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Monday, October 12, 2020, 10:37
CE Policy Address should show courage to tackle deep-rooted problems
By Tony Kwok
Monday, October 12, 2020, 10:37 By Tony Kwok

The recent announcement by the Hong Kong Police Force on the accreditation of reporters to cover its events and operations is overdue and to be applauded. Henceforth, it will allow only government-registered news media, and internationally recognized and renowned foreign media to perform their duties during police operations. For most of last year’s violent social unrest, there were far too many instances of fake journalists — some were practically child reporters — actively engaged in obstructing police operations, acting as lookouts, assisting the rioters to escape, and some even laying ambush attacks on police at close quarters! Members of the public watched all this, helpless with much gnashing of teeth, and called on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government to set up a proper journalist accreditation system to no avail. In the event, it was the Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung who grabbed the bull by the horns and declared that press passes issued by the Hong Kong Journalist Association are no longer valid to cover police events and operations.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see the prevalence of child reporters, as anyone can get an HKJA press pass by merely paying a nominal fee of HK$20 ($2.6), without having to present any proof of relevant training or work experience. The police commissioner should not only be praised for finally nipping this joke in the bud, but his decisive action should be emulated by other policy secretaries as they struggle with similarly intractable problems caused by the anti-government elements in our midst.

Actually, the HKJA was by no means the only prominent organization that was allowed to carry on its disruptive agenda for so long despite its obvious subversive nature. In fact, this had long been a serious simmering problem in our society that was being tolerated since unification. They were even deemed by some as untouchables in view of their influence. It took President Xi Jinping, during his trip to Hong Kong for the celebration of the SAR’s 20th anniversary in early July 2017, to highlight this intractable problem. In a thinly-veiled warning to senior HKSAR government officials, he said: “Any public officials avoiding their responsibilities should be a real shame for the rest of their lives.” His warning against shirkers cannot be more direct!

Others on this list of subversive public bodies include the Hong Kong Professional Teachers Union, which has been aiding and abetting the brainwashing of our children with anti-China and separatism thoughts through their teachers, politicizing school campuses, inciting the hatred of police over alleged police brutality, and encouraging children to participate in destructive rioting and violence. Thanks to these teachers, over 4,000 students have been arrested for offences related to the unrest, of which 17 percent are under the age of 18. According to the Education Bureau, over 100 teachers were arrested during the riots. Apart from those arrested, the EDB has received 247 reports of misconduct of teachers, including principal grades. Of those, 204 cases have been investigated, and 131 of them substantiated. Many were found to have published anti-police slogans on their social media platforms with curses like “all ‘black’ police and their families should die and not a single one should be spared”. Even though these teachers have demonstrated clearly their unsuitability to teach our innocent children, the EDB have not meted out any punishment on any of these teachers, except one announced recently. None of them has received anything harsher than an advice, a reprimand or warning letters. What is worse is that the EDB would not reveal their identities to the public, on the ground of privacy concerns. But how about the protection of our innocent children from brainwashing by these unscrupulous teachers and the right of the parents to know which schools have these problematic teachers so that they can avoid them in selecting the right school for their children!

The National Security Law has restored stability at the street level and “removed the tumor” that almost killed our society, but many deep-rooted subversive “cancer cells” remain in our body and pose a serious threat. ... this coming year is a golden opportunity for the CE to conduct a comprehensive “chemotherapy treatment” to eradicate all remaining social cancer cells

In contrast, all professional unions, such as The Hong Kong Medical Council and the Hong Kong Law Society, would promptly make public any substantiated disciplinary cases concerning their members, with full disclosure of the subject’s identity, believing that such transparency is in the public interest and should override the right to privacy of their members. The only reason the EDB did not do so is because they were afraid to upset the powerful HKPTU! 

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should consider including in her policy address the establishment of a statutory teachers disciplinary board, similar to those disciplinary boards of other professional bodies. The board can take complaints from the public on misconduct of teachers, can carry out enquiries and if substantiated, conduct disciplinary hearings and announce the results of substantiated cases to the public, including the full identities of the teachers and name of the school. In fact, such an arrangement should be welcomed by HKPTU as it had been criticizing the EDB’s disciplinary procedure on teachers for its “lack of transparency and fairness”. 

The other organization that the public are gnashing their teeth over is public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong. Nowhere in the world would one find such a ridiculous setup as one where a government-funded radio television station becomes a de facto voice of the opposition and a subversive base against the state! The problem has been tolerated long enough. It is about time that the chief executive announces drastic steps in her policy speech to rectify this aberration which impacts national security. She should consider setting up a board of governors to replace the current toothless advisory council, to take over the supervision of the station. She could have the Government Information Service taking over the news department of RTHK, or at least form a joint unit so that the government voice can be properly disseminated to the public.

To rectify the massive waste of resources by the three television channels of RTHK, which enjoys a TV viewership rating of close to zero, one of the channels can simply be dedicated to televising Chinese national and local sports, which is a pleasant and effective way to promote national pride and patriotism. This has actually been proposed by the local sports fraternity but has fallen on deaf ears at RTHK and its policy bureau secretary.

The third deep-rooted problematic organization is the Hong Kong Medical Association. Its chairman, Dr Gabriel Choi Kin, and his council’s experts have been continuously criticizing the SAR government’s efforts in fighting COVID-19, practically belittling almost every government initiative. One typical example is his objection to the universal community COVID-19 testing program and his counter proposal that the government should instead give a HK$3,000 coupon to each citizen to enable them to get the test done in private hospitals and laboratories, which in effect means siphoning HK$22.5 billion in taxpayers’ money into the pockets of private medical practitioners! Many of its members had shamelessly participated in the medical strike in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, but the association took no disciplinary action against such irresponsible behavior which badly besmirches our medical sector’s previously enviable reputation. What the chief executive can do in her policy address is to override the blatant protectionism of the Medical Association and announce a program similar to Singapore’s to bring in large numbers of oversees qualified medical doctors, which is a quick and effective way to address our serious shortage of doctors in public hospitals.

Finally, in response to the huge public concern over our judiciary, the chief executive should announce in her policy address the setting up of an independent review committee to look into the various controversial deficiencies affecting our judicial and legal system, such as the need for an independent judiciary complaint authority, a sentencing council, the abuse of judicial review and the legal aid system. Such an announcement should not be viewed as trespassing on the independence of the judiciary. Many common law jurisdictions have conducted such reviews to bring their judiciary and the legal system current with changing circumstances of the society, to enhance their public accountability and credibility, and it is time for Hong Kong to do the same.

The National Security Law has restored stability at the street level and “removed the tumor” that almost killed our society, but many deep-rooted subversive “cancer cells” remain in our body and pose a serious threat. With the postponement of the Legislative Council election and the weakening of the opposition political parties, this coming year is a golden opportunity for the CE to conduct a comprehensive “chemotherapy treatment” to eradicate all remaining social cancer cells.

The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space, and a council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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