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Rubbish bomb about to blast

Environmental minister Wong Kam- sing is encountering his biggest crisis since joining the government.

Mary Ma

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Environmental minister Wong Kam- sing is encountering his biggest crisis since joining the government.

The fiasco over the landfills is escalating to his disadvantage. If there is a valid imagery, it’d be a rubbish bomb of his own making.

Worse still, it is a ticking time bomb. Will it blow up in his face at the Legislative Council Finance Committee meeting on Friday?

At the meeting, lawmakers will vote on HK$35 million funding for a study to expand the Tuen Mun landfill.

Then there’s a separate HK$7 billion application to upgrade the Ta Kwu Ling landfill, with the other proposal – expansion of the Tseung Kwan O landfill – being shelved for the time being.

It was hard to imagine a week ago that legislators would block the funding request for the Tuen Mun landfill study.

But the situation changed after rural king Lau Wong-fat took the lead to beat the war drum over the Tuen Mun facilities sitting in his territory.

A week is a long time in politics. For since the public works subcommittee met to endorse the two landfill funding requests, lawmakers who committed to supporting them are now saying they too have to reconsider because of the changing attitude among the locals.

In hindsight, Wong may have committed a serious faux pas the moment he removed the Tseung Kwan O landfill expansion from the agenda.

The political arena is filled with scavengers preying on the dead or wounded. In withdrawing the Tseung Kwan O plan, Wong has exposed his weakness to political enemies.

Who wouldn’t pounce on him in quest of votes? If a Sai Kung District Council member could use a hunger strike to force him to suspend the Tseung Kwan O project, so could others – resulting in a domino effect.

Prospects for the Tuen Mun landfill is no longer promising after Lau’s high- profile defiance. If there had been a narrow opening for Wong to ram through the items, the golden window of opportunity may have closed.

Perhaps Wong and his undersecretary, Christine Loh Kung- wai, only have themselves to blame for the quagmire they’re caught in.

What’s even worse is that, in withdrawing the Tseung Kwan O proposal, the government seems to be justifying the “not in my backyard” mindset.

As it’s doubtful that Wong has any cards up his sleeve left to win the Finance Committee vote, his major supporter, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, stands to become the biggest loser in the political fallout over the landfills.

If Wong insists a vote be taken on the Tuen Mun funding – knowing it faces almost certain rejection – he may be making a sacrificial lamb out of the DAB, the government’s best ally.

However, if he takes the Tuen Mun landfill off the agenda, as urged by Executive Council member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, the government’s waste treatment strategy would collapse.

If this happened in a Western democracy, the minister responsible would come under intense pressure to resign.

Wong is the author of his own misfortune. He’d better pray that the locals in Ta Kwu Ling don’t follow Tuen Mun’s lead.

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