Grandpa and Grandma Speak Up
A previous post covers the Link REIT lawsuits filed by 67-year-old Lo Siu-lang 77-year-old Ma Ki-chiu to stop a public offering that the Hong Kong Housing Authority wants to make.
What were these two senior citizens up to? In the following are translations of an interview with Ma Ki-chiu as well as the press conference with Lo Siu-lang.
In one interpretation of the brouhaha, this is said to be a triumph of the rule of law because it proves that social vulnerable citizens in Hong Kong can get their voices heard. Democratic Party's Albert Ho was quoted in Sing Tao Daily as saying: "Powerless people can only issue challenges on the basis of legal arguments. This spirit of the rule of the law will give a competitive edge to Hong Kong in the long run. It is more important than losing tens of millions of dollars now. Tens of millions of dollars is nothing."
In the alternate view, it is recommended that you read the transcripts and then you can weep. Neither plaintiff can articulate any coherent argument, and the case ought to have been tossed out in an instant. But the system permits such cases to be dragged out. This is full proof that anyone can abuse the rule of law to put a halt to any project without reasonable cause. Hong Kong is finished as a place for anyone who wants to do financial deals.
I translate, you decide.
In The Sun, this was an exclusive interview with Ma Ki-chiu with the headline and photo appearing on the front page of the newspaper.
After reading the media coverage over the past week, Ma Ki-chiu realized that he misunderstood that the Link REIT was an attempt by a Singapore financial group to buy up the Housing Authority's infrastructure and to increase rents. He is now sorry that the Link REIT may be abandoned and more than 500,000 individual investors may lose money in the process. He said with regret: "I was wrong. If I knew that the Link REIT was for the good of the people of Hong Kong, I would not have filed the lawsuit."
77-year-old Ma Ki-chiu describes himself as loving Hong Kong and loving the nation. He has never opposed the government on anything. This time, he became a 'public enemy' due to a misunderstanding. When he was interviewed by us yesterday, he explained the history of the process for the first time : "I really did wrong to the government of Hong Kong." Apart from believing others to cause this storm to 'fight on behalf of the people,' Ma Ki-chiu was also angry about another matter.
Legislative Councilor Chan Wai-yip acted as a spokesperson yesterday at court to declare that even though Ma Ki-chiu was ill with "diarrhea and vomiting," he still wanted to file an appeal. Ma Ki-chiu accused Chan of lying and offering him up on the sacrificial altar. Ma said: "I have never contacted him before. I did not vote for him at the last Legislative Council elections. Those Democratic Party members are always fighting with the government. I don't support the Democratic Party. I always support the government."
Actually, Ma did not understand what the Link REIT was about. He remembered that he was chatting with some neighbors in the park several weeks ago, and he believed some 'bullshit' by someone and thought that the Link REIT was an attempt by a Singapore-based financial group to buy up the shopping mall, markets and parking lots owned by the Housing Authority. Ma was inspired to do something for the people of Hong Kong: "These properties belong to the people of Hong Kong. Foreign financial groups have no right to come in. If they succeed, they will monopolise the market and increase the prices and rents to exploit the people of Hong Kong!"
But when Tung Chee-hwa spoke up to denounce those people who were attempting to block the Link REIT, Ma realized that he had done something bad in spite of his good intentions. "The government actually supported the Link REIT. I am supported by the government (meaning public assistance), and I will obviously support the government."
When Ma Ki-chiu made up his mind to block the public offering, he went to apply for legal aid about a week ago. Through an introduction by a friend, he met with a lawyer at a legal office in Wanchai. It was there that he met with the other plaintiff Lo Siu-lang for the first time. "I don't remember the name of the lawyer. He said that he would handle my case for free."
On Monday (December 13) when the case was being heard, Ma Ki-chiu organized a group to demonstrate outside the courthouse. Suddenly, a stranger walked up to him to shake his hand and then said, "Mr. Ma, you are doing well." Afterwards, he asked his friends and they told that the man was Albert Cheng King-hon. Ma emphasized that he is different from Lo Siu-lang because he is not being directed by others. Once he decided not to file an appeal, that was it. He does not know about Lo Siu-lang.
Ma Ki-chiu does not have any special background. He did not have a lot of education. He lived in wooden shacks before and he worked at construction sites. He retired at 69 and is currently living off public assistance.
Ma also told us that he was born in Haifeng (China) in 1927. Forty days after his brith, his parents took him down to Hong Kong to live. At 21, he went back to get married on the mainland. His wife and one of the sons came down to live in Hong Kong more than twenty years ago. He does not get along with this family, so he lives alone. But he does get along with his children on the mainland, and he is a great grandfather.
Ma receives more than 3,000 dollars a month in public assistance. After deducting more than 1,000 dollars in rent, he has more than 60 dollars to spend each day. In this spare time, he would go downstairs to chat with his neighbors, sip tea or play mahjong. He always likes to play the harmonica at home and sing the songs that were popular many decades ago.
Lo Siu-lang was at a press conference, and there are multiple reports from there. There are some reviews that characterized her performance as bizarre, including pulling out a toothpick and going to work in the middle of speaking to the reporters. And there are also more favorable reports (e.g. The Standard). But I am going to translate the verbatim transcripts as published in The Sun so that you don't have to put up with the reporters' re-packaging and re-positioning.
LSL: Dear reporters, dear neighbors and dear legislators. Who is going to stand up today for this citizen? The Housing Authority wants to sell my property cheaply. That is why I am angry and I am standing up. That is all I have to say.
Q: The Court of Final Appeals says that you have twenty-eight days to appeal. How do you feel?
LSL: I'll tell you when the time comes. I don't know. I have no idea what is happening with the lawyer.
Q: Are you happy that the appeal period was not shortened?
LSL: For the moment, I say I am not happy. Who knows what the government will do?
Q: Will you file an appeal?
LSL: I'll have to speak to the lawyer and see how the lawyer can get me justice. I am not being manipulated by others. I am very loyal (忠心耿耿).
Q: What have you decided?
LSL: I obviously want to appeal. But I don't know yet. It depends on the lawyer. You can go and ask the lawyer yourself.
Q: You say that you are not being manipulated. What can't you decide for yourself then?
LSL: But I am still have to discuss things. This is a big deal. It is not a simple matter.
Q: When will you speak to the lawyer?
LSL: I don't know yet. The lawyer has to notify me.
Q: Why don't you go to see the lawyer yourself? Is someone else helping?
LSL: I don't need anyone to help.
Q: Why don't you go see the lawyer?
LSL: Will the next reporter please ask a question?
Q: Why don't you go see the lawyer on your own?
LSL: Because I don't have money. I will have to think hard before I go to see him now.
Q: What do you have to think about?
LSL: How can I possibly tell you that!?
Q: Is someone telling you what to do?
LSL: Nobody whatsoever. I came out on my own.
Q: Did any other organization tell you not to appeal?
LSL: Who has the guts to tell me not to appeal?
Q: Are you concerned that the investors will curse you out? More than half a million people have applied for the Link REIT.
LSL: I have argued with Tung Kin-hwa before. If I win this lawsuit, but he does not have to pay anything. If anything happens, the citizens will see it. What is there to be afraid of?
Q: What have you got to say to the people who purchased the Link REIT?
LSL: No point in talking any further. Anyway, I won't let them sell my property. That is all.
Q: Have you been with Albert Cheng before ...
LSL: I have not seen him before. I don't know him. Yes, I have seen him on television before.
Q: Grandma, why have you gone into hiding?
LSL: I don't have to hide. There are too many of you and you are distrubing my neighbors. I am not afraid, but my neighbors' kids might be annoyed by you.
Q: There are 28 days for you file an appeal?
LSL: So I am going to get all the poor people together to hold a meeting. What do you think?
Q: When will you decide to appeal or not? Can you give me a date?
LSL: How can I tell you? If I buy a chicken now, how would I know when it is going to lay an egg? It is difficult to say, brother.
Q: Grandma, have you thought about how this lawsuit could impact the 510,000 stock investors?
LSL: I don't want to say anything more. The more I say, the more mistakes come out.
Q: Are you worried that this might affect the position of Hong Kong as a financial center?
LSL: I don't know about Tung Kin-hwa. Tung Kin-hwa suggested that this lawsuit might lower rents everywhere. That is why it is a mess.
Q: Do you feel any pressure in the past several days?
LSL: What pressure? I don't feel any pressure.
Q: Have you seen any people in the past several days?
LSL: Did I see anyone? When I go to shop for food today, I see people. They are old friends.
Q: Did you write the letter yourself?
LSL: I just said the words and the lawyer wrote them down. I drafted it. I did not bring it today. I know how to speak, but I can't write.
Q: What did you talk to the lawyer about?
LSL: I talked to him about not selling my properties. Because my properties belong to me. If they sell them, I am going to be hanging by my neck until I can't breathe. That is why I object. That is why I oppose Tung Kin-hwa.
Q: Why does selling mean that you will hang by your neck until you can't breathe?
LSL: Everyone looks after himself. Brother, we are living under the high pressure of Tung Kin-hwa ... if this is sold to someone else, then they will take control.
Q: The Chief Executive and Henry Tang both said that someone is stirring up trouble.
LSL: They are trying to accuse people left and right. They just talk. I haven't. They are completely wrong.
Q: Did someone look you up, or did you start the lawsuit on your won?
LSL did not reply, but a Mrs. Lee said: "We went together. This is my right. Why won't I fight for it?"
Q: How do you feel about the 28 days for the appeal?
LSL: I am going to have to study the situation to see if it can be done. I have to discuss this with other people. I am a poor soul without money.
Q: The court gave you justice. How do you feel?
LSL: They should give me justice. They should not pressure me too hard, such that I am unable to say what I want.
Q: Grandma, will you return home in the next 28 days?
LSL: Why would I not go home? Do you think that I am a criminal?
Q: Are you happier now?
LSL: Quite happy now. I want to look up Tung Kin-wah and knock on his tiger head (敲佢個老虎頭).
Q: Originally, Grandpa Ma filed the lawsuit with you. What about him?
LSL: He is physically incapacitated. He is ill.
Q: Are you confident about the appeal?
LSL: Of course, I am confident. I will try my best. Of course, I am confident about the appeal. It depends on whose side the judge is on. It depends on whether the officials decide to influence the outcome.
Q: Does your family support you?
LSL: They have all gone underground. You better not ask.