Date
10 December 2016
With his professional knowledge, Jeremy Tam alerts the public about the shortcomings of the new air traffic control system. Photo: HKEJ
With his professional knowledge, Jeremy Tam alerts the public about the shortcomings of the new air traffic control system. Photo: HKEJ

Another big lie laid bare

Apparently the entirely hopeless pan-democrats in the legislature do nothing but obstruct the government and spend their time blathering on about democracy.

That, at any rate, is the story you can read any day of the week in more or less every local newspaper and it’s a fiction that officials repeat time and again.

Reality, however, keeps rearing its ugly head and it’s worth recording the other side of the story: the achievements of democrat legislators in vital matters of everyday concern despite the formidable obstacles placed in their path and the hostile media that has been mobilized to mock them.

The most recent example of a democratic legislator doggedly doing his job comes from the newly elected Jeremy Tam, who has been waging an almost single-handed campaign to alert the public to the shortcomings of the new air traffic control system.

In response, officials have mobilized their friends in the media to let them know that Mr. Tam, Legco’s only serving professional pilot, has no idea what he’s talking about because experts have been consulted and experts have concluded that, aside from a couple of routine teething problems, everything is just fine and dandy.

However, it has now proved impossible to ignore the steady stream of reports of glitches and mishaps that suggest that Mr. Tam is clearly on to something.

The top brass over at the Civil Aviation Department concluded that the best way to solve this problem is not to re-examine the faulty system but to threaten whistle-blowing air traffic controllers with reprisals.

A rather more widespread cover-up was previously exposed by the Democratic Party’s Helena Wong whose grassroots connections led her to conduct tests on the safety of drinking water, initially in Kowloon City and then further afield, as it became clear that unacceptable levels of lead were present in the water supply.

After her initial revelations in the middle of last year, Ms. Wong was predictably accused of making a fuss over very little.

Then came accusations of politicizing the issue, and this was followed by buck-passing at an elevated level, a determination to avoid blame even after an inquiry commissioned by the government came out with a scathing report.

Yet the simple fact of the matter is that without Ms. Wong’s determined efforts many Hong Kong people would still be gulping down tainted water.

Then there’s the Wang Chau housing development scandal where another new legislator, Eddie Chu, has led the fight to expose the government’s secret dealing with local village bigwigs and raised other pressing issues over land for public housing in the New Territories.

Only after voters in the recent Legco election delivered a killer mandate to Mr. Chu was the government forced to face up to its double dealings in this matter.

It remains unresolved but would still be firmly swept under the carpet were it not for the efforts of Mr. Chu and his colleagues.

Time and again the work of monitoring the actions of officials has been left almost entirely to members of the democratic camp: Dennis Kwok Ka-ki, a doctor by profession, has become the go-to person for raising medical misdemeanor issues and the education sector’s representative Ip Kin-yuen is almost run off his feet dealing with government education blunders and a myriad of issues throughout the education system.

Most telling, even in the trade union sector, where pro-government parties occupy the functional seats reserved for labour representatives, it has been members of the pro-democracy Labour Party, notably the former legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, who became the go-to person for labour disputes and for taking up the cases of workers in trouble.

The hard slog of constituency work and holding the government to account for what might be described as everyday concerns is not glamorous and gets little attention but it is pretty clear that citizens looking for redress will rarely seek assistance from members of the largely well-heeled pro-government camp of legislators because their track record for action is poor.

Their track record for Legco attendance is also miserable, especially when it comes to attending the committees that do most of the work away from the cameras, despite the fact that they always manage to get to the first meeting to ensure that one of their number occupies the chair.

No wonder they were so busy crying foul during the height of the last Legco session’s filibusters when they had it in their power to prevent the filibusters succeeding but it meant actually turning up in the chamber on a regular basis, a task that was deemed to be quite unreasonable.

Of course, the democrats have prioritized democratic reform and spend much of their time working towards this end but this is far from the whole story and it deserves to be told.

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JP/CG

Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

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