Not the right person for commission
The appointment of Henry Cheng Kar-shun of New World Development to the Commission on Poverty is inappropriate.
The prime creator of poverty in our community has been the transformation of reasonably priced accommodation close to job opportunities into luxury properties traded as investment vehicles, often left empty and contributing nothing to the local economy.
The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) was established to improve living conditions in dilapidated urban areas.
Instead, it became a vehicle to drive ordinary folk from these districts and provide cheap land for property developers.
One of the developers that gained most from this cosy arrangement was New World. The Masterpiece in Tsim Sha Tsui is the most visible testament to a policy that played a significant role in creating the wealth gap and the widening Gini coefficient, now among the highest in the developed world
Speculative activity at The Merton in Kennedy Town that deprived genuine buyers of their rights to a fair and open market sent an ex-director of the URA to prison.
Then there is the murky case of the Hunghom Peninsula, originally a Home Ownership Scheme project, subsequently sold off to a New World/Sun Hung Kai joint venture at a bargain basement price.
Developers have their eyes on industrial buildings but baulk at the hefty land premiums required to convert them to residential use.
Mr Cheng has come up with the suggestion that 'developers could help solve housing problems by converting disused factory buildings into interim homes for people on the long waiting list for public housing' ('Convert factories into flats for the poor', June 26).
Under this scheme the administration would have an excuse to change zoning and developers could then come in, kick out the tenants, and enjoy more cheap land in districts with a good infrastructure.
It appears that we are embarking on another five years of government/developer collusion under the guise of eradicating poverty and geared to promoting the interests of supporters of the new administration.
Mr Cheng is certainly an expert on the wealth gap, on how to widen rather than eradicate it.
Mary Melville, Tsim Sha Tsui
Grave doubts about calibre of C. Y. Leung
I refer to the letter sent by K. W. Cheng ('Let's be fair over illegal structures', July 6).
Let's get our facts straight. Unauthorised structures are just that, that is, they are in breach of the law.
The issue of illegal structures regarding our chief executive and his ministerial team is of public importance because as government officials, they should be characters of utmost integrity, let alone be law-abiding citizens.
I don't get a say in who should be chief executive, but I expect him to be 'whiter than white' and to be law-abiding.
Even our Basic Law requires the chief executive to be a person of integrity.
After listening to his hypocritical and contrived excuses it is more than doubtful whether Leung Chun-ying fits that description.
Belinda Mahncke, Kowloon Tong
Retirement imposed at 60 is wrong
The underlying issue behind the illegal structures furore is that the same law or rules should apply to all citizens, including those in positions of power.
The forced retirement of civil servants when government ministers (who are also civil servants) can work indefinitely is, to my mind, a similar issue as illegal structures - one rule for them and another for us.
A well-loved, competent, respected government school teacher (of any rank) is forcibly retired at age 60 while government ministers, even those seriously ill, are able to work without an age restriction.
Indeed, some ministers only attain their positions at the age lower-level civil servants are forced into retirement.
I doubt that the annual civil service wage adjustment mechanism takes into account the fact that those in the private sector are not forced out of work, and pocket, at age 60.
There is not as much political mileage in this issue as illegal structures and so, despite all the political posturing, we will continue to have some animals who are more equal than others.
Forced retirement based on age is illegal in many mature democracies and rules which favour leaders over ordinary people are viewed as corrupt.
The forced retirement of civil servants should be deemed an illegal structure.
G. Dykes, Tung Chung
Disappointed by official's reticence
I felt rather disappointed upon hearing the remarks in a radio interview made by our new education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim about his standpoint on the June 4 tragedy.
Like other top officials, he refused to say the Chinese government had done anything wrong. This, along with a string of incidents including a 15-minute custody of a reporter by police when he ventured to ask President Hu Jintao about the Tiananmen crackdown, begs the question: Is freedom of speech being suppressed?
Democracy in Hong Kong is apparently backsliding. With his comments, Mr Ng was not speaking on behalf of the majority. He did not describe the true state of affairs in order to avoid a clash with the Chinese government. It is no wonder that agitated 'some callers to the radio programme' ('Education chief fails his first Tiananmen 'test'', July 5). If Hong Kong citizens have the right to speak freely, why do all officials fear to speak the truth? Does this imply that teachers cannot express their views liberally when it comes to teaching about the cruel, inhumane crackdown?
Democracy is so important. Our society needs freedom and people thinking with liberal minds. Freedom must not be smothered.
If freedom is not protected, Hong Kong will be considered to be just another Chinese city.
James Au Kin-pong, Lai Chi Kok
President Hu could open up roads
In the report 'Delays at border hit car scheme' (June 30), it is mentioned that the ad hoc quota system for Hong Kong cars going to Guangdong is rather messy due to all the paperwork affiliated with it and the long delays.
Only a few people make use of it. I have said before and will say again that it is a great nuisance that we cannot go to the mainland using our own cars.
I believe we keep this dual licence plate system in place just so that some business people can make lots of money by leasing out the licence plates they hold.
You see hundreds of vans with these double plates functioning as a cross-border taxi.
To my knowledge, they are not licensed for this and therefore most likely their passengers are not insured.
It is about time we abolish this system and adopt another like in the rest of the world, where you could just cross borders with your own car.
If we are so afraid about the bad driving methods of mainlanders in Hong Kong or Hong Kong drivers on the mainland, then just don't allow them on the road unless they have passed a rigorous test.
If President Hu Jintao wants to give Hongkongers a present, then this is one I would appreciate. He should allow free access to mainland roads for all Hong Kong cars with drivers who hold a valid China driver's licence.
Jeffry Kuperus, Clear Water Bay
Mobiles can become addictive
The mobile phone has become an important part of people's lives.
However, for some people it seems to have replaced the art of communication.
Instead of chatting with others, for example, on public transport, they just look at the screens of their expensive iPhones.
This advanced technology, if used properly, can benefit people in their private lives and at work.
However, some parents are worried that for their children the smartphone could become addictive.
They will often text friends rather than speaking to them on the phone.
It is up to parents to talk to their children about mobile phones and ensure that they use them responsibly.
They need to understand the importance of self-discipline when it comes to using the phone.
This device is one of the greatest developments in the modern world, but people need to learn not to abuse it and must use it in a sensible manner.
Christine Ip, Tsuen Wan