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Environmental studies on third runway will be hard to push aside

There has been a muted response to the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel requiring the Hong Kong Airport Authority (HKAA) to conduct a Social Return on Investment (SROI) study, a carbon audit, and a strategic impact assessment. Given the number of organisations that regard the third runway as a done deal, this is surprising. An SROI study on the proposed third runway for London’s Heathrow Airport in 2010 concluded that it would leave the UK £5 billion (HK$62.6 billion) worse off and played a part in scuppering the plan. The HKAA claims we can expect HK$900 billion in economic benefit. It’s estimated to cost HK$136 billion. But whether these estimates bear close scrutiny remains to be seen.

The other surprising element in the Legco decision is the broad party support for the study, including the Democrat Party, the DAB and even the Liberal Party’s powerful Miriam Lau Kin-yee. SROI studies are considered best practice and promoted by the United Nations and the World Bank, though, unsurprisingly, are not legal requirements in developer-friendly Hong Kong. The HKAA, for all its smooth talk about openness, has confined its studies to the legal minimum. However, legislators with an approaching election are more finely attuned to the change that appears to be under way in the voting public’s collective consciousness. What caught Legco’s attention was a survey commissioned by WWF and Greenpeace and carried out by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme that found that more than 73 per cent of people believe it is important to consider the social and environmental cost of building the runway. An earlier survey commissioned by the HKAA and conducted by the University of Hong Kong’s Social Science Research Centre said that 73 per cent of people favoured building the third runway. This was leapt on by the government and other interested parties keen to railroad the project through its various stages in the usual Hong Kong style.

However, as the legislators may have sensed, the mood is changing and people are a lot more wary of big infrastructure projects and Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s modus operandus of setting air quality objectives, for example, to facilitate building infrastructure projects. The Hong Kong-Zuhai-Macau bridge was a big learning curve for a lot of environmental groups, and as the experience of the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator has shown, green issues for these big projects are not going to be pushed aside quite so easily in future.


Clear the Air says :  ah yes, that name rings a bell –  University of Hong Kong’s Social Science Research Centre’, which is led by:

“Consultancy services Led by the Director Professor John Bacon-Shone, the SSRC has an independent and skilled research workforce to meet the above mission objectives and sees as its responsibility co-ordination and assistance in such research so that both academics and the community at large can benefit. Many of these SSRC projects are collaborative ones with the leading team members drawn from faculties within the University or from other institutions and organisations. Interested parties should contact Ms. Linda Cho about initiating or participating in such consultancy services.”

So if we Google search  ‘Bacon Shone tobacco’ we find:

SCMP ‘Smoking Guns’

“In Hong Kong, the two scientists named in the memos as part of the Asia ETS Consultants

Programme are well-known figures. Dr John Bacon-Shone inhabits the top echelons of

government policy-making as a full-time member of the Central Policy Unit. He was seconded there last

year from his job as director of the Social Sciences Research Centre at the University of Hong Kong.

He is brilliant, articulate, a kind of academic renaissance man, with his finger in a mind-boggling

array of research pies.

Dr Sarah Liao Sau-tung, a chemist, is the managing director of EHS Consultants. She has worked for

many private and public organisations, including British American Tobacco (BAT), the Consumer

Council, and the University of Hong Kong. She recently completed a $10 million indoor air study

for the Environmental Protection Department.” (enter John Bacon Shone to discover 150 documents)

(also use this search facility for ‘Linda Koo’ and ‘Sarah Liao’)

1.    John BaconShone – SourceWatch – Cached

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11 Sep 2008 – This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from  BaconShonedenied being paid to be tobacco industry consultants 

2.    Whitecoat, Tobacco Industry Documents in the Minnesota

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“My position is clear,” BaconShone is quoted as saying, “the evidence that tobacco is a health hazard is overwhelming, but the work by Professor Hirayama and 

3.     [PDF]

Secondhand Smoke – The Science and the Tobacco Industry’s…/hong_kong_secondhand_smoke_talk.pdf

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File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat –
Smoke-free work place reduces SHS exposure  Environmental tobacco smoke …. Dr JohnBaconShone, Department of Statistics, University of Hong Kong, 

4.    Emphatic rejections: Dr John BaconShone –

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From South China Morning Post (1999-01-18):Dr BaconShone said he had never knowingly worked for the tobacco industry. . .

5.    SCMP Series Part II (fwd)

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The documents claim Drs Liao and BaconShone were part of a global multimillion-dollar project run by the tobacco industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

6.    BaconShone, JH| The University of Hong Kong – Professor Bacon

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Results 1 – 20 of 21 – Papers & Presentations (BaconShone, JH)  13, The relationship betweensmoking & adolescent substance abuse in Hong Kong · Day, JR; 


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Emphatic rejections: Dr John Bacon-Shone

Jump to full article: South China Morning Post, 1999-01-18


Dr Bacon-Shone said he had never knowingly worked for the tobacco industry. . . He said he did not know at the time that the tobacco industry was paying for him to attend symposiums on indoor air and passive smoking in Portugal, Canada and Thailand in 1990. He also emphatically rejected recent assertions by Philip Morris and one of its long-standing lawyers, John Rupp, that he (Dr Bacon-Shone) was always aware he was a paid consultant to the tobacco industry.

Some months earlier, the government appointed Sarah Liao Sau-tung as secretary for environment, transport and works. She had been a Philip Morris consultant on passive smoking, receiving an estimated HK$1 million (US$128 000) in 1990 from the largely tobacco funded Centre for Indoor Air Research to study air quality in Hong Kong. Her co-researcher, John Bacon-Shone, has also been named as a tobacco consultant. Both deny knowing that the tobacco industry was the source of the funding, but an industry lawyer said he told Ms Liao. Perhaps she forgot. Then there is the case of Mr Lee Jark-Pui. He served as executive director of the Hong Kong Tobacco Institute for seven years until 1994, but is currently a member of the Hospital Authority Board, on which also sits Professor Lam Shiu-kum.

Asian WhiteCoats program (aka Asian ETS Consultants Program)

— A group of scientific ‘moles’ who worked in secret for the tobacco industry in Asia while pretending to retain their scientific objectivity. — This was a recruitment project for identifying scientists in Asia willing to pretend independence, while being paid to assist the tobacco industry fight-back against smoking bans and limitations on their marketing of cancer.

WhiteCoats were deliberately recruited from a variety of different medical, scientific and academic disciplines, and they were expected to be largely self-directing and self-motivating. To make money, they had to find opportunities to help the industry by:

  • carefully watching the literature relevant to their discipline, and reporting on it.
  • attending conferences as speakers, panelists, or sometimes just as participants who prepared a report for the industry/
  • providing ‘independent expert witness’ testimony at inquiries,
  • writing letters-to-the-editor and articles to promote industry views or attacked anti-smoking propaganda.

Over time, many of these WhiteCoats also accepted retainers and grants, and began to do consulting and witness work for Philip Morris and the other tobacco companies — so there is no hard boundary between the categories. In general, during the 1990s, WhiteCoats were paid between US $500 and $750 a day for their work, depending on the value of the work and academic prestige of the WhiteCoat.

Money Laundering and Cut-outs.

Example: Hong Kong tobacco industry payments which were to be made to Dr Linda Koo(Linda Koo Chih-ling) (a Professor in Hong Kong University) passed through the American lawfirm Covington & Burling to the wife of the Hong Kong Post-Master General, Sarah Liao (Sarah Liao Sau-tung) who ran a small health-consultancy business called EHS Consultants Ltd, which had government contracts. This firm officially employed and paid Koo for consulting services.

As one memo reported, Sarah Liao herself declined to work directly for the tobacco industry, “more for pragmatic than philosophical reasons (she works for both private industry and government and wants to retain that balance).” However she was willing to provide recruiting services and to launder payments, and her company undertook a $1 million research project with funds which had been laundered through the Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR)[Only later was this identified as a tobacco-front operation.]


In total, Philip Morris recruited and trained ten WhiteCoats (they already knew Sarah Liao) during their first round in 1989. They then held a two-day workshop in Bangkok to give these new recruits the basic knowledge of tobacco science they needed

Our goal is to leave the meeting on June 22 and 23 with a core group of scientists who are fully trained on the relevant issues and have developed sufficient enthusiasm to be prepared to make a real contribution — by way of writing articles, participating on our behalf at scientific meetings, joining industry people at briefings of government officials and so forth.

This far we have recruited ten scientists — Drs [Clive] Ogle, [John] Bacon-Shone, [Malinee] Wongphanich, [Ben] Reverente, [Marylin] Go, [Jung Koo] Roh, [Alun] McIntyre, [Sarah] Liao, [Yoon Shin] Kim and [Lina] Somera.

1999 Jan 18: Epilogue:
The Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department commissioned a study into the tobacco documents in 1995, but then appear to have done nothing with the information they gathered. Then, in 1999, the Hong Kong newspapers picked up the story of the Asian WhiteCoats from Stanton Glanz book, “The Cigarette Papers”.  This results in a formal inquiry in Hong Kong, with Sarah Liao and Dr Bacon-Shone denying that they knew the tobacco industry was funding their project. Which means they were either dishonest or extremely stupid.

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