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Letters

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 June, 2012, 12:00am
 

All citizens should be seen as equal

I refer to the proposals put forward by Development Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor ('End small-house policy, says Lam', June 14).

I appreciate her idea as long as the policy is properly implemented to ensure a smooth transition, given that officials will have to deal with a flurry of complaints form indigenous villagers.

The fact is that we can no longer really distinguish between indigenous and other citizens.

So many different groups of people migrated here at varying times.

It is unfair in this day and age for a baby born in an urban area of Hong Kong to not have the right to a small house, but a baby born on the same day in a village, and who is regarded as indigenous, gets that right.

All Hongkongers should have the same rights. Also, when the British colonial government introduced this policy the aim was for it to be short-or medium-term. The intention was that at some point it would be wound up.

Villagers complain about this and say it is unjust because they have vested interests.

The small-house policy has been distorted and is now mostly about making profits. Limiting the purpose of the small-house policy might be one option.

The cancellation of the small-house policy is in the public interest and I believe it will lead to greater social harmony, at least in urban areas of Hong Kong.

Jack Tam, Sham Tseng

Blatant abuse of village house policy

I refer to the report. ('End small-house policy, says Lam', June 14). Development Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor deserves credit for wanting to get to grips with this long-standing thorny issue.

This matter has been allowed to fester for far too long, and officials have appeared weak-kneed in the face of the belligerent rural chiefs of the Heung Yee Kuk.

The 76-year old indigenous villager's comments that 'we have lived in the village for countless generations' and 'people want to live near their parents in the same village' ('Lam 'asking for fight on small houses'', June 15), indicate a traditional custom, but not a legal right. The small-house policy was introduced in 1972 as an administrative accommodation to cater to social tradition. However, the actual situation in the New Territiories villages shows that this tradition of 'families living closely together' is no longer a given, and this policy has been blatantly abused.

Many small houses have been sold or rented to outsiders including expatriates. Many of the sons claiming their so-called 'right' live not just outside the New Territories but overseas. and many of these 'rights' are sold on directly to non-indigenous developers.

This privilege is now not about traditional customs but about the opportunity to make vast amounts of money on assets that have not been purchased. The policy should be implemented strictly to address indigenous housing needs.

If a villager sells or rents the property to a non-indigenous party the profits should go to the public purse. And if a villager sells on his 'right' or his property then his bloodline should no longer hold any entitlement to a small house as the villager has shown he no longer wishes to maintain his close connection to his native village.

The government must address the fundamental housing issue and not be intimidated by the New Territories money politics that the Heung Yee Kuk is so adept at playing.

P. C. Law, Quarry Bay

Protection from Basic Law a myth

The so-called small-house policy is a complete misnomer.

When 80 per cent of our private housing stock and close to 100 per cent of our public housing stock is below 750 sq ft in area, it puts the indigenous expectation of 2,100 sq ft per household in startling perspective. According to Rating and Valuation statistics only some 2 per cent of our private housing stock exceeds 1,700 sq ft in area.

Why should an indigenous male expect as of right 2,100 sq ft for his family when the vast majority of Hong Kong people exist in something less than one third of that area. Let us call it for what it is - a 'big house' policy.

The indigenous claims that the 'big house' policy is enshrined in the Basic Law hardly stands scrutiny.

It was an administrative policy which could be removed if thought necessary when instituted in 1972, and remains as such today.

The handover did not transmogrify the policy into law, and the provisions remain as subject to removal as they were prior to the handover.

We do not need to wait until 2029 to cancel the policy.

Clive Noffke, Lantau

More taxis will make roads safer

Currently there are around 18,000 taxis in Hong Kong and the government imposes a cap.

I think that it should seriously reconsider this figure and look into the possibility of allowing more cabs on our streets.

Owning a taxi in Hong Kong can cost as much as an apartment in the city and a lot of drivers now have to rent them on a daily basis.

If there was an increase in the number of taxis available, it might be easier for people to own a vehicle and driving standards would improve. If it is your vehicle you are likely to be a less aggressive driver as you always take greater care if it is your own property. You would then be less likely to see cabbies braking hard, accelerating as you approach the lights even when they are turning red, and cutting aggressively in between lanes.

For these taxi drivers it will be like a workman who has his own set of tools. And instead of paying the taxi firm a chunk of their fare income in rent, they will be able to keep. This will reduce the number of casual cabbies who do not qualify for a taxi drivers' licence and who give the industry a bad name.

I also think that taxi drivers should be tested very three years if they want to renew their licence. This can help deter aggressive driving.

Mike Lee, Quarry Bay

MPF needs inflation protection

If the government wants to see the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) scheme work effectively for people who have retired without creating additional stress for them, changes are needed.

It should allow for direct investment in an inflation-linked government bond without fee providers.

In today's financial climate equity markets now resemble casinos and the bond markets face a bubble.

This has led me to the belief that, at some point, if we don't create a safer retirement scheme, the wealth created by the MPF scheme will diminish for some people.

There is no promoting investing in equity markets given the pattern of investment over the last 10 years which has been characterised by greed.

It is important to recognise that many Hongkongers are depending on the MPF to work for them.

If individuals' MPF accounts cannot beat or at least match the inflation rate then the savings of these people will be worth less in real terms.

Given the cost of medical care, housing, education and food, people who are working but facing real hardship should exempt from MPF payments.

The government must give the MPF the real support that it needs. It must guarantee a minimum return and protect it from the effects of inflation.

Rishi Teckchandani, Mid-Levels

Lam acted like judge and jury

What a circus we have with the west wing development.

Every day seems to bring fresh evidence of the muddle and compromise on how this project has been handled, since it was first tabled in 2009.

It seems bizarre that the Development Bureau did not ask the Antiquities Advisory Board for an opinion, both on the building and also its merit as part of the entirety of Government Hill.

The board is of course part of the bureau structure.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has once again played judge and jury on heritage decisions - so what is the point of the board?

Let us hope the new administration might do things more professionally and also begin to consider heritage sites more holistically as in the case of Government Hill or, for example, when it comes to street-scapes in the likes of Wan Chai and Sheung Wan.

In the meantime, Hong Kong's heritage continues to be bulldozed away in the absence of any long-term conservation planning from the government.

Harry Reid, Mid-Levels

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