At my Sai Kung bus stop there has appeared, almost overnight, about a dozen chairs intended for passengers to rest on while they wait for the increasingly irregular bus service to Ho Chung. It is an eclectic mix of donated furniture representing a variety of styles, histories and functions. I already have a personal favourite situated right in the middle of the line. Part chrome and fake leather it has the worn look of a 1980’s bar stool that wouldn’t have been out of place in Pablo Escobar’s man-cave. If it only swivelled it would be the perfect seat.
At first sight this may seem to be another one of those endearing Sai Kung peculiarities. However, behind this very New Territories solution to a lack of design and planning lies yet another example of the public need not being met by the Government. While tens of billions of tax dollars are being spent on a high-speed rail link to help the Chinese authorities improve their abduction service. An aggressively expanding and poorly envisaged Sai Kung is being slowly strangled by the inadequate width of Hiram’s Highway, a minor road despite its grand name, built by the British Army over an old jungle track using Japanese POW labour.
Government collusion with big business and legislative indifference is similarly the root cause of the ubiquitous illegal structures built throughout the New Territories. With ridiculously high property prices maintained by an untouchable cartel of corrupt legislators and real estate developers, householders understandably turn their hand to a bit of illicit D.I.Y. in order to maximise their square footage. And let’s be sure what we are talking about here. Only the super rich and politically connected has concealed basement swimming pools and gymnasiums. Most illegal structures, including my own, consist of a small corrugated plastic roof to prevent my washing machine and drying clothes from disintegrating through over exposure to the acid rain created by the factories of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. If the Government really wanted to protect the general public from my attempts at home improvement then they should run a proper building license department and inspect and charge me for my extension.
Maybe they could even tax me on each washing cycle or each item of clothing washed like hotel room service? Again we have a failure of the Hong Kong Government to govern effectively for the people they are supposed to represent.
Contentiously, illegal parking is also part of the same issue so let me first make two points. Car parking is not a human right, but in a complex society traffic flow requires proper management. Secondly given even proper provision, there will always be some ignorant selfish motorists who will park to the detriment and inconvenience of everyone else. However, Hong Kong must be one of the few places in the world where it is technically illegal to park anywhere apart from in a designated (paid) parking space. Whoever thought that law was ever going to work clearly has a chauffeur.
Relatively recently the Police have shown themselves to be rather over zealous, if a little inept, at clearing the streets of human, mainly student, obstructions. Yet they seem to have no interest in ticketing illegally parked cars doing exactly the same thing. Therefore is it any wonder that most motorists choose to take their chances of a $300 fine once in a while rather than cave in to the extortion of every Wilson or Shroff.
As the Hong Kong Government increasingly loses the ability to govern in the New Territories and the law becomes little more than a growing list of optional guidelines, at what point do we start ignoring rate demands or not paying our tax? Given the unique nature of Sai Kung, perhaps it would be better run along the lines of a small anarchist collective rather than the current failing form of limited democracy? A move towards libertarian socialism will obviously be unpopular with CY Leung and his colleagues, but then, when was the last time you saw one of them sitting at a bus stop?