratch in reviewing the development plans for the northeastern New Territories.
Finally, what is worth mentioning is that this incident has brought the Secretary and his family immense pressure. Some media has left no stone unturned in pursuing them to photograph them. This has frightened his children and family members. These journalists have truly “gone overboard” and should reflect on their behavior deeply.
I will object to the motion.