Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Formal Complaint

I sent the letter below to Albert Ho who is a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong as a follow up to my series of letters with the EPD. I included my real name and links to the various Emails I've received from the EPD.

Councilor Ho,

I do not think that you are my geographical representative; I have looked on the Lego-Co web page but the geographical areas for the various members are not listed as far as I can find. However, since I know that you and your party have an interest in the area I am concerned about I thought it might be appropriate to send you this letter voicing my concern over the activities and programs of a governmental department that I find very disturbing.

Recently a student group in the school I work for placed posters around our campus with a telephone number and the URL of the Environmental Protection Department. The posters encouraged students to “Put this number on your speed dial and use it” The number is to report vehicles that they think are emitting excessive exhaust to the EPD. After contacting the EPD in a series of Emails I discovered that this is indeed an EPD program and they do encourage people to report smoky vehicles using that number. While I complain, as do many others in Hong Kong of the poor air quality this program is simply evil and I, and I believe many others, would appreciate the Legislative Council requiring them to put a stop to it.

This program should be stopped because one of the hallmarks of a Fascist state is that it encourages citizen to spy on one another. This program is, ideologically speaking, little different from the practices of having children report “anti-revolutionary” attitudes of their parents during the Cultural Revolution in the PRC. The fact that the consequences to the drivers turned in by this program are trivial is beside the point. I believe that history shows us that any time a government can abuse power it will. The less accountable the government is the more likely the power will be abused. I cannot imagine many government officials less accountable than Hong Kong bureaucrats. How long will it be before they decide to stop sending simple warning letters to the drivers reported and issuing summonses to have their vehicle turned up?

This program should be stopped because it also violates our right in Hong Kong to face our accusers in court. The report is anonymous. Suppose a number of your political critics all sent your license plate number in using this program and then found a way to publish the fact that you had been cited 12 or 15 times for a vehicle with excessive smoke in the exhaust? Would such an action damage your reputation? The potential for abuse of a program like this by non-governmental factions is as great as the potential inside the government; probably more so. And yet, if you were harassed by a person or group using this program you would have no way to face them, stop them or defend yourself. If you believe that the press in Hong Kong would seek to tell your side of the story then you are mistaken. While less physically painful than being bludgeoned by a baseball bat the political effect would be the same.

This program should be stopped because it is useless and provides no benefit to Hong Kong. Assuming that the officials in the EPD are more enlightened than I have given them credit for and take steps to prevent abuse, if all that occurs is for a warning letter to be sent to vehicle owners then I must ask: “What is the benefit of the program?” There is already a yearly inspection for all vehicles in Hong Kong. Any vehicle that emits excessive pollution should be dealt with at that time. Is a warning letter from the EPD going to scare someone into repairing their automobile three months early? If there are no “teeth” in a program like this it is useless. If there are “teeth” it is Fascism. In either case it is a program that needs to be done away with.

This program must be ended because it will not do Hong Kong any good to obtain large goals such as universal suffrage if our society is held hostage to programs administered by government organs that encourage citizen to spy upon one another. Open societies are based upon trust and mutual respect. They are also based upon toleration. This type of program encourages citizen, in this particular case secondary school student, to develop an intolerant and accusatory attitude to those around them. A society where citizens are constantly looking for flaws in others that can be reported to the government or to bully them into particular modes of behavior is not a society I want to be a member of.

This program should be stopped because it does not matter how laudable the goal if the means used to reach the goal are evil the program is evil. This program is evil because the means are evil. That is particularly true in this case because the only thing this program accomplishes is to make work for a clerk at the EPD and to give people reporting smoky vehicles a feeling of self-righteous moral superiority for having turned someone in as a polluter. Great evil is done because small evils are allowed. None of us wake up and say “I am going to become a great sinner today.” Instead, we chip away what is good letting the end we desire justify a little loss of ethics, honor and morality here and there until we are what we hate and do not understand how we became what we are.

There are many things we could do to improve air quality in Hong Kong. This program is not one of them. Sir, please see to it that the EPD ends it soon.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who does not believe that the end justifies the means

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