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February, 2012:

Burning issue on the march

SCMP – Laisee, 16 Feb 2012

Opponents of the government’s plans to build what will be one of the largest incinerators in the world at a local beauty spot – the island of Shek Kwu Chau off Lantau – have given up trying to reason with the Environmental Protection Department and have decided to take to the streets.

They are organising a protest march on Sunday March 18 from Pier 6 in Central to the government headquarters. A poster advertising the march says: “Outdated technology causes air pollution and health risks to all Hong Kong residents and visitors. Permanent environmental damage in area of natural beauty. Careless use of public money and inadequate public consultation. Asia’s world city deserves a more intelligent solution for dealing with its rubbish.”

The government, however, appears intent on railroading the project through, despite evidence of better available technology and increasing concerns over emissions from the method the environment department proposes to use.

Vehicle pollution increases risk of stroke –

February 15, 2012

Boston, Massachusetts – Air pollution, primarily from vehicle exhaust, increases the risk of stroke by 34 per cent even at levels generally considered safe by U.S. federal regulations, according to researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers who  studied more than 1,700 stroke patients in the Boston area over a ten-year period found that exposure to ambient fine particulate matter, generally from vehicle traffic, was associated with a significantly higher risk of ischemic strokes on days when the EPA’s air quality index for particulate matter was in the yellow warning zone instead of green.

The researchers focused on particles with a diameter of 2.5 millionths of a meter, known asPM2.5. These come from a variety of sources, including trucks, automobiles, power plants, factories, and burning wood. They can travel deeply into the lungs and have been associated in other studies with increased numbers of hospital visits for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks.

“The link between increased stroke risk and these particulates can be observed within hours of exposure and are most strongly associated with pollution from local or transported traffic emissions,” said Dr. Murray Mittleman, the study’s senior author. “Any proposed changes in regulated pollution levels must consider the impact of lower levels on public health.”

The researchers used the patients’ medical records and matched the onset of stroke symptoms in each patient to hourly measurements of particulate air pollution taken at the nearby Harvard School of Public Health’s environmental monitoring station. The team was able to estimate the hour the stroke systems first occurred, rather than when patients were admitted to the hospital.

The team was able to calculate that the peak risk to patients from pollution exposure occurs 12 to 14 hours before a stroke. They also found that black carbon and nitrogen dioxide, two pollutants associated with vehicle traffic, were closely linked with stroke risk, suggesting that pollution from cars and trucks may be particularly important.

Related posts:

1.       Car-charging program shows little air improvement

2.       Study shows cell phone use increases collision risk

3.       Older drivers at risk from medications: AAA

4.       Trucking industry workers show elevated lung cancer risk

5.       Cummins fined for pollution violations

Crazy Bonfire Plans in Ming Pao

Download PDF : HK Crazy Bonfire Plans in Ming Pao

Crazy Shek Kwu Chau “Bonfire” Plans

If you’re on Cheung Chau, look west across the harbour, and you’ll see a small island: Shek Kwu Chau. It appears deserted, but hosts a drug rehabilitation centre.

Wildlife surveys led by US biologist Dr James Lazell, director of the Conservation Agency, have discovered reptiles including two snakes – Hollinrake’s Racer and a sub-species of Jade Vine Snake – that are unique to the island, along with Bogadek’s legless lizard, which is known from only three Hong Kong islands. This is one of perhaps eight nesting sites for white-bellied sea-eagle in Hong Kong. Waters along the west coast are key haunts of Hong Kong’s small population of Indo-Pacific finless porpoise, which the International Union for the Conservation of Nature classes as Vulnerable to global extinction.

With the Soko Islands further west, and the beautiful south coast of Lantau to the north, it’s not surprising that in 2001 a government development strategy for the southwest New Territories included a plan to “protect and conserve the relatively unspoilt marine environment while providing recreational and educational opportunities to the public in these areas”.

Yet there was a surprise last year, when the government determined that Shek Kwu Chau was the preferred location for building one of the world’s largest waste incinerators, burning 3000 tonnes of waste per day. Plans call for this to be on an artificial island, constructed just off the southwest coast of Shek Kwu Cha, in prime porpoise habitat. It will be an industrial site with a 150-metre chimney – almost as tall as the HSBC Bank Building.

The incinerator plans have met widespread opposition for a host of reasons, including the damage to wildlife and fisheries, severe impact on scenery in a beautiful area, and massive financial cost. Seventeen groups including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace Hong Kong, Green Sense and the Living Islands Movement have signed a joint statement outlining their concerns. Plus, incinerator technology is dated, likely threatening public health – and there are cheaper, cleaner, more sophisticated ways to deal with Hong Kong’s waste than simply setting fire to it.

Incineration Dates from the Stone Age

Incineration – using fire as a means of waste disposal – dates back to the Stone Age. The first waste incinerators were built in the late 19th century.

From the late 1960s, Hong Kong turned to incineration to reduce the volume of waste sent to landfills. Four waste incineration plants were built, but in 1989 a government white paper on pollution noted, “Incinerators are a major source of pollution in the urban areas. They account for approximately 18% of all respirable particulates emitted into the atmosphere of the territory and can be a source also of trace quantities of highly toxic substances.” The incinerators were phased out, with the last of them – at Kwai Chung – ceasing operation in 1997.

Incinerator technologies have since improved, such as through greatly reducing emissions of dioxins which, according to the World Health Organization, “are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer”. In 2005, the Hong Kong government published a strategy for dealing with waste, with plans including use of “state-of-the-art technology to treat unavoidable waste in a cost-effective, yet environmentally sustainable, manner”. Conveniently forgetting the 1989 white paper, this announced the core technology would be incineration.

According to the strategy, Hong Kong would first introduce charging for waste disposal; and before waste was sent to the incinerator it would be sorted, so would not include food waste or recyclable materials. Plus, there would be “stringent emission standards that command public confidence”.

It seems the government has since proven even more forgetful. Waste charging remains just an idea, we have little waste separation, and the incinerator will burn predominantly unsorted waste.  Though the government makes much of the incinerator using a moving grate for better burning, plus temperatures of around 850C to safeguard against dioxins, there is strong public concern instead of confidence concerning the likely emissions.

Potential Health Hazard

Even the incinerator’s planned design seems cause for concern – as it’s 150 metre chimney will be the same height as the chimney of the dirty and demolished Kwai Chung Incinerator Plant. Burning unsorted waste will increase the risks of emissions including toxins such as heavy metals and dioxins. Though the Environmental Protection Department claims there will be low levels of toxins, it also highlights the fact that Shek Kwu Chau is in southwest Hong Kong, so prevailing northeasterly winds will often blow away from the territory.

As so often with air pollution, it can be hard to be certain about health impacts of waste incinerators. The British Society for Ecological Medicine has produced one of the best reports on the issue, outlining a host of potential and likely problems, and noting, “probably the most dangerous pollutant of all is the PM2.5 particulate … it is not possible to build a major source of PM2.5 particulates, such as an incinerator, without lives being lost… The majority of studies around incinerators have shown excesses of cancers.”

In the UK, a major study will soon begin assessing evidence suggesting there are significantly higher rates of infant mortalities in areas downwind of incinerators. Other apparent health effects include high rates of asthma around the world’s largest waste incinerator, in Detroit, US.

“In 2006 we assumed that any incineration technology adopted in Hong Kong would be state-of-the-art and ensure that pollutant emissions were minimized to the greatest possible extent,” comments one of Hong Kong’s staunchest campaigners for cleaner air, Professor Anthony Hedley, former Chair Professor of Community Medicine at the University of Hong Kong. “This now appears not to be the case and is unacceptable from a public health viewpoint.  This is especially so, given that the EPD is apparently defaulting to depending on air movement to mitigate the impact of emissions locally and will only monitor mass concentrations four times a year.”

It is not only the emissions that are cause for concern. Pollutants that don’t escape as gases will be trapped in the chimney, forming fly ash so toxic that in many jurisdictions it is treated as hazardous waste. According to the British Society for Ecological Medicine, fly ash contains over 98% of dioxins produced by an incinerator together with heavy metals, “making it some of the most toxic material on the planet”.

Plans call for the fly ash plus ash from below the flames to be dumped in the West New Territories Landfill, north of Tuen Mun. Yet there are suspicions that the government’s recently announced plan for a possible artificial island south of Cheung Chau is at least partly to create a more suitable site for dumping the ash. No matter where the ash is headed for, it will be hard to prevent it being blown by the wind, and surely impossible to prevent the toxins escaping into coastal waters over time.

Alternative Technologies: Tried and Tested, and World-changing

Even in 2005, moving grate incineration was far from “state-of-the-art technology”; it was based on techniques first developed in the 1920s. Today, it seems even more primitive – and there are cleaner, cheaper, more sophisticated ways of treating waste.

One way that’s tried and tested is called anaerobic digestion. This involves using micro-organisms to break down organic matter such as food waste – creating methane that can be burnt to produce energy, along with compost. But partly as Hong Kong has little need for compost, its development is rudimentary here.

Another way is truly “state-of-the-art”, and is based on using extremely hot plasma to blast molecules apart, resulting in relatively simple gas mixtures and glassy solids. In 2009, Scientific American described plasma gasification as “lighting in a bottle”, and featured it among “20 Ways to Build a Cleaner, Healthier, Smarter World”.

The Environmental Protection Department seems determined that plasma gasification will not build a cleaner Hong Kong. Deputy director Elvis Au says they have contacted a few technology suppliers, which indicated they cannot meet Hong Kong’s needs.

This assertion conflicts with information from two suppliers. Brian Miloski, Chief Financial Officer of US company Solena, has submitted a proposal to build plasma arc facilities that would treat all Hong Kong waste, using heat to generate electricity, and combining components of the resulting gas to create jet fuel – which could be bought by Cathay Pacific. Though creation of jet fuel from domestic waste seems futuristic, Solena is already working on plans for similar plans together with British Airways, Qantas, SAS, and a consortium of American Airlines. Asked if the process can treat 3000 tonnes of waste per day, Miloski replied, “There is no theoretical limit. The gasification chambers are simple modular and you add on as many as you need.” He advises building the facilities at the three landfills.

UK based Advanced Plasma Power adopts a similarly modular approach to waste treatment. After successful trials with a demonstration plant, they are developing projects including a joint venture to mine over 16 million tonnes of waste from a Belgian landfill, extracting recyclable material such as metal and using gasification to create energy. According to an email to me from Les Liddiard, vice president of sister company Tetronics, Advanced Plasma Power can treat Hong Kong waste, using a combination of modular approach and regional facilities. Just as with Solena, there’s no need to build the gasification plants beside a remote island

The EPD’s consultant for the incinerator project, Aecom, considers that, “scaling up the plasma gasification technology for adoption in the present IWMF [Integrated Waste Management Facility] project would be very risky and hence not advisable.” And yet … in the US, Aecom is involved in a project to gasify about 1200 tons of waste per day, and announced, “We believe that this technology is not only environmentally friendly but ready for large-scale commercialization.”

Contradictions, Questions and Politics

Why such contradictory statements by Aecom in Hong Kong and the US? Well, you might want to consider this: in 2009, Aecom advised that Hong Kong should use incineration; Aecom then conducted the environmental impact assessment to select the site for the incinerator; and in November last year – a month before the environmental impact assessment process was complete – Aecom proudly announced it had been awarded a consultancy contract for developing the incinerator.

There are more contradictions, more questions, regarding the mega incinerator plans. For instance, why has the government dismissed an alternative incineration proposal by Green Island Cement, even though it has conducted a successful pilot project? What are the real reasons Shek Kwu Chau is considered a suitable site for a mega incinerator, especially as the alternative – at Tsang Tsui, near Tuen Mun, is lagoons with power plant ash, of minimal environmental value? Why has no official construction cost been given, and are unofficial estimates of HK$13 billion accurate?

The government claims the incinerator will be attractive, and clean. I once asked Elvis Au: “So why not build it beside Tamar, so government officials can enjoy looking at it?” He replied that the emissions would make the area’s air quality worse than permitted by the Air Quality Objectives. Aha, so this means the incinerator is ok for Shek Kwu Chau, but too dirty for the city.

Now, the key question to ask is surely: Is this time to reconsider our direction, assess possibilities, and find better options, so Hong Kong shows the way forward for waste treatment, not the way backward?

World Cities and Waste


Touted as a role model for Hong Kong, with four waste incinerators, and ash sent to a landfill “island” that will be full by 2040.

Toronto, Canada

Strong emphasis on separation of waste, with suitable materials processed by anaerobic digestion. Producing biogas, and aims to use this to power waste trucks.

Manchester, UK

Aiming to become a “world-class city” in terms of waste treatment, building five centres for separation and biological treatment of waste.

Tees Valley, UK

About to build a plasma gasification facility to treat 950 tonnes of waste per day.

San Francisco, US

Adopting a “zero waste” strategy, in which nothing would go to landfills or be incinerated. Currently recovers 77 percent of the materials it discards, with goal of zero waste by 2020.

Hong Kong, Asia’s World City

Plans to build mega-incinerator in beautiful area earmarked for conservation and leisure tourism. Nine recycling centres – around one per 800,000 people, with waste separation and recycling partly reliant on non-governmental organizations, and elderly ladies digging cans from waste bins and collecting newspapers at subway stations.

Dr Martin Williams

I have a PhD in Physical Chemistry from Cambridge University, UK; obtained this through conducting experiments in which used a strong electrical discharge to blast apart water molecules, and followed reactions with a laser. Lived in Hong Kong since 1987, working mainly as freelance writer and photographer specialising in wildlife and conservation issues, as well as environmental consultant, including for World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Fresh approach to Hong Kong’s air

Download PDF : http___www.chinadialogue

Don’t waste biofuel opportunity


We refer to the letter by Cathay Pacific (SEHK: 0293)’s biofuel manager, Jeff Ovens (“Sustainability is top priority for Cathay when looking at biofuel options”, February 2).

It is interesting that he cites municipal waste – household, industrial, organic and used cooking oil – as all being suitable for conversion to jet fuel.

We support Cathay Pacific in their sustainability policy and innovative approach and see a golden opportunity for the Hong Kong government to take the lead in transforming a waste problem into a business model.

The Living Islands Movement believes that Hong Kong deserves a rethink of the government’s strategy for waste management, which consists of dumping it into landfills and, when full, building one of the biggest incinerators in the world to burn our waste.

Such incinerators are old technology; more modern alternative technologies, located closer to the sources of the waste, should be considered. These do not emit poisonous dioxins, there is no toxic ash residue to be disposed of and a by-product could be jet fuel.

We urge the government not to repeat the mistakes made by Singapore, Tokyo and Beijing. A complete rethink, including a citywide reduce, reuse, recycle initiative and smarter technological solutions will result in a sustainable and healthier future for Hong Kong.

Louise Preston, Living Islands Movement

Full switch to natural gas would help clear the air and rid city of polluting plants


Feb 12, 2012

Towngas (SEHK: 0003) proudly stated in its Sustainability Summary Report 2010 that as “a clean fossil fuel, natural gas improves air quality and mitigates climate change. Natural gas now accounts for about 60 per cent of our feedstock in Hong Kong.”

It is very pleasing to see that, since the introduction of natural gas in 2006, the emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide from producing 1 million megajoules of Towngas in 2010 have been reduced by 22 per cent, 44 per cent and 25 per cent respectively, using 2005 as a base year.

However, given that natural gas can be used directly and safely for cooking and heating, it does not make sense to mix it with naphtha, a flammable liquid mixture of hydrocarbons, to produce Towngas. Total replacement of naphtha with natural gas would not only substantially reduce CO{-2}, NOx and SO{-2} emissions, but save energy and possibly allow us to get rid of the polluting gas plants at Tai Po and Ma Tau Kok.

The memorandum of understanding signed by the Hong Kong and central governments in August 2008 can assure the supply of adequate natural gas to Hong Kong for the next 20 years.

The secretary for the environment should have the courage and political will to include the complete replacement of naphtha with natural gas for cleaner cooking and heating in Hong Kong as part of the package of mitigation measures to achieve the proposed carbon intensity reduction goals and new Air Quality Objectives.

Dr C.W. Tso, adjunct professor, school of energy and environment, City University of Hong Kong

NY leads 11 states in suing EPA over soot rules

NEW YORK — New York and 10 other states filed a lawsuit Friday designed to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue new regulations on soot pollution.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan comes after the federal agency failed to meet a statutory October deadline to revise soot standards. Soot is produced by diesel vehicles and power plants and has been linked to chronic respiratory disease, impaired lung function, heart disease and asthma.

“Every day, air pollution, from soot risks the health of more than one-third of Americans, including our most vulnerable — children, the elderly and the sick,” Schneiderman said in a prepared statement. “These risks are simply unacceptable. The EPA must take prompt action to reduce pollution now, and safeguard the health of the public and the air we breathe.”

The other states in the lawsuit are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

In 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled for New York and 15 other states that challenged the national air quality standards for soot. The court returned the standards to the EPA for reconsideration and the agency said it would revise soot standards as part of its next five-year review under statute by the Oct. 17, 2011 deadline, according to the attorney general.

Schneiderman said the agency never proposed revised soot standards.

“EPA is continuing to work on proposing the PM 2.5 standards,” said Betsaida Alcantara, an EPA spokeswoman based at headquarters in Washington.

Soot is also known as particulate matter that is 2.5 microns or smaller, or “PM 2.5.”

Environmental groups applauded the move.

“The science is overwhelming that EPA should set tougher new standards to limit the amount of deadly fine particle soot in the air,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the environmental advocacy group Clean Air Watch. “All the studies have been completed and reviewed. But the Obama administration is dragging its feet.”

—Copyright 2012 Associated Press

H.K. to Face Labor Shortage as Population Ages

By Marco Lui – Feb 10, 2012 1:52 PM GMT+0800Fri Feb 10 05:52:54 GMT 2012

Hong Kong will face a shortfall of 22,000 workers with higher education by 2018 as the city’s population ages, the government said in its first forecast for a shortage since it began the study in 1988.

The city, which has a total population of about 7.2 million, will need 500 people with degrees in six years’ time and will have an 8,500 surplus of employable people with a “lower education,” the city’s Labour and Welfare Bureau said in areport.

The Hong Kong government has turned to China to try to attract talent to meet a shortfall, as it faces increasing challenges to lure professionals elsewhere because of competition from cities including SingaporeAsia’s elderly population is poised to double within four decades, according to the United Nations.

“Aging population is one of the key population policy issues on which the government has been focusing its efforts,”the bureau said. “As the retirees leave the labor force, the growth in manpower supply will be hindered.”

About 17 percent of Hong Kong’s population will be at least 65 years old by 2018, compared with 13 percent last year, according to the Census and Statistics Department. The city has the lowest birth rate in a government list that included five countries, and the gap is projected to widen.

Hong Kong had granted residence to 40,933 mainland China professionals and skilled people by the end of 2010 under an admission plan started in 2003, according to the government website.

Talent Shortage

Hong Kong faces increasing challenges to lure professionals because of competition from cities such as Tokyo for quality of living. Singapore was 25th, Tokyo 46th and Hong Kong 70th in Mercer LLC’s quality of life list published in November.

Pollution, high home prices and difficulties in finding school places for expatriate children are cited as reasons foreign professionals choose not to live in Hong Kong.

The city’s schools have failed to keep up with record numbers of applications. In a survey of American Chamber of Commerce members in May last year, 63 percent said some executives are driven away by the lack of student places.

Home prices have surged about 66 percent since early 2009 on record low mortgage rates, a lack of new supply and an influx of buyers from other parts of China. The government has imposed measures to prevent the formation of an asset bubble since late 2010.

The city’s air pollution is linked to thousands of avoidable deaths, the University of Hong Kong said last year, with many due to respiratory and cardiovascular disease, according to Thach Thuan-quoc, an honorary assistant professor.

‘Education Concerns’

“Some international companies may opt for Singapore over Hong Kong because of pollution and education concerns, but Hong Kong still has an edge in its proximity to China,” Raymond So, dean of the business school at Hang Seng Management College in Hong Kong, said last month.

Demand for professionals in the financial services industry is expected to increase 2.5 percent to 253,100 by 2018, while the number of workers needed in the manufacturing sector may drop 3.1 percent, according to the government report.

Hong Kong’s fertility rate is expected to decline 5.7 percent to 983 births per 1,000 women in 2019 from 2009, the lowest in the government list that included Australia,Japan, the U.S., the United Kingdom and Sweden.

The number of Asians 60 or older will exceed 1.25 billion, or 24 percent of the population in 2050 from 10 percent in 2011, according to data compiled by the United Nations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marco Lui in Hong Kong at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hwee Ann Tan at

Asia Sentinel – Hong Kong’s “Election”

Hong Kong’s “Election”
Written by Cyril Pereira

Why is this man smiling?


As Chief Secretary Henry Tung’s candidacy fades, the oligarchs try to prop him up

A grim-faced Leung Chun-yin stared out of the front page of theSouth China Morning PostFriday morning. The Hong Kong government yesterday confirmed that 10 years ago Leung, one of two leading candidates to become the territory’s chief executive, was dropped from a jury panel selecting designs for an arts center hub because of a conflict of interest.

The company involved was disqualified when it was discovered that Leung was an advisor through his firm DTZ Holdings. The 10-year-old incident resurfaced in East Week magazine of the Sing Tao News media group. Charles Ho, the chairman of the group, went on television recently to question Leung’s credentials for position of chief executive in the territory’s upcoming quasi-elections after Leung accused the newspaper of conducting a smear campaign against him. Leung had been a board member of the Sing Tao News but resigned after the falling out.

Chief executive race slipping away?

It is starting to look intriguing on how far Hong Kong’s property and media oligarchs are willing to go to pave the way to the job of chief executive for the

former Chief Secretary for Administration Henry Tang, who was believed to be a shoo-in when he entered the race. He has made a long series of missteps, however, that make him look less than competent.

Sensing that Tang was in trouble, the tycoons closed ranks in December to declare support for his 2012 chief executive bid. The selection by the 1,200-member Election Commission is due on Mar. 25. Hong Kong’s third chief executive is scheduled to take office July 1 when the incumbent Donald Tsang’s second term expires.

Hong Kong’s big-business power brokers seem genuinely panicked about the prospect of Leung becoming the territory’s boss. They took time off from their busy schedules to rally for Henry at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre before Christmas. Li Ka-shing (chairman, Hutchison Whampoa), Allan Zeman (chairman, Ocean Park and “father of the Lan Kwai Fong entertainment district) and David KP Li (chairman, Bank of East Asia) were some of the territory’s icons who endorsed him. David K P Li has also taken on the onerous task of managing Tang’s election campaign.

Despite this formidable lineup of oligarchs, Tang has been trailing badly in public opinion polls. The Jan. 16-19 poll by Hong Kong University on a sample of 1,022 respondents recorded 29.7 percent in favor of Tang, 42.9 percent for Leung and 9.1 percent for Albert Ho, chairman of the Democratic Party. That is a gap of 13.2 percent in favor of Leung between the two front runners. It has been a similar story on other polls.

Can Leung get 150 nominations?

Despite his lead in the opinion polls, CY Leung has only about 50 of his pledged candidates in the Election Committee. How he is going to secure the requisite 150 nominations is a moot point. Both Henry Tang and the Democratic camp have in excess of 200 pledged candidates each.

The nomination window opens on Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day — and closes on Feb. 29. Tang has avoided a public debate with the other contenders so far. He says he will wait for the official nominations to be tabled before that.

Beijing has not indicated its preference between the two ‘approved’ candidates. That keeps the party faithful in limbo and anxious. They are trained to wait for the whisper. Leung is widely regarded the preferred choice among hardcore leftists in Hong Kong. They are very comfortable with him.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong is the largest pro-Beijing party in the Legislative Council and has 147 seats on the Election Committee which will select the chief executive. Party chairman Tam Yiu-chung has hinted the party may leave the vote to individual choice as there is no internal consensus to block-vote for either candidate and no pressure from Beijing to do so.

One intriguing option for Leung is to court the Democratic camp to shift their ‘surplus’ nominations to enable him to meet the 150 threshold. There are hints that feelers have been put out to that end. This poses a Machiavellian opportunity and ideological conflict for both the Democratic camp and CY Leung.

China Defines the Criteria

Director Wang Guangya, who heads the Hong Kong-Macau Affairs Office, reports directly to the State Council, China’s cabinet. On a visit to Hong Kong in June 2011 to address the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, Wang listed three criteria for the future chief executive: demonstrated love of China and Hong Kong, competence in governance and “a high degree of acceptance among the general public, who should feel that the person elected is not bad”.

That has given added symbolic significance to the public polling activity of the Hong Kong and Baptist Universities. Independent polling and disclosure of public views on government does not sit comfortably with the Communist Party. Even consumer marketing surveys in China have to obtain special permits and be approved by the authorities.

So director Wang’s listing of popularity and respect as criteria for the HKSAR chief executive is very progressive thinking for the most important job in Hong Kong – whose 7 million residents are excluded from participation.

Addressing a visiting delegation of Hong Kong university students in Beijing last year, Wang roundly criticized the timidity of the British-trained administration, stating that they “still don’t know how to be a boss and how to be a master”. He observed that they are now in charge but unable to take bold initiatives.

That was the clearest indication yet that the PRC was unimpressed by either the territory’s first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa or incumbent Donald Tsang, who between them wasted 14 years through lack of effective leadership on an array of issues like public housing, air pollution, social safety net for the poorest and relief for a middle class squeezed by inflation and runaway property prices.

But the trio now standing do not seem to be right either. Candidate Tang looks weak and ineffectual. Candidate Leung scares tycoons and ordinary folk alike. Candidate Albert Ho is unacceptable to Beijing.

Despite running record budget surpluses, the administration seems bereft of problem-solving ideas or the will to shunt the property cartel aside. The collusion between the construction lobby and the administration has created questionable infrastructure schemes to pour more concrete on a third runway, reclaim land from the sea and build long bridges and railway connections to the mainland.

The claimed job-creation effects of these schemes has little relevance for Hong Kong residents. It will only mean more mainland and Third World labor being shipped in. It will certainly enrich the local construction industry and related professional firms.

Vision, leadership and a genuine connect with society is absent and Hong Kong’s citizens are fed up. The crying needs of society seem not to excite urgent focus or action. The dramatic and sudden HK$6,000 handout to every HK resident in the 2011 budget was the high-water-mark of societal thinking in the Donald Tsang administration. It was a gesture copied from the Macau SAR where casino income was cascading into government coffers. Director Wang is right on this count.

Pollsters under fire

Both universities and the professors who supervise the surveys have come under attack from the leftist Chinese language newspapers Ta Kung Pau, Wen Wei Pau and the English language China Daily.

Dr Zhao Xinshu of Baptist University released his survey showing Tang reducing Leung’s lead before the full sampling data was processed. It was premature and academically unsound. Dr Zhao quit on 6 Feb, the day the Baptist University released its 12 page investigation report.

The head of Baptist University has resisted further investigations, warning of unleashing “white terror” a loaded reference to the worst excesses of the Cultural Revolution. There seems to be serious concern about academic freedoms eroding in HK.

Dr Robert Chung stands his ground against “Cultural Revolution-style” criticism. He has invited the left wing newspapers and other critics to a dialogue to answer any question on his survey methodology. Chung says so far no one from the Liaison Office, the mainland press or the university authorities have contacted him.

Meanwhile, Chung has devised a ‘civic referendum’ to enable members of the public to indicate their preferred CE candidate on 23 March, two days before the 25 March Election Committee voting. He says eligible voters will be able to access a polling station and participate online and through mobile phones. He would not seek funding from the university, the HK government or political parties. He hopes the HK$500,000 needed for this project will come from public donations.

Local banker donates smog monitor to green group

SCMP – Laisee

10 Feb 2012

While the government continues to stonewall local pressure groups’ demands to improve air, others within the community are voting with their feet. Take Alex Turnbull, son of the prominent Australian politician Malcolm Turnbull. He’s an investment banker and has lived in Hong Kong for six years, but found the city’s air was making him sick. He’s had asthma since he was a child so is acutely aware of the air quality here and its impact. He’s a rower and within a week of being in Hong Kong noticed his slower performance. He’s asked his company to transfer him to Singapore where the air is cleaner and will be leaving in a couple of months with his fiancee. But he was struck by the impact that the US embassy in Beijing had when it installed a device for measuring the air quality on its roof and started publishing the results on its website.

The popular indignation at the disparity between official air-quality figures provided by the government and those of the US embassy went some way towards pushing the central government to announce tighter air quality objectives. Turnbull feels so strongly about the issue that he has donated a similar high-quality mobile DustTrak to Hong Kong’s Clear the Air group. “My view is that by donating these instruments, Clear the Air can collect the data and show the public how bad the air is and make a stronger case to the government – it’s killing people.”

He says he’s surprised that given the extent of the charitable activities by New World Group, which owns the Citybus bus company, it can’t come up with the roughly US$100 million he calculates it would take to get the 200 or so buses with Euro I to Euro III engines off the road. “It’s almost worth starting a charity to pay off that amount,” he says. Clear the Air chairman Jim Middleton says his group will start measuring PM2.5 particles in Hong Kong’s air within a month or so and will publish the results on its website.