Reform of the Sai Kung District Council is overdue, Christine Fong said. The independent member said too many of her fellow councillors are factional, limited in vision and only there for the business opportunities.
Asked how many of the 29 councillors and two rural representatives sit on the council because they are genuinely keen to do good and how many are mainly interested in feathering their nests or those of their cronies, Christine said, “About half and half.” She has been on the SKDC herself for eight years.
Christine said Chairman George Ng Sze Fong has too much power and has been there too long. George has been Chairman for 11 years and a member for about 20.
A live-wire chartered engineer who is loquacious to a fault, Christine challenges the establishment. She has jumped into the sea during one protest, covered herself in fake blood for another and been arrested for disruption in the Legislative Council. She was convicted, but has no regrets. When the secretary for the environment came visiting the Sai Kung council, “George and 22 other councillors locked me out.”
“I am not aggressive. But I will speak up for residents who are in trouble.”
Christine says there is too much opportunity for corruption. She notes it is unsavoury when councillors are also chairmen of the incorporated owners of buildings. “There is a lot of money involved. Renovations can cost millions. One per cent here, two per cent there. Bid rigging, kickbacks.” She is pleased the ICAC has recently been investigating this sort of skullduggery. Professional bodies should publish benchmark prices for common building works so residents can spot anything fishy, the engineer said. Greater transparency is needed.
The Sai Kung District Council needs reform because it isn’t very good at what it is supposed to be doing. “It is a platform for communicating with the Government. But it is ineffective, because the Government views it as too low level and because its communication is poor.”
Factionalism leads to little getting done, Christine said. With nine members, the DAB led by George has a tight grip. Christine is passionate about the need for Hiram’s Highway and other road improvement. She said the council has a committee called Task Force to Facilitate Hiram’s Highway Improvement on which she sits. Chairman George has blocked the committee from sitting for 13 months, she claimed. The widening of HH in two stages is going to take so long many residents will not see it in their lifetimes. Christine said a lot of small-scale works could improve the traffic flow –bus and minibus lanes, improved side roads, widened roundabouts — but they don’t get done. She blames factionalism and blinkered vision.
Christine has made headlines often because of her long-running battle to prevent expansion of the Tseung Kwan O landfill and seek mitigation of its noxious effects. TKO and Clearwater Bay residents complain of the odours and health effects, so do people as far away as Hong Kong island. She says solutions can be seen overseas if the government would open its eyes. Japan has small incinerators for each community; Singapore has an off-shore island where garbage is sorted for recycling. Why doesn’t Hong Kong have contractors sorting rubbish near source? she asks. Nevertheless, she is pleased that Towngas has contracted to take off biogas leaking from the TKO landfill.
The Sai Kung District Council could be transformed so it became more accountable by a change in the voting system. Christine said residents should have two votes: one for their local councillor and one for the council as a whole. Key positions such as council chairman and committee chairmen should be directly elected. This would force councillors to be more pro-active. “Once they have got their Gold Bauhinia Star they don’t try any more.”