Sunday, October 23, 2005

Unity is Strength - Tsang flees and Lamy speaks

Hong Kong WTO chief flees protestors

An absolutely terrified John Tsang fled a round-table debate with members of non-government organisations (NGOs) here Sunday after protesters demanded he arrange a meeting with them to discuss their grievances.

His rapid departure via a back door (how unglamourous) left the World Trade Organisation secretary general Pascal Lamy stranded. Lamy then single-handedly face an angry crowd of banner-carrying activists (note that weapon of choice: banners).

A statement from the Hong Kong People's Alliance (HKPA) for the WTO said Tsang had been ignoring their calls for talks since it was announced that the city would be hosting this December summit last year.

"The expression of neglect agitated some of the alliance's members," said Elizabeth Tang, convenor of the organsiation, an umbrella group coordinating protests by the 10,000 NGOs and activists expected for the meeting.

"The HKPA believed that any responsible government would be happy to meet its constituents and collect opinion from them," Tang added. "Unfortunately Tsang refused us with the excuse for being 'busy'."

Tsang was unavailable for comment.

Protesters want assurances that the sixth ministerial conference (MC6) here will make provisions to ease the plight of the world's poor.

The five-day meeting is hoped to pave the way for a make-or-break deal on liberalising global trade and using free trade to alleviate poverty.

Tsang said a deal was possible but the sticking point was the United States' and the European Union's refusal to lower agricultural subsidies to their inefficient farmers, something experts say prevents peasants in the developing world from selling their goods overseas.

Organisers fear anti-globalisation protesters may turn the event into a riot similar to that seen during the WTO's summit in Seattle in 1999. The HKPA fears the Hong Kong police are inexperienced in such events and would overreact to trouble.

The success of the summit inside and outside the debating room rests in large part on Tsang's shoulders, as his office is overseeing the summit agenda and security arrangements.

In an astute commentary by the Hong Kong Standard newspaper said it "augurs bad for the WTO talks if Tsang ... runs away from a small group of protesters who were merely so badly behaved as to shout their frustration".

"Hong Kong is heading for trouble unless its senior officials can improve their game, maybe even get a game plan," the article, written by veteran journalist Kevin Rafferty said.


Clearly, this demonstrates that the HKPA have been making preparations since it was announced that the southern Chinese city would play host to the bi-yearly MC6.

Tsang's flight embarrasses both the WTO and IMF's choice in choosing Hong Kong to be the host city . For the man in-charge of chairing the MC6, he leaves his guest, the Director-General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy to face the unhappiness of the protestors.

Perhaps one wonders why Tsang had to retreat. The demonstrators did not bear spears or machete. They bore flags which carried the messages that both Tsang and Lamy did not want to address.

Where did the frustration stem from?

The demonstrators had block the passage for the vehicle as both Tsang and Lamy had refused to read the appeal letter presented by the HKPA. What was an agreement for the WTO MC6 coordinating office (MCO) to present the appeal letter to Tsang and Lamy became a breach in trust for the HKPA. The disappointment resulted in the protestors making an attempt to block the moving car with their bodies.

Even as the HKPA maintains an open approach to broach the issues to better the world, the MCO has only shun it further. Shame, shame, shame!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
and .