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The thoughts of an American expat in Hong Kong living on an "underlying island"

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Calling The Bluff On Tamar

The Standard reports that the critics of the White Elephant at Tamar have called Donald "Darth Bowtie" Tsang Yam-kuen's bluff, as noted here yesterday. You can almost hear the wishes to turn back the clock to pre-SARS pre-Article 23 public trust at the Central Government Offices.

In perhaps the most confrontational move they have taken yet, Tamar opponents said they will challenge Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's claim of majority support for the proposed HK$5 billion headquarters by conducting an independent public opinion poll.

"It is Donald Tsang's own proclamation that the project has won over 70 percent of the Hong Kong people, and we highly doubt that," said Dennis Li Kit-wai, director of the Society for Protection of the Harbour, Thursday.

Own unsupported proclamation.

The Civic Party said it is supporting the poll as it should be an effective means to gather the public's views, but insisted the task should still be the responsibility of the government.

"A responsible and transparent government should first justify its own figure before challenging the private sector to conduct a survey," said party legislator Alan Leong Kah-kit.

Good luck on the finding responsible or transparent government at the CGO. But on to the more important issue of defining the critical issues.

First, should LegCo be appropriating 5 billion HK dollars for a construction project before any firm plans are in place? After all the numbers the government has put forward have changed under scrutiny and admit that the model put forward probably won't represent what the final product will look like.

Would it be better for the government to wait to ask for funds until after rough proposals are submitted by architecture/development firms with drawings and models and rough cost estimates?

Would opening up the property development market to more competition create more construction jobs than reliance upon government funded projects? Would this create a more sustainable market for construction jobs long-term

Then there is the general question about public priorities for the construction of Tamar. Perhaps a ranking question including cost comparisons to other buildings, open space and public access to the harbour front, costs (financial, environmental, and public health) of possible environmental remediation for dioxin contamination, importance of planning for future of current CGO land, providing Darth Bowtie and ExCo with huge offices with a great harbourview, providing jobs, importance of having the project well on towards completion before 2007-2008 (politics for the next CE-LegCo election campaign versus honest level of urgency), importance of proximity to business HQ (like Cheung Kong Centre) to ensure marching orders are properly transmitted to ExCo, etc.

Then there are the questions about general planning for Tamar and integrity. Since the Chief Executive is unable to provide any proof, should the Chief Executive claim overwhelming support in public for his policies? Should the Chief Executive provide all relevant documentation and studies concerning the reasons to move to Tamar or should they withhold the studies from the public and LegCo that don't support government policies? If office rents in Central become too high, should the government release new land for construction of office space in Central or expect companies to move to cheaper offices elsewhere in Hong Kong?

Yeah, the questions may not make it verbatim in to "an independent, objective and scientific opinion survey", but something tells me that providing Darth Bowtie and Arculli and the gang with huge offices on the harbourfront and having it done quickly to prove Darth Bowtie's capabilities to "get things done" are not high priorities for the people of Hong Kong. I could be mistaken, but that underlines the importance of the lack of democracy and universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

If the results back Tsang's claims, Leong said the party would cease all opposition.

"We will take whatever the results of the poll are," he said.

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