Time for a civics lesson?


I wonder if the Civic Party leaders have considered engaging a political strategist to help them connect with the party's support base rather than do things which are more likely to alienate it.

The party ought to be the natural home of the socially responsible middle class. The well educated, the professionals, instinctively democratic (with a small 'd'), relatively comfortably off themselves but with an awareness of and concern for those less well off. The party for people with a keen sense of right and wrong but who are rational and moderate in action.

The first doubtful move was of course setting sail with the League of Social Democrats on the voyage to nowhere, the referendum that wasn't. It was a schoolboy gesture and wiser counsel should have prevailed: one look at the crew ought to have sounded the alarm. Of course the party's constituency dutifully turned out to vote, but there were better ways of spending scarce family time on a Sunday.

The second episode to leave a slight feeling of unease is the Judicial Review over the Environmental Impact Assessment for the bridge to Macau/ Zhuhai. Leave aside the fact that the judge's ruling may well be wrong ("no bridge" doesn't mean nothing changes, it just means growing volumes of goods and people will have to move in other ways which might not be predictable; how then could the environmental implications of the "no bridge" scenario be compared with the "yes bridge" one?) and the Chief Executive was definitely wrong to shoot from the hip in a way that cast doubt on his commitment to upholding the rule of law.

Was a little old lady really looking for legal assistance or did an alert party activist find a convenient hook upon which to hang a political coat? Was there not a less disruptive way - a more professional way -- to clarify the issue?

And who is going to suffer most from the delay to this and other projects? It's all very well for a few DAB loyalist workmen to march to protest, but the impact will also be felt by the engineers and other professionals, in other words, core Civic Party targets.

Also bubbling to the surface at the moment is a strident attack on private sporting clubs, with the Civic Party if not actually leading the assault certainly shouting the odds.

There have been calls for the facilities to be opened up to non-members for extended periods, with few if any restrictions and all free of charge. And the whole debate is taking place on the fringes of genuine concern about the growing gap between the very rich and the very poor and some quite shameless behaviour by certain property tycoons (as if these people were members of the clubs concerned, which by and large they are not).

Can we start by dismissing the nonsensical claim that the sites occupied by these clubs are "worth billions of dollars". They might be if the land were zoned for residential or commercial use, but it isn't. Town planning restrictions reserve the areas concerned for sports and recreation which means their commercial value is negligible.

These are the clubs that have nurtured the development of so many sports in Hong Kong. From where did we get our rugby team (and the world's best Rugby 7s tournament)? Our cricket team (now, like rugby, also an Olympics event)? The clubs have also contributed greatly to Hong Kong's participation in other sports like squash, tennis, hockey, lawn bowls etc. Is all this to count for nothing and be swept aside?

And what about the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the facilities by the members who also pay handsome fees monthly to cover operational costs?

Now there is a good case for the facilities to be used more extensively in off peak periods by other members of the community as a quid pro quo for use of the land. The existing leases provide for this, but the quantum can be looked at again. There is also a good case for information about these concessions to be better publicized and for booking arrangements to be stream-lined.

By and large the members of the clubs are reasonable people and would not object to this.

But to take the exercise further, as some of our populist politicians seem to want to do, and open the doors to the public at large during peak periods would not be reasonable.

It is time the Civic Party remembered which side of the political loaf its electoral bread is buttered, and started to be the voice of moderation in this discussion.

Are you listening, Tanya? Sports club members are your natural constituents. Stop pissing them off.


 
Mike Rowse
email: mike@rowse.com.hk