Tamar's rubber ducks go to Wang Chau with a quack, quack, quack

September 27, 2016 11:08
Officials led by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (third from left, front row) and Liaison Office Director Zhang Xiaoming (second from right) attend a ceremony of the Heung Yee Kuk. Below: Wang Chau. Photos: HKEJ

The Wang Chau saga is a cross between Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Animal Farm.

The goings-on of Leung Chun-ying’s government demand a deeply credulous population.

When people, whether government officers or not, tell different stories at differing times, credibility is strained.

If these same folk evince a marked reluctance to be forthcoming, we are soon in the realms of make-believe and the vernacular of Humpty Dumpty who declared that words mean what he intended them to mean.

Add in top government officials anxiously distancing themselves from responsibility and one has to question the reliability of anything emerging from Tamar-in-Wonderland.

So what can we make of it?

In 2013 the brownfield site in Yuen Long South was identified as a project that would yield 17,000 homes.

In his 2015 policy address, CY Leung stated, inter alia, that this site would be developed as part of a long-term measure to increase land supply to relieve the pressure on the demand for homes.

In Hong Kong, a brownfield site is usually land that was previously agricultural but has been taken over unlawfully for semi-industrial or storage purposes.

When the Lands Department wakes up to this practice, short-term licenses are then made available to lend temporary legitimacy to the usage.

It is important to bear in mind that these licenses merely lend a thin veil of respectability over what started out as the illegal occupation of the agricultural sites.

Consequently, the various businesses currently operating on the Wang Chau site are only there under temporary sufferance.

Plainly, such brownfield sites are particularly suitable for new housing in a territory where development land is in acutely short supply.

I refrain, with difficulty, from opening up the issue of the vast land banks in the hands of the major developers.

Therefore, when it transpired that instead of the 17,000 units, only 4,000 units were to be developed, and not on the brownfield site as originally planned but by dispossessing people living on an adjacent residential plot, questions naturally arose.

This is where the current administration demonstrated its outstanding talent for obfuscation, prevarication and buck-passing.

When the press began to ask who made this decision, Tamar’s rubber ducks began to hurtle towards their respective plug holes.

Pressed for an answer, Napoleon Duck announced that the decision had been taken by a committee headed by Money Duck.

However, Money Duck promptly denied having been involved. For good measure, Daisy Duck – who had not been mentioned at all – announced that she had not been involved either.

With so much quacking going on, Napoleon Duck announced that he would hold a press conference.

A mystified gathering of journalists heard that the reason for the decision to reduce the number of units by 13,000 was “because I am the Chief Executive”.

Regrettably, no-one seized on this non sequitur to point out that this is not a reason.

Illogically and for no apparent reason, Napoleon Duck shed crocodile tears. If you want to know how a duck manages this, you will have to speak to David Attenborough.

Subsequently, Money Duck was asked whether he agreed with his boss to which he responded, “You always agree with your boss.”

This sounded a bit like the Mad Hatter but, sadly, no-one thought to ask him whether this held true even when the boss was wrong. Then, as Tom Lehrer sang, "we’ll all go together when we go".

The highly intelligent and plain-speaking legislator elect, Eddie Chu, pressed for more details.

There being a public perception that the administration had, if you will pardon the pun, ducked the issue when the all-powerful village elders made clear their objections to having to surrender their short-term licenses for unlawfully occupying the site, an explanation was called for.

This became doubly critical when Eddie Chu and his family were threatened by Triad gangsters.

Of course, there could never be any suggestion that the gangsters were in league with the elders, or the elders with the ducks, that would be a monstrous calumny. It was purely coincidental.

Hong Kong’s paddling of ducks ("paddling" being the collective noun for a group of ducks) were now faced with the allegation that when the joint forces of the village elders and Triads opposed their plan, they yielded to the demands of the licensed interlopers, preferring to dispossess legitimate village residents from their homes.

No! No! they quacked. “We only had three informal meetings with village elders.”

So informal were these meetings that no record was made of them. Indeed the fact that they had occurred at all had to be pieced together by sifting through the mud at the bottom of the puddle they were in to find some emails.

Which raises the question: which ducklings attended them and were they conducted on government time and expense or were these just ducks and drakes bobbing up and down in the puddle of tears shed by Napoleon Duck?

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Queen's Counsel