Q Should littering fines take into account the offender's ability to pay?
I totally agree that penalties for littering should be the same for everyone. The only trouble is that a fixed fine can never achieve this. For some people, this fine is pocket money and for others it's a major part of their salary.
If you also take into account people who cannot afford to pay, and get double-fined and even jailed, how can you possibly say that people get the same penalty?
In my home country, it's common that you give fines as a certain per cent of a person's income. I think that the fine of $1,500 should be a maximum that should not exceed a certain per cent of a person's income. An application for reduction could be attached to the fine ticket and then tried based on the person's income. People should be stopped from littering, but to send someone to jail for throwing a cigarette butt is insane.
Gunilla Bengtsson, Sai Kung
Q What should be done to protect animals from unscrupulous pet shops?
While Hong Kong Dog Rescue would be delighted to see a total ban on pet shops selling puppies, or at least stricter controls on the condition and age of these poor animals, the pet shops aren't the only ones to blame for the many deaths from parvovirus and distemper.
Many of the puppies come from puppy-breeding farms in the New Territories or the mainland where the hapless bitches are forced to produce (weak) litters constantly. The pups are then taken from their mothers at far too young an age, making them vulnerable to any viral or bacterial infection that may be lurking. If these puppy farms were properly licensed and controlled, and a minimum age limit set for puppies to be removed from their mothers, the pups would at least have a better chance of resisting infection.
But even with the best of care and the strictest of controls, unless the buyers themselves understand about vaccinations and infections, there will still be many puppies that die.
People buy small puppies because they're cute, and without any idea whatsoever about caring for the animal. Tiny pups are taken out and exposed to infectious diseases without having had sufficient, if any, vaccinations. They are also fed an inappropriate diet of rice and often kept in cages which they have no choice but to use as a sleeping, eating and toilet area. Many dog owners go to work every day and leave the dog in a cage for up to 10 hours at a time. Puppies, like children, need to play as part of their development.
Until the public is educated about proper animal care, puppies will continue to die even if the pet shops comply with stricter controls.
Sally Andersen, Hong Kong Dog Rescue
On other matters...
I refer to your reader's comment recently about Billy Lam's discussion on the flat-for-flat compensation issue at Legco's panel on planning, lands and works. When Mr Lam said that few residents were interested in a flat-for-flat option, he was merely mentioning this by way of factual background information for the panel. Our predecessor, the Land Development Corporation, tried this option in a Mongkok redevelopment project but disappointingly found that only one owner took up the option eventually.
That is, of course, history and we should always think in present and future terms. The Urban Renewal Authority has not closed its mind to this option as an objective for the longer term. It is just a matter of matching our limited resources with available options realistically.
For the moment, the land and housing stock required of a flat-for-flat option for all projects are not within our means. The current, all-cash compensation policy has worked well in the past three years. Owners like it because they are free to do whatever they wish with the cash. Many of them, particularly those who are elderly and less affluent, would prefer to keep some of the cash in savings while buying a not-so-expensive replacement flat in the same or other district.
We are sensitive to the needs of the individuals affected by our projects. Our frontline staff and specially appointed social service teams have always made it a priority to help the owners find a replacement flat by collecting for them the market information and accompanying them to viewings of flats.
Please be assured that we do keep an open mind and would always welcome practical suggestions to improve our policy and procedures.
Eddie So, Urban Renewal Authority
Your reader Wayne Chu in the Talkback column (November 18) claimed to have been tailgated and intimidated into speeding by unmarked police vehicles driven by plainclothes officers while driving from Admiralty to Causeway Bay in the afternoon of November 13.
Our record shows that uniformed police officers in an unmarked police vehicle took traffic-enforcement actions on Island Eastern Corridor in the afternoon of November 13.
It is our policy not to comment on individual cases. However, I would like to point out that the employment of unmarked police cars on traffic-related enforcement duties is an established policy both locally and in some overseas countries. In the Hong Kong Police, these cars are all equipped with video systems to record speeds of vehicles and all actions on the road, and are only manned by uniformed traffic police officers. The police will not use tailgating and entrapment tactics in enforcing speed limits.
I hope the above will ease other readers' worries over the 'entrapment claim'.
Ma Wai-luk, Chief Superintendent, Hong Kong Police