Rare Hakka village must be protected
I read with great interest Hazel Knowles's article in the Sunday Magazine about Pak Sha O ('Plots on the landscape', May 20), a village I am very familiar with as a result of walking trips my husband and I take through Sai Kung Country Park.
Pak Sha O is a treasure not to be casually abandoned to developers intent on building yet another Hong Lok Yuen within what we are told by government is a 'protected area'.
I have heard that the applications made by 'Xinhua Bookstore' for two new houses in Pak Sha O are not ding uk applications, that is, not applications by indigenous villagers to build residences for themselves on their ancestral land under the 'small-house policy', but rather permissions by a major New Territories developer for rebuilding of previous structures. Were this not the case, Xinhua, clearly not an indigenous villager, would not have a right to apply.
If this is so, let them build their two houses in Pak Sha O in conformity with traditional Hakka village architecture - a ground floor and cockloft under a pitched, tiled roof, and on the footprint of the original structures, in conformity with current sewerage and other regulations. Let there be no deals whereby government land is exchanged to make the redevelopment feasible, or any private-public deals for land exchange or provision of government land to facilitate the development by a private grant of more land, for example, no grants for balconies, terraces, or even septic tanks. And under no circumstances should the developer be allowed to build roads in the Pak Sha O valley to facilitate construction.
The failure to enforce environmental and other provisions is all part of the laxity with which the discredited small-house policy has been used and abused. The time has now come to enforce the law in the New Territories, not just on illegal extensions but some of the doubtful grants which lead to a lack of environmental safeguards and protection and have resulted in the proliferation of village slums which blight the landscape.
A critical component of Hong Kong's competitive advantage over its neighbours is the beauty of its country parks. They must be protected for the benefit of ordinary Hong Kong people - now and into the future.
Debbie Cheung, Mid-Levels
Civility can help end belligerence
The centuries-old worldwide Chinese diaspora has resulted in quite a large percentage of the Philippine population having Chinese blood. My maternal great-grandfather was an immigrant who had fled famine in China.
Philip Bowring's analysis of the present dispute between Manila and Beijing over certain shoals in the South China Sea (which Filipinos call the West Philippine Sea) clarifies the issue superbly ('Beware undertow of race relations,' May 20). A small country confronted by its large neighbor's arbitrary marking of sea boundaries can only consider it bullying.
The Filipino businessman in Manila who called China the 'biological father' of the Filipino-Chinese community, with the Philippines being the 'foster father', stated the obvious. Indeed, the situation calls for fairness and civility to end the belligerence from both sides.
Isabel Escoda, Lantau
Worst-crisis drill would be pointless
Leung Ka-kit raises an interesting issue - worst-case disaster scenarios and the possible complete evacuation of Hong Kong ('Worst-case scenario drill is needed', May 21).
The first question on evacuation would be: where to? The only option is the mainland, as evacuation by air is impractical (it would require thousands of flights to evacuate everyone), nor would there be enough vessels to get all citizens out by sea.
Crossing the border to the mainland for all of Hong Kong's residents would take days at best, with limited road/rail capacity.
Our police force could not handle a large-scale evacuation and the inevitable rioting.
If the Daya Bay nuclear plant went into meltdown, either not much would happen, or it would explode and with the radiation fallout there would be few, if any, survivors. Those that did survive would have nowhere to go as contamination on the mainland would be even worse. Similarly, with a large earthquake, given our tall buildings, the death toll would be staggering.
The point I am trying to make is that preparation for a true worst-case scenario is quite senseless. But preparation [such as the Daya Bay drill in April] for a less serious emergency makes sense, because something can actually be done.
Wouter van Marle, Tai Po
Agents should be punished
I accept that those agents for mainland mothers wanting to give birth in Hong Kong who break the law should be punished.
It has been a problem with mainland mothers attempting to get into a hospital at the last moment to give birth in Hong Kong. Agencies have been helping the women cross the border without a hospital booking.
I realise that the influx of mainland mothers has led to an improper distribution of resources and deprived some local mothers of their facilities to which they should be entitled.
It has led to tensions between mainlanders and Hongkongers.
However, despite the problems that exist, the setting of a quota of 'zero' births [in private hospitals] by mainland women [not married to Hongkongers] is too harsh. It will worsen relations between Hong Kong and mainland people.
These mainland women do bring some benefits. Hong Kong has an ageing population.
If some of these young people grow up here they will hopefully have a sense of belonging.
They can be educated, join the workforce and make an important contribution to the city.
The government should take practical steps to deal with the problem, but it should not introduce policies which lead to even greater resentment.
Lau Wai-hin, Tsuen Wan
Private hospital has lost its way
I recently fell ill and visited a well-known private hospital for treatment.
The whole process, from registration to walking out of the door after treatment, took less than 10 minutes.
I was impressed by the efficiency. The cost was not cheap and given that the consultation was so quick, in terms of labour costs the profit margin for the hospital would have been quite high.
It almost felt like a fast-food form of medical treatment. I don't think a time and motion expert could improve the efficiency of the whole process.
I am sure that is necessary. It has to operate in a city of seven million citizens and millions of visitors, some of whom will require treatment.
But some of these private hospitals seem to have lost sight of their original objectives. Some date back more than 100 years and it would be interesting to look at the founding charter of the hospital I visited.
What were those principles - to save lives, to serve people? Perhaps there was also a religious message. I doubt if any of its tenets included the aim of earning billions every year.
It might be time for the board of directors to rethink the hospital's objectives and consider its original aims.
Inde Au, Sheung Wan
Restaurant at Shek O beach did not close
I refer to the letter from Dan Parr, ('Closing eateries was pointless', May 13). He wondered why the government felt it necessary to shut down popular beach-side restaurants at Shek O and South Bay.
As the proprietor of the establishment at Shek O Main Beach that Mr Parr refers to, I can confirm that the Leisure and Cultural Services Department did not close the former Club Paradiso.
I am sorry that there was an interruption in business, but with a new lease, there were improvements to be made. With new vision and design and after a period of construction works, we have reopened and renamed the beach bar/restaurant Zanzibar. We are a small business and have worked with the department to offer a new and improved product to 'expats, tourists and locals alike'. This is certainly not a case of what Mr Parr termed 'petty bureaucracy'.
Zanzibar has been open since December with a full licence and restaurant, and offers the 'great al fresco dining experience' he talked of.
As far as I know the South Bay beach kiosk is under renovation, with the government finally adding toilets to the site.
Daniel Marinov, Shek O