PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 July, 2004, 12:00am

Q Should the super-jail project be scaled down?

The Citizens Party objects to the project in regard to the process of site selection and the choice of Hei Ling Chau itself.

We are not disagreeing that there may be a need for a new prison. However, according to the government plan, the proposed new prison will not be available until 2012.

It is clear that such a large and long-term project requires more in-depth analysis of its purpose and a thorough search for alternative sites.

Spending $12 billion on such a controversial project can only be legitimate with wide-ranging public participation and consensus-building.

The people of Hong Kong require transparency and inclusive government decision-making processes. The public and residents living near the proposed site must be involved in the entire process.

They should not be left out, to be informed of a decision only after the site has been chosen.

Furthermore, we should not consider Hei Ling Chau simply a 'remote island' and ignore the alternative value it holds.

The resulting bridge link from Mui Wo to Hei Ling Chau would also bring in air, noise and visual pollution to the otherwise tranquil area.

It was the government's plan to conserve south Lantau, including Hei Ling Chau, as an area for leisure, tourism and heritage protection. This vision is already commonly accepted by the public.

Changing Hei Ling Chau into a huge prison would likely incur serious external costs, tarnishing Lantau's tourism.

The government's position that Hei Ling Chau is the only available site in Hong Kong is simply unconvincing and without any evidence.

Alex Chan Kai-chung, chair, Citizens Party

I will soon be leaving Hong Kong, so I believe I can be objective on this issue.

Leave aside the myriad reasons why it is neither desirable nor practical to build a super-prison on this remote island. The government admits 'there was an overriding interest in keeping Kong Nga Po for cross-border economic integration'.

This clearly indicates the Kong Nga Po site (the only other site in the government study) had already been ruled out because of its perceived potential.

In effect, although the respective pros and cons of Hei Ling Chau and Kong Nga Po were evaluated, and Hei Ling Chau was found to be the much weaker option in almost every category, the decision to select it was inevitable.

It was the only other location in the study. Therefore, the selection process was flawed.

Since the public became aware of this plan, a number of concerned individuals and groups have (in their own time) studied the needs of the Correctional Services and Hong Kong society as a whole. They have put forward alternative locations for a super-prison and alternative uses for the Hei Ling Chau area.

The government would be wise to listen to these groups and individuals who genuinely love Hong Kong and are driven by doing things for the public good.

Jim Foster, Lantau

The concept, approach and process for expanding our penal facilities to cope with the increasing prison population has been, to say the least, completely bizarre.

The proposed solution, an island-based super-prison, is clearly erroneous to everyone, except the government proponents. Simply, island prisons do not work - period. If one reviews history, it is clear and proven they are not sustainable solutions.

We are warned that the need is desperate, yet the island solution will take many years longer to implement than smaller, sensible options. Only in Hong Kong would planners ignore the overwhelming majority, who oppose every aspect of this egregious proposal.

Constructing roads, parking spaces, fuel-handling buildings, bridges, piers and the necessary enabling works, including temporary facilities, will destroy the environment without return.

One wonders if the government will, against all opposition, proceed regardless.

If the government is learning by trial and error, it is the public purse that will feel the pinch.

John A.Herbert, Hong Kong Sustainable Development Forum

It has been obvious for some time that the super-prison should be split into smaller units and built on different sites.

The Correctional Services Department admits that 30 per cent of prisoners are illegal immigrants, overstayers and mainland prostitutes.

If overcrowding is an immediate problem then we need a flexible solution - not something that will take 10 years to complete.

The government's Census Branch has reduced its population growth forecast, so there's less need for schools, hospitals and prisons. Is it wise to have $12 billion in taxpayer dollars tied up in assets which may not be needed?

Name and address supplied

Q Should all lifeguards be paid the same?

Lifeguards should not necessarily be paid the same.

It is reasonable to be paid more for working in remote areas like the outlying islands than in urban areas because it takes longer travelling hours and higher transportation costs to get to the workplace. These extra expenses already offset differences in salaries.

When asking for equal pay, have we ever thought about who would want to work in remote areas if a job with similar pay in urban areas was available?

If so, what about the safety of the swimmers in remote areas?

Freda Li, Tseung Kwan O

Q Should we take healthy-eating campaigns more seriously?

Yes, if you eat! In Hong Kong, eating is a major part of our lives and a way to have fun.

However, with too many energy-dense foods and beverages (some of them nutrient-poor) thrust aggressively at us, we must arm ourselves with the best possible knowledge about nutrition to make the best choices.

Then, every bite will contribute positively toward our health, and not the reverse.

Ignoring the campaigns may cause us to add to the rising Hong Kong statistics that indicate obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and osteoporosis are increasing.

Tragically, we don't have to look far to see that these problems, all diet-related, are growing more common among young and old alike.

Thirty years ago we thought about healthy eating in terms of eating enough.

Thanks to other healthy-eating campaigns, we now know that eating healthily actually prevents disease and enhances health.

Georgia Guldan, nutritionist, City University

Q Would an abuse review team save children at risk?

I deeply understand that Hong Kong people are under tremendous pressure.

However, they should never vent their frustrations on an innocent child.

I strongly support the setting up of a child abuse review team to help save the pillar of our future society.

Doing so requires co-operation from people from all walks of life; staff at nursing centres and teachers should pay special attention to young children and see whether they have unusual bruises or wounds.

Parents could consider seeking help from the review team.

Some children suffering abuse may also seek help and protection from the team.

This would save numerous children from terrible circumstances which, if unchanged, might lead to serious physical and mental damage, perhaps even death.

The team could make in-depth investigations. It may also share some of the work with the Social Welfare Department and the police. Moreover, the team could seek help from the police whenever necessary.

Reports by the team could provide information as a reference for social workers and psychiatrists.

Reports could also serve to warn abusive adults and raise awareness of the issue.

An investigation would show an abused child that help is available.

Cheng Ka Chun, Pokfulam

On other matters ...

Surely it is time for the authorities to revisit the criteria for posting topical cyclone warning signals, commonly referred to as typhoon signals?

Yesterday's No8 signal, raised for Tropical Storm Kompasu at 11.45am, was technically correct, given that winds were expected to exceed 63 km/h. In fact, they were forecast to reach 84 km/h.

This is classed as gale force, but it is not a typhoon - nor were typhoon-strength winds anticipated. Why then, does the city have to grind to a halt for a tropical storm?

We don't close offices and shut schools for a strong monsoon signal do we?

Yet they are issued when winds exceed 70 km/h.

The No8 signal triggers an expensive mechanism where Hong Kong closes for business and everyone rushes home to prepare for the bigger winds associated with an approaching typhoon.

It should be preserved for that use, not squandered on what was effectively 'a bit of a wet and windy afternoon'.

Name and address supplied