English News 2015

15 December 2015
[South China Morning Post] Lawmaker recalls fear during protest
[South China Morning Post] Lawmaker recalls fear during protest

A lawmaker told a court yesterday how she had felt afraid and threatened by a district councillor during a protest against plans to expand the Tseung Kwan O landfill.
Elizabeth Quat was testifying against Sai Kung district councillor Christine Fong Kwok-shan, 49, who earlier in Kwun Tong Court denied one count of common assault .
The alleged assault took place on July 3 last year, when Quat was on a site inspection for mosquito black spots. She was accompanied by food and environmental health department staff and members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong when she came across Fong and a dozen others at the Beaumount, a private residential development.
Quat testified before magistrate Don So Man-lung: “I was a bit scared at the time because the defendant and the people accompanying her were not very emotionally stable. I didn’t know what might happen next."
The protest took place a day before the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee was to vote on funding proposals for expanding the landfill.
Video footage played in court showed Fong holding a microphone and a banner while she was tailing Quat, who was heard saying, “Do not push me," and asking, “Why are you so violent?"
The lawmaker said she believed she could not fulfil her legislative duties as she felt she was “assaulted and threatened" by Fong’s hostility. Quat also recalled being pushed, grabbed and pulled during what she described as “a chaotic scene".
But Fong testified: “I did not assault her, nor did I have the intention to do so. I did not grab her or pull her. I don’t understand why she’s saying this."
Fong said she was only trying to make Quat stand still so she could convince her not to approve the funding. Outside court, Fong questioned why Quat would feel scared when she should have seen more contentious scenes as a lawmaker for the New Territories.
Fong had previously told police under caution that she suspected the prosecution was politically motivated because she had reported on Quat for holding a fake university degree.
Closing submissions were scheduled for January 13.

8 October 2015
[South China Morning Post] Councillor’s protest with Nazi banner leads to fine
[South China Morning Post] Councillor’s protest with Nazi banner leads to fine

A district councillor was yesterday fined HK$2,000 for yelling and displaying a Nazi banner at a Legislative Council meeting as she protested against a proposed landfill expansion last year.
Sai Kung District Councillor Christine Fong Kwok-shan, 48, wore a t-shirt that read ‘protect Tseung Kwan O’ and held a banner bearing a swastika, the symbol of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party, when she protested against landfill expansion in Tseung Kwan O in Legco’s public gallery on May 7 last year, Eastern Court heard.
A week after, on May 13, she was found yelling in the chamber’s public gallery.
She was convicted of two counts of contravening an administrative order under Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance, to which she previously pleaded not guilty.
Her assistants, Cheung Mei-hung, 26 – who was found guilty of the same two counts – and Fong Yu-ching, 30, were each fined HK$2,000 as well. Fong Yu-ching was also convicted of obstructing a Legco officer.
The three had earlier argued that their right to express their opinion had been violated by Legco’s administrative orders.
Handing down his verdict, Magistrate Chu Chung-keung said the human rights law on which the three relied included limitations, such as not infringing on others’ rights and not endangering national safety when expressing one’s views.
The court heard that on May 7, Christine Fong, who wore the t-shirt in question, handed Cheung the banner for him to display.
And when a Legco officer answered his superior’s order to remove it, Fong Yu-ching pulled the officer’s hand, while Cheung attempted to stop the officer.
Speaking outside court, Christine Fong – who has yet to announce whether she will run in the coming district council poll – accused “political parties” in Legco of precipitating her prosecution in order to defend the government’s proposed landfill plan.
She is considering an appeal.

8 October 2015
[The Standard] Legco protest trio fined $2,000 each
[The Standard] Legco protest trio fined $2,000 each

Sai Kung District Council member Christine Fong Kwok-shan and two assistants were yesterday each fined HK$2,000 at Eastern Magistracy for obstructing staff during protests inside the Legislative Council.
The court heard that Fong, Cheung Mei- hung and Fong Yu- ching displayed banners, chanted and refused to leave the public gallery on May 7 and 13 last year.
Their actions forced adjournments of meetings of the public works subcommittee.
The panel was discussing funding for both the expansion of the Tseung Kwan O landfill and the building of an incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau.
Magistrate Chu Chun-keung said the legislature should be a solemn place and able to operate smoothly.
In mitigation, the defense said the actions of the trio, who denied being overly disruptive, were similar to other protests and suggested binding them over.
Fong said afterwards she may appeal as she believes the law is being applied selectively. “We feel that freedom of speech will be narrowed due to this case," she said.
Fong also said her behavior had not been extreme.

8 October 2015
[China Daily] District councilor fined for rally
[China Daily] District councilor fined for rally

Sai Kung district councilor Christine Fong Kwok-shan and her two assistants were fined HK$2,000 each for shouting slogans and unfurling a banner in a public gallery of the Legislative Council when a meeting was taking place. Fong and her assistants were convicted of contravening an administrative instruction or obstructing a LegCo officer in the execution of his duty. Magistrate Chu Chung-keung said that LegCo was a serious place and administrative instructions were necessary for it to operate effectively, while the prosecution against the trio was proper and did not conflict with freedom of expression.

3 September 2015
[South China Morning Post] Councillor denies lawmaker assault
[South China Morning Post] Councillor denies lawmaker assault

A Hong Kong district councillor yesterday denied assaulting a lawmaker on her own patch last year, as she made a brief court appearance.
Accompanied by her godfather, and veteran actor, Bowie Wu Fung, Sai Kung District Council member Christine Fong Kwok-shan, 49, told Kwun Tong Court she denied one count of common assault on Elizabeth Quat at The Beaumount in Tseung Kwan O on July 3 last year.
“I plead not guilty,” she said, after she was read the charge in a brief court appearance. The court has yet to hear the specifics of the allegation.
However, Fong was told that seven prosecution witnesses would be called and that video exhibits would also be presented, according to the prosecutors.
Acting principal magistrate Don So Man-lung then adjourned the case to October 14 and reminded Fong not to interfere with the prosecution witnesses.
Outside court, Fong said the list of witnesses included various district councillors from Sai Kung, as well as Quat.
She said that, while sitting in the same work meetings with them was inevitable, she would not discuss the case with those witnesses.
She declined to comment further as the case had already entered legal proceedings.
Her godfather Wu said it was not his first time attending a court hearing and that he was there to support Fong, who was elected a district council member in Sai Kung in 2008 when she was still affiliated with the Liberal Party – which she left in 2010.
After serving her first term, she was re-elected in 2011 as an independent candidate.
A member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Quat has been a Legislative Council member since 2012.
She was also elected to the Sha Tin district council in 2008 and has been serving there since then.

24 June 2015
[The Standard] McCarthyism shocks Tong
[The Standard] McCarthyism shocks Tong

The blame game in local politics is “shocking," according to Ronny Tong Ka-wah.
A day after resigning from the Civic Party and giving up his seat in the Legislative Council, Tong choked back tears as he explained his decision on a radio program.
He said he had considered resigning before the political reform vote on Thursday, but did not do so after his assistants said people would speculate he would vote yes to the reform.
Tong, a lawmaker for 11 years, said the political culture is “shocking" and depressing.
He added: “Normal activities are considered betrayal. Any attempt to engage in dialogue with the central government would be seen as betraying Hong Kong."
He played down the impact his resignation from Legco  effective October 1  will have on pan- democrats.
The pan-democrats have 18 seats in the geographical constituencies, while the pro- establishment camp has 17. With that one-seat edge, pan-democrats can block attempts to change Legco’s rule of procedures to stop filibustering.
Lawmakers, including Albert Chan Wai-yip, said it is crucial for pan-democrats to win the seat back in a by-election.
But Tong said Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing usually refrains from voting. So without his participation, the number of pan-democrat and pro-establishment votes will be the same in the geographical constituencies.
Tsang agreed, saying pan-democrats will retain the power to veto motions with or without Tong’s seat.
He said Tong has been a serious and capable lawmaker and that the by-election will take place at the end of this year at the earliest.
The matter of who will contest the soon-to-be-vacant seat remains a guessing game. Tong said the Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok- kiu may be a candidate.
The Democratic Party will not join the fray, according to Sin Chung-kai. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee of the New People’s Party said she is inclined to not send anyone to join the by-election.
From the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, rumored candidates include North District councillor Edward Lau Kwok-fan and Brave Chan Yung.
Former Liberal Party member Christine Fong Kwok-shan said she is “up for a battle anytime."
Meanwhile, Sin said the Democratic Party will decide this month whether Nelson Wong Sing-chi  who initiated a signature campaign to support the reform package  will be expelled.

4 March 2015
[The Standard] Final poll reform battle nears
[The Standard] Final poll reform battle nears

Carrie Lam, who gets an escort, said the last step to suffrage is challenging, as Sai Kung district councillors walk out. CHAN CHUN-KEI The final proposal on political reform will be unveiled in the middle of next month, along with the results of the second round of its public consultation, Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet- ngor said.
Lam, speaking at a Sai Kung District Council meeting yesterday, said the package will be brought to the Legislative Council before it goes on its summer break.
The meeting  as well as that of the Tuen Mun District Council attended by Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung  was marred by walkouts by pan-democratic councillors.
Some of them held up yellow umbrellas as they marched out  just like their allies in Legco when Lam addressed lawmakers in January.
Lam  one of the three members of the government task force on constitutional reform  said only the final step remains to achieve universal suffrage.
And that is to accept the National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s proposed framework that two to three candidates will be screened by the 1,200-strong nominating committee before a one-person, one-vote process.
“According to past experiences, this step is the most challenging one. The pan-democratic lawmakers, who hold the balance of power to veto, have already openly tied themselves together not to support the proposal. So it makes the task of getting it passed a challenging one," she said.
“But one person, one vote to elect the chief executive is just one step away, so this chance should not be missed."
Lam said it is “unrealistic" to ask the government to restart the five-step process if the package is voted down.
Councillor Christine Fong Kwok-shan said she is dissatisfied with the NPC Standing Committee proposal and believes Hong Kong is better off with a public recommendation mechanism.
In Tuen Mun, Yuen said officials will spend about a month analyzing submissions when the consultation ends on Saturday.
He said the package may be tabled in Legco in June or July.
Yuen also said whatever method will be used for the 2017 chief executive election may still be amended for the 2022 election.
“After the implementation of universal suffrage in 2017, it will not be the ultimate method … we will study how people will feel more assured," he said.

20 February 2015
[TVB News]
The group Professional Power rallied outside the Central Government Offices. It urged the government to help the middle class and the sandwich class by increasing the cap on tax rebate to 15,000 dollars.

20 January 2015
[TVB News] Tender for the sixth phase of LOHAS Park closed
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Tender for the sixth phase of LOHAS Park closed today. The maximum number of flats has been raised by 50 percent to more than 2,000 units. But a district councilor has criticized the MTR Corporation for failing to ensure that residents are provided with the facilities they need. Stephanie Tsui reports.
The MTR Corporation says it’s received seven applications for tender for the sixth phase of LOHAS Park near Tseung Kwan O. The latest phase will provide up to 2,400 flats. Up 50 percent from the 1,600-units provided in the fifth phase. Surveyors believe the greater number of units means building smaller flats, providing more incentive to developers. Right now, about 30,000 residents live in LOHAS Park. There aren’t any wet markets or eateries around, just two supermarkets, one dry cleaners, a clinic and a child care centre. Before I moved in, I was told there was going to be a mall, a wet market and so on, but I saw none of that, this resident says. And this lady says she has to go to Tseung Kwan O to buy daily necessities. Sai Kung District Councilor Christine Fong said developers had promised to build a large mall for the estate. But the designated plot of land for the mall is still vacant. Residents were supposed to get their mall last year but now they’ll have to wait until 2018 — that’s a four year delay, she said. Fong said it’s irresponsible of the MTR Corporation to team up with developers, but then have no proper planning. She also said she hopes the MTR Corporation can perfect transport within the district and increase the frequency of trains going back and forth between LOHAS Park and Tseung Kwan O so residents can have easier access to malls.

12 January 2015
[South China Morning Post] Villagers may lose car access to homes
[South China Morning Post] Villagers may lose car access to homes

Villagers’ road access under threat
Residents say demand for payment to use new barrier gate is ‘tantamount to blackmail’ – but landowner insists it’s there to improve security
Residents of a sleepy Clear Water Bay village could lose road access to their homes if they fail to make “maintenance payments” to a local landlord by the end of this week.
The landowner erected a barrier gate across a decades-old road running through a private lot last Tuesday and has demanded payment from residents in return for vehicular access.
In an area where 2,100 sq ft houses start at HK$20 million, a group of distressed expatriate and Chinese residents said the landowner’s demands were tantamount to blackmail.
“It is ridiculous. How can the authorities grant this?” said famed film producer Willie Chan Chi-keung, whose home is affected by the potential road closure.
Chan, who made his name as manager of kung fu star Jackie Chan, represents one of more than 30 households tucked away in a corner of coastal Siu Hang Hau village, which last month received a notice demanding some HK$7,200, plus a further HK$6,300 for an electronic gate control fob. He was told the payment is due by January 16. Residents fear the lack of terms and conditions could see the initial payment turn into an annual fee.
The notices were signed by members of the Lau clan – local landowners with village roots reportedly going back 500 years – who last August acquired a tract of land from Fixed Star Investments for HK$700,000, according to public records.
The dispute is the latest to reflect poor or archaic planning policy involving the private land rights of indigenous villagers and the public right of way.
Last year, indigenous villagers blocked a footpath over private land leading to an ecologically important bay on the north side of Lantau Island. They later razed a mangrove in protest against a government zoning plan.
Indigenous residents in Sai Wan village in east Sai Kung also blocked a hiking path into their village in 2013 to protest the folding of Tai Long Sai Wan into a country park – a move they believed would undermine their private property rights.
The privately owned lot near Clear Water Bay is located awkwardly over a tiny section of Siu Hang Hau Road, which residents say has provided access into the village since the late 1980s. The lot and the section of road, however, are also located in land zoned as a conservation area, according to public records.
As a result, residents argued during a planning meeting on Tuesday night that it should not be built on and, even if privately owned, decades of unhindered road usage should afford right of access.
A source with the Sai Kung District Office said the office had been notified and would do what it could to mediate between the affected parties. But the source said since the lot was private, there was little that could actually be done if the owner wanted to restrict vehicular access.
The Lands Department said it would conduct a site inspection. The Planning Department is investigating.
Worried residents, many speaking anonymously amid fear of reprisals, said they were victims of a long-running cycle of violence and harassment by indigenous villagers, including slashed car tyres and scratched paintwork, destroyed or stolen property, extorted pay-offs against contractors renovating properties and verbal threats made to women and children.
They fear that if they pay, it will only lead to more demands in the future. Villagers also say they have nowhere else to park their cars, and raised concerns about emergency vehicle access, as well as food and mail deliveries. One disabled resident currently needs a door-to-door taxi service to attend medical appointments.
Several residents said the Laus recently had an application to build in the lot rejected by the Planning Department and suspected they were now using homeowners as leverage to persuade the government to reverse its decision.
The Laus are angry that people refused to pay them car-parking fees, said district councillor Paul Zimmerman, who was at the meeting. He said the barrier was a way for them to recoup losses.
Several residents said they had refused to pay the Laus any money to park their cars, because that land belonged to the government. “They put their hands to your neck,” said district councillor Christine Fong Kwok-shan, who also attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Fong, who said she had spoken to the Laus in the past, urged residents not to pay. Instead, homeowners plan to file an injunction against the Laus pleading “right of necessity” and historical precedence for use of the road. She called on the Lands Department to review the issue. A spokesman for the lot owner confirmed that the barrier gate – which is currently open – would close on Friday, but denied allegations of “blackmail”. He said the landowner built the gate due to security concerns and to protect fellow indigenous villagers.
“As you know, burglaries have recently been [happening] in the Clear Water Bay area and we are doing this to protect the entire village,” said the spokesman, also surnamed Lau. “The money is for upkeep and maintenance.”
Lau said the villagers were welcome to contact him, and added that if they had any problems with the gate, “they can always move out of the area”. He said there were government-owned footpaths that they could use to pass through.
“Anybody who buys property in an area should always inspect land records to see if there is private land around their house as this is bound to cause many, many problems,” Lau said. “This is all public information.”