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Government that ditches records must have something to hide


Howard Winn
May 15, 2012

Government that ditches records must have something to hide

In years to come, the period following Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty will be of interest to historians. What were the challenges facing the government? How in practice did the “one-country, two-systems” model work? Did the motherland allow government officials to get on with their work undisturbed or was their influence overly pervasive? We will probably never know the details due to the Hong Kong government’s abysmal approach to vetting and archiving public documents. The records of how senior government officials spend theirtime,and who they meet and where, is not being recorded. Hong Kong’s historical documents are either rotting away or being destroyed. In “The memory hole: why Hong Kong needs an archives law”, a Civic Exchange report published last year, the group reports that when the government moved to its new headquarters, 1,181.7 metres of documents were approved for destruction between April and September of last year. That is almost three times the height of the Two IFC building. Professional archivists say it is impossible for such a volume of documents to have been properly screened. This is why the Archive Action Group, which was founded four years ago by former judge William Waung, has been agitating for the need for an archives law, which Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s government has opposed. An Audit Commission report to the Legislative Council last year said the Government Records Service had failed miserably in practically every aspect of its remit. So it would appear that we won’t be reading Donald’s diaries in years to come. This is unfortunate, since interest in his activities has heightened after reports of his schmoozing with tycoons. How often did he meet them, and where, and how did he get there? The government’s steadfast opposition to an archive law is baffling unless it has something to hide. Do they reveal too much of the government’s links with tycoons? Another mess for chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying to clean up, perhaps?

Description: Donald Tsang

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