SCMP Monday, June 26, 2000

Censure vote under threat


A Legco no-confidence motion in two housing officials has been thrown into confusion by the resignation of one of the targets - Housing Authority chairwoman Rosanna Wong Yick-ming.

The Liberal Party and some independents say they will reconsider their stance amid intense government lobbying against the motion of no confidence in Ms Wong and Housing Director Tony Miller, which Legco will vote on this week.

A senior adviser to Beijing also stepped into the row, accusing lawmakers of denying Ms Wong natural justice and comparing her fate to that of Joan of Arc. Dr Raymond Wu Wai-yung said a "bad precedent" had been set, proving the SAR was still an immature society.

Dr Wu, a local deputy of the National People's Congress, said he was surprised lawmakers had denied Ms Wong justice. "They purely consider the matter from populist demands and forget the highest principle is justice for individuals. It reminds me of what happened during the Cultural Revolution and the burning of Joan of Arc. They were incidents when the public wanted a channel to vent their feelings."

The Liberal Party said following Ms Wong's resignation on Saturday "the situation had changed" and members would discuss their position when chairman James Tien Pei-chun returned to Hong Kong today.

The spotlight has now turned on Mr Miller, but Liberal Party lawmaker Howard Young indicated he might not support removing a civil servant by political means.

On Saturday, Acting Chief Secretary for Administration Michael Suen Ming-yeung said civil servants had appointment contracts with the Government and should not be sacked by political procedures.

Mr Young said he shared the view. "When we first decided to support the no-confidence motion, we didn't mean to ask for [Mr Miller's] resignation. Our primary concern is accountability."

Non-affiliated legislator Eric Li Ka-cheung and other independents, including Ma Fung-kwok and Raymond Ho Chung-tai, said they were still undecided on the vote.

The motion, moved by Democrat lawmaker Fred Li Wah-ming, requires support from two separate votes, one by directly elected lawmakers and the Election Committee and one by the functional constituencies, which is dominated by the Liberals and independents.

Information Co-ordinator Stephen Lam Sui-lung stressed the Government had its own mechanism to manage civil servants. "Mr Miller is a full-time, professional civil servant. It violates our principle for [legislators] moving a political motion to impeach him," Mr Lam said.

Chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong Tsang Yok-sing said the party would still support the motion, due for a vote on Wednesday or Thursday. But Fred Li said he felt less confident it would pass: "Some might switch their support to abstain after Ms Wong's resignation."

Hong Kong has been hit by a series of building scandals in the past 18 months, including a faulty piling scam at a Sha Tin site where two 34-storey blocks will have to be demolished.