PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 May, 2004, 12:00am

Q Should the Stubbs Road mansion be declared a monument?

The mansion at 45 Stubbs Road is unique in both architectural and historical terms. How ironic that just when the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) is undertaking public consultation on heritage conservation that this magnificent private building and the public Wan Chai market are both under threat.

The Hong Kong Institute of Planners has told the bureau that its process is too slow and that too many significant places and buildings will be lost while it struggles to develop a policy. How true that is proving.

In November 2001, I presented the Town Planning Board (TPB) with a proposal to give heritage zoning to special private buildings and used 45 Stubbs Road as an example. The intention was to respect private ownership rights but to indicate to all that this building was of community importance and that this judgment must be considered before demolition would be approved.

This was to encourage innovative approaches by the private sector to retain heritage buildings by careful redevelopment or expansion under the approval of the TPB.

Amazingly the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) had no record of this building. It had not been assessed or graded, or considered by the Antiquities and Monuments Board. The TPB therefore felt that as the building was neither a declared monument, nor a graded historical building, it could not rezone it for preservation at that time.

The TPB members recognised the heritage value of the building, and that resources outside the AMO should be used to preserve buildings. They resolved that pressure needed to be put on HAB. When AMO had confirmed the grading of the building the TPB would consider an appropriate preservation zoning.

AMO said it would grade the building by early 2002, but to my knowledge this has never been completed. Consequently the site remains zoned for development.

The 45 Stubbs Road property could easily have been saved while protecting private ownership rights. I think the only way of saving this building now is for it to be purchased by someone who appreciates the building for what it is and retains it. Is there such a person?

HAB must give some urgency to the conclusion of its policy consultation and get out now to the district communities to identify what it thinks are important heritage sites, and quickly. Why has HAB not responded to this on-going correspondence? Is this symptomatic?

Ian Brownlee, Happy Valley

On other matters ...

I refer to your front-page City news item '38 marijuana plants seized from roof of Tai Po house', published on May 5.

The report quoted Cheung Chi-kwong, the head of the Customs and Excise Department's drug investigation group, as saying that the seized plants 'would have produced up to 3kg of dried cannabis which, at $150 a gram, would have been worth at least $400,000 on the street'.

I cannot allow this statement to go unchallenged. My own research reveals that the present market price in Hong Kong of good-quality imported cannabis resin is about $1,000 to $1,200 per ounce ($35 to $42 per gram).

Hydroponically-grown, selectively bred, seedless herbal cannabis (sinsemilla or 'skunk') is locally available for about $3,000 per ounce ($106 per gram). Both of these products are, to the connoisseur, far superior to what is depicted in the photograph that accompanies your report: home-grown 'ditch-weed'.

This information is surely available to Mr Cheung and one can only guess at his reasons for inflating the value of this seizure so drastically.

Two possibilities spring to mind: its effect on the sentence handed down by a court which is naive about such matters and the amount of reward money payable to an informer, based on the official value of the seizure. I will speculate no further than this, but your more worldly readers will grasp the implications of the latter.

One further point: it is stated that possession of cannabis seeds is an offence, but in fact only viable seeds are illegal. Cannabis seed (ma yan/foh ma yan) is available for sale in bulk at most shops selling birdseed and, though supposedly heat-treated, up to 30 per cent of it is in fact viable.

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I wonder if I am the only person in Hong Kong concerned that the handle seems to be disappearing from the toilets in our hotels, offices and now private homes. Admittedly this is not on a par with Hong Kong's disappearing autonomy or its disappearing harbour.

But it's rather disconcerting to find that the simple-to-use and easy-to-clean toilet handle is being replaced with a button device which surely must have been invented by someone who bites their nails, or cuts them down to the quick.

Can someone in the plumbing industry assure me that the toilet handle is not going the way of the dodo, that the two systems will be available for any purchaser who wants a choice?

A.M.Davy-Hou, Wan Chai

Many Hong Kong people show a complete disregard for the importance of intellectual property. The government doesn't allocate sufficient resources to public education in a bid to dissuade people from buying fake goods.

Hong Kong schools do not provide enough civic education to teach students the downsides of buying and using fakes. Therefore, insufficient education is one of the prime reasons for rampant infringement of intellectual property.

Some interviews with customs officials have found there are not enough people to clamp down on fake products and that it is necessary to employ more people to handle the job. Therefore, shouldn't it be a top priority of customs to employ more people to fulfil the duties?

The prevalence of buying fakes discourages foreign investors and tarnishes the international reputation of Hong Kong.

Even worse, the computer software companies, to avoid loss from the infringement of intellectual property, may reduce or stop their investing in software. Apparently, we will be the loser eventually.

The government should raid the shops selling fakes more frequently. The government should step up publicity with a view to educating citizens not to buy fakes. Customs should employ more people to carry out raids.

Ng Hok-Tung, Tsing Yi

With reference to your article 'Shops drop noodles amid health scare' (May 5), it is good for the three major supermarket chains to remove all green bean vermicelli for fear of cancer-causing ingredients.

In my view, detailed and frequent inspections by the government of food imported from the mainland are essential due to the terribly low quality of the products. If not, people with low incomes may be attracted to buy these poisonous products, which in turn ruins their health.

Cathy Tse Yuk-lin, Tsuen Wan

I'm peeved at the loss of an endangered species. Threatened with extinction by a grasping government that canes the petroleum buyer for a much greater figure in tax than the oil companies charge for their basic product, the government has shut down three petrol/diesel filling stations which I visit on the north shore of Hong Kong Island, at Pokfield Road, Kennedy Road and Jardine's Lookout. How many other refuelling points have been shut?

I wouldn't be surprised if other people in different parts of the city have similar stories to tell of the inconvenience of finding that a usual petrol stop is gone.

Is it any wonder, on the rare occasions that I'm challenged at customs, I respond with: 'The only thing I have to declare is that I want to see the overthrow of certain sections of the government'?

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