Turtle Shell sees some unfortunate similarities in the situation in Hong Kong and Malaysia.
There is a Chinese saying (loosely translated), “Which crow in the world is not black?” It is used in the context of referring to corrupt government officials who can be found everywhere and are not unique to a particular place or people.
Recently, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung took ultimate responsibility for the partial suspension of the Wang Chau housing project in Yuen Long while denying that he bowed to pressure from rural landlords and rural strongmen with vested land interests.
The bulk of the plan was deferred and the development shifted to a nearby green belt area that will have to be vacated by residents from three villages.
The originally planned 17,000 public housing units to be built in Wang Chau at one go has now been scaled back to about 4 000 units – shifting the development from a brownfield site to a nearby area that will have to be vacated by residents from three villages. The brownfield site is controlled by rural leaders and could have yielded 13,000 public housing flats.
This is not to suggest any impropriety on the part of CY Leung or his government. But the incident reveals how once again, it is the weak and the poor who apparently bear the brunt.
Over here, we read of the struggles of the Orang Asal as they try to retain their native customary rights land in the face of land grabs – not only by large corporations, the wealthy, and the well connected but even by government or government-linked agencies.
Another issue was the recent appointment of the chief of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in Hong Kong. The acting director was bypassed [she took optional retirement after the farce] with hints from even the mainstream media that it may be linked to her uncompromising attitude in pursuing an investigation into CY Leung.
Again there are parallels with the new appointments at our Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, even though there is no obvious investigation of our MO1! As detractors of the government have always pointed out, interference of due process by the powers that be is not unique to our country.
Being a frequent visitor to Hong Kong, I have always admired its taxi system. But quite a substantial number of taxi licences are held by companies, and the average taxi licence is now going for about HK5m. No new taxi licences have been issued by the Hong Kong government in recent years, presumably to limit the number of taxis on the road.
But this accounts for its present astronomical sales price and speculation. It has also resulted in rent-seeking thriving in Hong Kong even as taxi drivers without their own licences go on long 12-hour shifts to make ends meet.
What I have been able to read about and observe at close quarters in Hong Kong has helped me understand better why well-educated friends and relatives in Malaysia are adopting a live-and-let-live attitude. After all, our country is still liveable, they say; why stir the hornets’ nest?
Still, we have seen how the Umnoputras appear to be propagating a climate of fear in our country, intimidating and making life difficult for social activists and government critics. Some of these activists are arrested or detained at odd hours and driven long distances just so that a remand order can be obtained. Never mind the opposition politicians – they know such ordeals come with the territory.
Turtle Shell is the pseudonym of an avid reader of Aliran.