Political Partisanship in Hong Kong
A basic test of political values is the ability to look at a set of facts while ignoring the political identification. In the current polarized camp in the United States, partisans are sadly flunking this basic test.
So here is the test applied to Hong Kong. This is a story reported in The Sun.
Here is the summary of the basic facts:
In October 2001, the Buildings Department received complaints about illegal construction in the Kau To Shan area. Building inspectors were sent out, and they found several instances of illegal construction, including at this particular address.
In the second photo, the building here is compared to its neighbors. There is a roofed structure with honey-combed walls that sits on top of a slope. The structure was built illegally by the landlord without permission.
In January 2002, the Buildings Department issued a letter of advice to the landlord to remove the illegal structure. No action was taken by the landlord.
In October 2002, the Building Department issued a written order to remove the illegal structure. No action was taken by the landlord.
In March 2003, the Buildings Department issued a letter of warning. No action was taken by the landlord.
As of today, the structure still exists. The Buildings Department is contemplating further action, including the possibility of initiating court proceedings.
Illegal structures constitute a serious problem in Hong Kong. It is estimated that there are as many as 500,000 illegal structures, some of which have proved to be safety hazards. The Buildings Department is handicapped by the lack of resources to pursue offenders, and they prefer to have the landlords act responsibly rather than have to go through lengthy and expensive court proceedings.
When contacted about the situation, the owner of the house said, "I don't know anything about the family affairs. My wife takes care of everything."
When the lady of the house was contacted, she said: "I have lived at this address for 19 years. I don't have to answer your question."
Have you made up your mind about this case?
Now I am going to tell you who the person is. The owner of the house is Allen Lee Peng-fei. This is the Hong Kong politician/radio host who resigned from the radio program Teacup In A Storm because he said he was threatened by China. This is the person whose testimony at the Legislative Council has been either derided as oversensitive, or criticised as cynical opportunism, or praised as the greatest moment in the history of democracy for Hong Kong. This is the person that an opinion piece in Apple Daily said should really be the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Given that this is Allen Lee, what do you think people will now say about this case? Here are some possible types of behavior:
Are they going to whitewash the situation?
Are they going to maintain an embarrassed silence?
Are they only going to stick to reporting only the facts all of a sudden ?
Are they going to say that this proves that the democrats are incapable of governing?
Are they going to say that this is further proof that the Chinese government is suppressing democracy in Hong Kong?
Are they going to speak out against impunity, especially for a former legislator who knows the importance of the rule of the law?
On June 7, Apple Daily
reported the facts of the matter without comment. [Type
2 and Type 3 behaviors here]
On June 7, Ming
Pao spoke to Allen Lee, who replied: "I don't care. I
am busy having fun, so you should ask my wife (我唔理，我而家玩緊，你問我太太啦!)."
When contacted, Mrs. Lee explained that "out of 100 houses in Kau To
Shan, 99 of them have illegal construction There has always been
illegal construction in Kau To Shan, and our house has the fewest.
We have lived here for 20 years, and there has been no problems. The
Buildings Department does not believe that there is imminent danger.
I wonder if someone is picking on us because of Allen's recent
situation." Mrs. Lee acknowledges that she had received the
letters from the Building Departments requesting the removal of the
illegal construction, but she ignored them. She has not received any
court summons yet. Ming Pao did not give any indication
whether this was right or wrong. Just the facts.
[Type 2 and Type 3 behaviors by Ming Pao; Type 1 behavior by Allen Lee; Type 1 and Type 5 behaviors by Mrs. Lee]
As of June 7, the reporting
and reactions receive failing grades from me.
For Allen Lee, the newspapers are reporting that his wife may be breaking the law. But he says that he doesn't care. Hey, all it takes is to say something like "I'm sorry that I didn't personally pay attention to this matter. I'll look into it and take care of it right now. Nobody is above the law in a democracy" and he comes out a hero. Instead, he is prepared to die by a thousand little cuts. This story is not about the situation, for it is about his non-response. This is an ugly rub on what he says that he stands for.
For Mrs. Lee, it is not acceptable to say that she can break the law because everybody else is doing it. If that logic worked, then the Hong Kong cops should still be as rotten as they were before the ICAC come into existence because everybody was doing it. Mrs. Lee should also admit fault in ignoring the letters from the Buildings Department, because she is setting an example that one can rip up as many as they send. It was also deplorable that Mrs. Lee should hint that the situation might be tied in with the current poltiical situation. The Buildings Department began sending the letters in 2001, which were ignored one after another, and Allen Lee did not take on the radio host spot until May 2004.
For both Apple Daily and Ming Pao, they failed to state or ask the obvious. Example: "Mr. Lee, are you saying that you don't care if your wife might go to jail for breaking the law? Are you saying that building codes do not have to be followed?"