Rent vacant schools to competitors
In Hong Kong there are around 175 vacant school premises that were closed due to an insufficient number of students.
A friend of mine runs a small private international school and wants to move to a bigger place. But these empty buildings cannot be rented out or sold to interested parties like my friend, who has made an application to the Education Bureau.
The bureau replied that the hiring of these premises was not allowed, because my friend's business is not a government, direct subsidy, or English Schools Foundation school.
The bureau suggested waiting for 'open bidding of vacant premises'. This exercise happens once every two or three years, but premises go to large schools.
This is an area of education that is in need of reform and I hope that chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying will look into it.
Legislation is needed which will allow small schools to rent or buy these vacant premises.
At present they are not being used, but if they are rented out or sold, the fees will bring revenue to the government and make a contribution to the economy.
It would also allow these small institutions to expand and lead to greater competition in the private international school sector. This would result in raising the quality of education provided.
In such a competitive atmosphere, the larger institutions such as the English Schools Foundation would have to think twice about raising school fees, knowing that parents could switch to their rivals.
With greater variety and choice, expatriates would not have to go through the ordeal of searching in vain for school places for their children when they relocate to Hong Kong.
Such a move can only lead to the improvement of education and end the period of domination by the large institutions. It would create a level playing field for all schools in Hong Kong.
David Rosegard, Tsim Sha Tsui
Villagers must obey the law too
Rural residents will be holding a rally later this month in Central to defend their right to retain illegal structures on their homes.
However, I believe there will be problems if they refuse to comply with the instructions from officials.
These are unauthorised structures which were put up without proper supervision and which did not have to comply with building safety regulations. How can we be sure that they do not pose a risk? Accidents might occur, for example, during a typhoon.
Also, allowing these villagers to keep their homes as they are is unfair to other Hong Kong people.
Why should the rural residents get special treatment and be allowed to have illegal structures which are banned elsewhere in the city?
If officials do not take action, people will think the villagers can act with impunity and more unauthorised structures would be erected.
I hope this situation can be resolved and that villagers will avoid taking radical action.
Fung Chun-ting, Tsuen Wan
Illegal flat owners are evading tax
I was pleased to read that unauthorised structures at Tai Tong Lychee Valley were going to be demolished ('Illegal structures to be torn down in private park', April 30).
You see examples of illegal additions to buildings all over the city. The government must take firm action against them and enforce the law.
The law must apply across the board and that includes illegal flats on the top of apartment blocks.
Just imagine how much money the owners of these flats have made without paying any revenue to the government. In effect, they are stealing from law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.
Police must investigate the people responsible for these illegal structures and see if there are any possible cases of corruption to answer.
William Loo, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Student fares would help poor families
The government has granted new 10-year franchises to three bus companies in Hong Kong ('Dirty buses off the road in four years', April 25).
I believe that before granting these franchises, officials should have imposed tougher conditions to halt the declining level of service.
The MTR provides discounts to students who hold a valid student Octopus card. I have not seen similar concessions being offered by Hong Kong's bus operators.
It would make a real difference, especially to families on low incomes. They struggle to find the extra cash for extra-curricular activities which allow pupils to expand their learning experience.
The bus companies should recognise the importance of corporate social responsibility.
One aspect of that would be the provision of fare concessions for full-time students in Hong Kong.
In future, officials should give greater thought to this issue before granting franchise extensions to these public transport providers.
Michael Yim Ho-tin, Ma On Shan
Make buses run on time, or fine them
There have been growing complaints over buses not sticking to schedules or being cancelled without notice.
Hong Kong's bus firms have been slow to respond to customer complaints about these problems.
Therefore, I think the government should have imposed stricter conditions on the operators before granting them new 10-year franchises.
It should have stipulated that if the rate of lost trips was higher than an accepted level, the bus companies would incur financial penalties.
Officials should also have demanded that the companies provide long-term concessions for elderly passengers.
Nancy Siu, Sha Tin
Bus firms are improving services
The government and political parties blame buses for causing serious pollution in Hong Kong.
However, it would be wrong to think that the bus companies have made no improvements.
For example, KMB, the last bus company to operate 'hot-dog' buses, will soon have a fully air-conditioned fleet.
The three bus firms [granted new 10-year franchises] regularly replace vehicles which have been in service for 17 years.
This means that, over time, pollution problems will ease. Also, more modern models offer greater convenience for disabled and elderly passengers.
The government wants railways to be the main mode of transport for commuters, with buses offering transport connections to stations. This makes it difficult for the bus firms to make a profit.
If the MTR Corporation achieves greater dominance in the transport sector, we will see it repeatedly raising fares to even higher levels.
In the past, we had very poor bus services in Hong Kong. That was why the licence for China Motor Bus was not renewed.
They had failed to improve services and their routes were given to another company.
I believe the three bus firms which have been given new 10-year franchises are providing above-average services.
There was no reason to impose tougher conditions which might have led to them losing their franchises.
Thomas Cheung, Tai Wai
LED displays are OK with right material
I refer to your editorial ('Hotel fire exposes shocking flaws', April 28) regarding the blaze at the Harbour Grand Hong Kong Hotel in North Point.
I would reject the notion that outdoor LED screen displays are potentially dangerous, without categorising the types of danger.
Certainly, a plastics fire should never have occurred if the correct materials were used.
Since building rules stipulate that outdoor signboards should be fire-resistant, it is essential that fire-retardant plastic materials be used, as opposed to materials that will continuously burn once a flame or spark ignites the plastic.
It is a question of cost. Flammable grades of plastic are slightly lower in price than flame-retardant grades.
The source of the spark or excessive heat is likely overheating due to water in the electrical circuits. This problem can be contained within a small area if the plastic materials used for a display comply with Hong Kong's safety standards.
Ralph Bishop, Pok Fu Lam