PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2012, 12:00am


Ageism still exists in HK workplace

I refer to the report ('Population ageing faster, panel says', May 31) and how it will likely affect Hong Kong's productivity.

Recently, I have been applying for teaching posts all over Hong Kong. Of the total number of applications sent out, fewer than 5 per cent resulted in interviews. Six years ago, when I sought a new post, my interview rate was close to 40per cent.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that I have now passed my 50th birthday. Hong Kong companies and organisations have long practised discrimination against older workers. The ageism seems perfectly suited for Hong Kong, where young equals cheaper and more easily malleable.

In Western societies, workers with experience are highly valued. In a few years, I am required to retire at the age of 60, despite the fact that I am fit, healthy, willing to work and contribute, and also pay taxes.

Why is it that in the West, countries are now raising the retirement age, while Hong Kong has not even acknowledged this fact? Why does the government allow a 67-year-old bureaucrat to continue to head the Education Bureau while forcing its most experienced and capable teachers to resign so early?

Our chief executive-elect should look into this situation if he wants to turn Hong Kong into a 'world-class' city.

Wong Wai-chee, Tai Wai

Ash from incinerator is hazardous

I refer to the letter by Wolfgang Ehmann ('Residual waste cannot be eliminated', May 23). Since 2007, through these columns, your correspondent has promoted the use of incineration.

In a submission to a Legco panel in March, Mr Ehmann, on behalf of the German Chamber of Commerce, said: 'In 2007 our office led a delegation of senior [Environmental Protection Department] staff and stakeholders to Germany to attend the Waste to Energy Trade Fair and visit waste to energy plants in Hamburg and Frankfurt.' So he is doing his job to promote German incineration technology and point out the lack of local legislation to mandate recycling.

Germany, thanks to at-source recycling legislation, has a 70per cent recycling rate, so it now imports waste from around the world to keep its incinerators operational.

What he and the outgoing environment minister sidestep is that incineration thermally converts waste and leaves 23 per cent bottom ash and 6 per cent fly ash by weight, which are hazardous waste, with no landfills left here to take the ash. That means building mega islands to receive the ash.

Last month, a company called Solena Fuels was in town. It uses plasma gasification of waste to produce biofuel for jets and boats, bio-naphtha and biodiesel. Its partners are 15 world airlines and Maersk. There are no ash or emissions from a plasma plant, just a molten slag that can be used as road aggregate.

Incineration and its airborne/soil pollutants have long been associated with dioxins.

The only incinerator of the size proposed here is in Detroit, Michigan, in the US. According to one report, it has cost the city an estimated US$1.2 billion, and has caused increased pollution levels. It says that 'asthma death rates in Detroit are two times that for the state'.

Meanwhile the Environmental Protection Department did not mention in a recent environmental impact assessment that three incinerators are planned in Shenzhen from 2015 (burning 6,300 tonnes of waste a day), with predominant northery winds blowing into Hong Kong.

James Middleton, chairman, Clear the Air

Reforms in Nepal long overdue

I am concerned about recent news reports on political developments in Nepal.

The country's prime minister, Baburam Bhattarai, did the right thing when he announced fresh general elections for the constituent assembly.

He had no option following a supreme court ruling blocking a further extension of the assembly.

He has been obstructed in the parliament, in particular, by the opposition Nepali Congress and United Marxist-Leninist parties.

It is clear to me that these parties are not genuinely democratic.

They reject popular voting methods, fearing their chosen agendas will be defeated.

The main concern is related to the issue of ethnic-based autonomy, an integral part of Nepalese history.

The indigenous people of Nepal have been left behind and given no opportunity to participate in the nation's politics. Nor do they have any role or influence in the bureaucracy and government.

They remain disadvantaged socially and economically.

Some form of ethnic-based autonomy will give these people a better opportunity to participate in local rather than central government.

In a psychological sense, it will give them a sense of belonging as citizens of Nepal and this is an important part of the process of nation building.

Tanka Chungbang, Tsuen Wan

Scavengers need our compassion

In April, a group of students from a school in Kowloon tried to live like those Hongkongers who have to scavenge for discarded material and refuse (for recycling) in order to earn a living, and they found it very difficult.

They failed to earn much from their efforts and came to appreciate the hardships these scavengers face.

These people have to walk long distances every day, collecting and then selling scrap cardboard and cans.

They go through bins and ask for material that can be recycled at supermarkets, wet markets and shops.

Many of them are elderly. While I admire their perseverance, it upsets me to think about the hardships they face in their daily lives.

It is up to parents to ensure that their children show respect and compassion for such people. Looking down on them and being judgmental is a form of discrimination.

Wiva Wei, Tsuen Wan

Cash offer for donors' families

When you read moving stories about families donating a relative's organs, you have to appreciate they are in the minority.

They have a negligible effect on changing the mindset of so many people who will not consider donating their organs.

Many individuals are still influenced by pseudo-religious beliefs that prevent them from being willing to donate their organs after their death. This reluctance also extends to some religious leaders and rich philanthropists.

Over the years, through these columns, I have expressed support for free organ donations, but having looked at the level of resistance in society, I have changed my mind. The government needs to take a radical initiative and start a fund to which religious groups and philanthropists will donate funds.

Money from this fund will be paid, as an expression of goodwill, to families that have donated the organs of deceased relatives. Families can always refuse the money, which would be ploughed back into the fund. In effect, they would be making a double donation.

Drastic action is needed to ensure more organs can be harvested for transplants.

Nalini Daswani, Tsim Sha Tsui

Long wait on Marco Polo hotline

I would like to express my great dissatisfaction with Cathay Pacific's Marco Polo hotline.

Has the call centre been transferred to the Philippines? That would appear to be the case, as loyal Marco Polo members are being forced to deal with extremely inexperienced agents who take at least three times the normal length of time to conduct a transaction.

That is presuming the agent even understands what the passenger is talking about in the first place. Even travel agents are complaining about the difficulty of, firstly, getting through to an agent and, assuming you are lucky enough to do so in under half an hour, completing a transaction in less than another half hour.

I am not decrying the fact that the agents are Filipino, just that they are new and not conversant with the Marco Polo system of awards and upgrades, thus causing a backlog that keeps customers on hold for very long periods.

On Tuesday, it took me 30 minutes to check the availability of a seat for upgrade and 30 minutes to book a seat. Calling Marco Polo again to confirm my upgrade and complete the transaction took 40 minutes.

Calling Air New Zealand and booking a cheaper seat for the same route took three minutes.

Bina G. Nihalani, Mid-Levels