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April 21st, 2012:

Chief to ‘listen humbly’ to impeachment attempt

Clear the Air says: what about ‘malfeasance in public office’ investigations on both Tsang and Tang ?

In 2005  the ICAC Director of Corruption Prevention issued a paper at the  Beijing ADB/OECD Anti Corruption Initiative for Asia and the Pacific conference.

Submission extracts state:

“Managing Conflict of Interest. It is important that we define what is conflict of interest.  In Hong Kong, we have a simple definition as spelt  out in civil service regulations, conflict of interest arises -when the private interests of a public official compete or conflict with the interests of the government or the official’s public duties-.  From the outset, we should recognise that conflict of interest is largely a “perception” issue.  It is not a matter of whether you think you have done the right thing.  What matters is whether the public thinks  you have done the right thing.  When determining whether a conflict of interest has arisen, one test we can practically apply is whether you are prepared to discuss the situation openly – the so-called “sunshine test”. In the last analysis, the onus is on you to prove that you have acted properly. Criminal Sanctions. In Hong Kong, any public official who accepts an advantage, which can be in the form of money, gift or favour, in connection with his public duty is an offence under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance. Even if it cannot be proved that a bribe has been accepted, misconduct in public office (known as malfeasance) is a common law offence.  Conflict of interest in its blatant form constitutes misconduct in public office. Misconduct in public office arises when a public official  in the course of or in relation to his public office  willfully misconducts himself, by act or omission  without reasonable excuse or justification, the misconduct is serious, having regard to the responsibilities of the office and the officeholder, the importance of the public objects which they serve the nature and extent of the departure from those responsibilities.”

It remains to be seen how this important ICAC paper will be applied to ‘Basementgate’ and ‘Tycoongate’ and whether the concerned parties are willing to openly apply the ‘sunshine test’ if they have nothing to hide.

Peter So and Tanna Chong
Apr 21, 2012
Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has promised to “listen humbly” as he faces the first move to impeach a chief executive since the establishment of the special administrative region.

Twenty pan-democratic lawmakers endorsed a motion to impeach Tsang yesterday after he survived a non-binding vote of no confidence in the Legislative Council on Thursday.

The impeachment motion accuses him of conflict of interest in accepting hospitality from tycoon friends on private jet and yacht trips, as well his plan to rent a luxury penthouse in Shenzhen from businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau.

Tsang said yesterday: “I will listen humbly to all the opinions raised by the public, and remember firmly to remind myself to do my best in my remaining work. I will correct [any mistakes] and strive to improve.” He said he would respect the rights of legislators.

The no-confidence motion failed under the split-voting system after being defeated 11-4 in the functional constituencies despite passing 14-7 in the geographical constituencies.

The impeachment motion, expected to be debated on May 16 subject to the approval of council president Tsang Yok-sing, would also require passage separately by both constituencies.

Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan, who initiated the motion, said its aim was to express a clear demand for a clean government.

But he conceded it had only a slight chance of being passed as pro-establishment lawmakers – who have said any such move should await the result of an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption – were likely to oppose it.

Civic Party lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, who had said her party earlier opposed such a move as it should be a “last resort”, now endorsed it.

“Tsang failed to clear the doubts in a special question-and-answer session in Legco earlier.

“The lawmakers also opposed a full-scale investigation under the Powers and Privileges Ordinance and a no-confidence vote. [Impeachment is now] the last resort we can take,” said Eu.

Passage of such a motion would launch an investigation led by the chief justice into allegations against Tsang.

If the investigation found the accusations valid, passage of a motion by a two-thirds majority would be required to report the matter to the central government for a decision.

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New rail lines planned

Clear the Air says:  Government cannot have its cake and eat it – by all means connect Chep Lap Kok and Bao’an  Shenzhen airports, but do away with the third runway project (that has not been granted additional landing rights anyway !)

Three projects in the New Territories are set to begin in 2020, but doubts have already been raised over one
Anita Lam
Apr 21, 2012

The city can expect to see three railway projects, all in the New Territories, starting from 2020 under a proposal set to underpin the next stage of rail development.

All three are likely to require huge subsidies due to the dispersed populations and low-density housing in the areas they serve, officials warn.

Two of the lines are domestic: a northern link, which will connect Kam Sheung Road and the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint, and a Tuen Mun to Tsuen Wan link.

The third is a cross-border connection between the Hong Kong and Shenzhen airports. This will include two spur lines that extend to the West Rail and Tung Chung lines in order to maximise patronage.

The proposal comes as the New Territories’ residential population is expected to jump 40 per cent by 2031, compared with 10 per cent in urban areas, due to new developments in Hung Shui Kiu, Kwu Tung North and Fanling.

The Transport and Housing Bureau launched a three-month public consultation yesterday to seek Hongkongers’ views on whether they prefer road-based transport to railways in these areas. Railway lines are costlier and loss-making, as they have to be built across vast tracts of land that serve low-density populations.

The link connecting Chek Lap Kok airport and Shenzhen’s Baoan airport via Qianhai appears to hold the greatest economic value, a transport expert says, pointing to the extensions to the West Rail and Tung Chung lines.

The Northern Link will complete a loop connecting the West and East rail lines, while the Tuen Mun-Tsuen Wan Link will provide more direct access between the two areas.

However, the third link could be particularly challenging, as it would pass through a lot of countryside with steep terrain and few developments.

Professor Hung Wing-tat, a veteran transport analyst at Polytechnic University, called it the least effective among the three proposed projects.

“This link will divert passengers who now use the West Rail to travel between Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan, which means it will generate little new traffic,” Hung said.

“Areas along the link, such as Siu Lam and Tsing Lung Tau, are largely countryside land. Not only will it fail to create much traffic, but it could also spark controversy [over environmental issues].”

The link, however, would provide a third connection point between the cross-border airport railway and the MTR via the Tsuen Wan line.

The airport link – which Hung hailed as the most economically crucial – was first proposed in 2007 but was shelved amid doubts about its financial viability. Academics and lawmakers also questioned if the line would harm the competitiveness of Chek Lap Kok by directing local passengers to Shenzhen for mainland flights. In 2009, the project was estimated to cost at least HK$50 billion.


Bureau ditches HK$15b incinerator funding bid

Request for financing abandoned after failure to gain support from lawmakers across political spectrum
Cheung Chi-fai
Apr 21, 2012

The Environment Bureau has abandoned its HK$23 billion funding request for what it says is an urgently needed waste incinerator and landfill expansion after failing to gain the support of lawmakers from across the political spectrum yesterday.

The controversial waste plans, which included building a waste incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau off the south coast of Lantau, will face uncertain delays when they are left to the next government to decide as requested by lawmakers at an environment panel meeting.

Despite the government’s warnings, one waste expert said Hong Kong would not immediately plunge into a waste crisis, but it would be wise for the city to start at least one landfill expansion to ease pressure.

Panel members refused to support the bureau in filing its funding request to the public works subcommittee and Finance Committee.

Some members cited concerns over government transition, following a remark by chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying on the role of incineration, while others criticised the government for its poor performance on recycling and waste reduction.

“Without the support of the panel, the current administration is unable to file the funding requests within this term and complete all the relevant processes,” the bureau said.

It said it was unfortunate that the plans, including the HK$15 billion waste incinerator and HK$8 billion for expanding landfills in Tseung Kwan O, North District and Tuen Mun, had not been backed by the panel despite intensive discussions.

Environment minister Edward Yau Tang-wah failed to convince lawmakers that the waste plans were essential regardless of who led the next government, and were needed before all landfills were full by 2018.

“Is it necessary to bring everything to a halt just because there is a new government?” he asked the panel.

Lawmaker Gary Chan Hak-kan, from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and chairman of the environment panel, said Yau was still free to table the funding requests at his own risk.

He can still ignore the panel’s advice and submit the funding applications,” he said. “There was a similar case when the Home Affairs Bureau sought funding for the Asian Games, but the request was still rejected.”

Chan said he might be willing to consider funding requests for less controversial landfill expansion plans in Tuen Mun and North District, but excluding Tseung Kwan O.

Democratic Party lawmaker Kam Nai-wai said there would be no disastrous consequences in delaying the plans for six to nine months, pending further discussion with the new government.

Legislator Tanya Chan from the Civic Party appeared sympathetic to the government despite not being able to lend support. “I understand there might be a need for an incinerator as it can extend the landfill life. But it might delay action on other waste reduction initiatives.”

Professor Jonathan Wong Woon-chung, a waste expert from Baptist University, said a delay of a year would only have a small impact on the overall waste problem.

Wong said the delay might give the government more time to come up with effective waste reduction strategies involving waste-charging schemes. But he believed an incinerator was part of the waste solution.

The city sends about 13,800 tonnes of waste each day to landfills – the only waste disposal outlets in Hong Kong.

Description: Protesters outside the Legco building yesterday oppose the building of the incinerator.

Protesters outside the Legco building yesterday oppose the building of the incinerator.