talk back

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 12:00am

Q Is enough being done to police country parks?

The recent spate of robberies in Hong Kong's country parks comes as absolutely no surprise, as the combined efforts of the police, Water Services Department and country parks officers have proved incapable of catching people poaching fish from Tai Lam Chung reservoir.

Gangs of poachers, some using inflatable boats, are easily visible from part 10 of the MacLehose Trail, which follows the north shore of the reservoir. They invariably leave mounds of rubbish as well as discarded fishing nets, which pose a real danger to wildlife. The gangs have been operating for at least three years to my knowledge.

I know that some of them arrive in cars and vans, so assume they are Hong Kong residents; however, those operating further along the trail, may well be illegal immigrants. But as I walk alone, I have felt it prudent never to inquire.

I informed both the country parks officers and the Water Services Department of the fishing activity two years ago, but, despite the promise to increase park ranger patrols, I have never seen anyone patrolling this part of the MacLehose (and I walk there at least once or twice a week). Surely it is not beyond the combined capacity of the various authorities to run mountain bike patrols - this part of the trail is nearly all flat - to curb such illegal activity once and for all?

Name and Address supplied

Q Should HK have a court devoted to environmental issues?

The creation of an environmental court would not only enhance Hong Kong's international image, but would allow better and fairer judgments on environmental issues related to the territory.

The implementation of environmental and land planning laws will be more efficient with a powerful enforcement from such a court. Also, universities would be able to make use of such changes to assign new subjects so as to nurture students who are interested in working in this field.

Cathy Tse Yuk-lin, Tsuen Wan

This is a great idea since the tribunal would be a specialised place to treat cases involving environmental issues. It is likely it would effectively and efficiently settle land disputes. But should we consider the budget deficit when thinking about this issue? Establishing the tribunal would involve costs such as the retraining of judges on environmental knowledge. The running of the court would also become a recurrent expenditure. There are other ways of resolving disputes.

The Environmental Protection Department, for instance, could be reformed into a multi-function department, independent and reporting directly to the chief executive.

It would be financially supported by the government in the same way as the Equal Opportunities Commission. Any construction projects could be passed to the organisation for environmental assessment.

The most important thing is to enhance communication over environmental issues and try to reach a compromise among those involved.

Cindy Cheung Wing-yin, Ngau Tau Kok

Q Should the Ombudsman be given more power?

In December, I complained to the ombudsman's office that the Transport Department had been negligent in regulating the noise from televisions on buses. I was advised by the office's investigation officer that since my correspondence with the Transport Department had been through the Transport Complaints Unit, someone from this department should look into the issue, and not someone from the Transport Department. Reluctantly, I agreed and sent my complaint to the complaints unit.

Last month, I received a reply. In it, the investigator said: 'The Ombudsman Ordinance provides that the ombudsman may only investigate any action taken by or on behalf of an organisation set out in Schedule 1 to the ordinance. The TCU is not an organisation included in Schedule 1, and is therefore not subject to the ombudsman's jurisdiction.'

Since the complaints unit is supported by the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau, which is funded by taxpayers' money, why is it that its responsibilities and duties to the public cannot be investigated by the ombudsman's office?

If the Transport Advisory Committee, which is responsible for the complaints unit, continues to condone the Transport Department's negligence over protesting passengers, the power of the ombudsman should be extended to investigate its work.

Catherine Ng, chairwoman of Hush the Bus

On other matters ...

Hong Kong is one of the best organised cities in the world with a world-class banking system. However, when it comes to banking services with respect to credit cards, it is almost impossible for a non-permanent ID cardholder, employed on local terms, to obtain a personal credit card.

I have applied three times (most recently to Standard Chartered) and have been rejected each time. Infuriatingly, no reason is given. What's more, I am not alone. I know several in my situation who have been rejected for cards including my American and German colleagues. I have an exceptional credit history in both Britain and Hong Kong and have always been in credit. I enjoy a good salary with a stable job, own a property in London, and what's more, I have a corporate Hong Kong credit card.

Is there any way banks could review this peculiar anomaly to end this discrimination?

Pierre Papwort, Wan Chai