Hong Kong's weather warning system too rigid
There seems to be too much rigidity in Hong Kong's weather warning system.
Why cannot a tropical cyclone warning be hoisted together with the strong monsoon signal? And why cannot the raising of tropical cyclone warnings start with a higher number than one?
A case in point was Saturday, September 17. When tropical cyclone warning No 1 was hoisted on that day, white horses were already being seen in the harbour, and overhead signboards and roadside barriers were being blown down.
Signs of a strong-wind warning were well warranted, be it the No 3 tropical cyclone warning or the strong monsoon signal. Even though winds strengthened further, to the extent of a beach-goer being swept away by mountainous waves, the tropical cyclone warning was still kept at No 1, with the prospect of the next highest signal, No 3, going up the next day.
Apart from this apparent rigidity, the authorities are too clever by half about the tropical cyclone numbering system for warnings. Obviously pandering to the superstitious public, only numbers 1, 3, 8, 9 and 10 are used. Why cannot we be more scientific about it, with a view to being clearer, and have a scale of 1 to 5, as the US has?
Let's have the executive-led government put its foot down to get rid of such childish nonsense.
PETER LOK, Heng Fa Chuen
Minister too ill to fly
Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok has shown a remarkable lack of personal and professional sense in returning to Hong Kong from Australia after catching influenza ('Health secretary cuts trip short after catching flu', September 19).
On a personal level, it is foolish and potentially dangerous to fly with any respiratory infection. A blocked sinus or ear canal can be extremely painful and potentially damaging. In the worst case, it may require the aircraft to delay its descent from altitude.
At the professional level, I am appalled that Dr Chow even considered flying. Aircraft cabins are notorious for the rapid spread of airborne-transmitted infections and to put at risk the other passengers on the flight is, to say the least, negligent.
As a doctor, he should have known better. Remember the Sars outbreak, Dr Chow?
DAVID CHAPPELL, Lamma
What a waste
Hong Kong prides itself on being Asia's 'world city', but its treatment of rubbish is at third-world level.
On returning from Australia recently, my nose was assailed by the stink of rubbish awaiting collection in the early morning, and my eyes by the appalling pollution.
Sorting of waste is standard in the developed world, but the only sorting practised in this 'world city' is done by poverty-stricken old ladies, who are forced to retrieve aluminium cans from rubbish so they can afford a bowl of rice, and indigent mainlanders who scavenge. So far the government has dealt with our refuse only by burial, but now, thanks to a total lack of planning or effective action, the landfill will shortly run out.
The solution? The government wants to make the already dire pollution problems even worse by burning refuse. The incinerator will no doubt enhance our city's image, for it will be one of the biggest in the world. Perhaps it can become a tourist icon to rank with the Sydney Opera House?
Any city of world ranking would recognise that the millions of plastic bottles and bags buried in landfill form a valuable resource that could be reprocessed into plastic pipes and furniture. The 40 per cent of waste that is food could be separated out and transformed from putrid masses of stinking organic matter in our landfills (which produce global-warming methane) into valuable compost to meet the fertiliser needs of our vast neighbour.
In fact, the cynic might believe that the government thinks the present egregious consumption of plastic bags is to be encouraged. Can someone in the government stand up and act on this scandal - and do something for those desperately poor old ladies who, to the eternal shame of this city, toil through the rubbish bins as the Mercedes glides by?
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED
If we are to judge sexual orientations by their effect on society, there is a good case to be made against heterosexual men ('Opposing gays', September 17).
Throughout history, they have been the main initiators and perpetrators of wars, genocide, crime, rape, suppression and discrimination. Whereas under homosexual men, there is an over-representation of artists, writers, philosophers and scientists. An increasing number of industries worldwide are discovering that homosexuals are educated, successful and high-income earners.
Even in Singapore, the government realises that a more tolerant regime towards homosexuals is necessary to make the city more vibrant, creative and artistic. The discussion about the 'viability' of a homosexual lifestyle is futile and embarrassing, and makes as little sense as discussing the merits and disadvantages of heterosexuality.
JOSEPHINE BERSEE, Mid-Levels
The new taxpayers
To decide if Hong Kong is to adopt a sales tax is not as easy as resolving to import a proven workable model. There are reasons for Hong Kong to maintain its current tax structure, despite it being the main cause of the budget deficit last time.
Selling land has always been the main source of income for the government. It has even created surpluses. Property owners may have prepaid their life-long taxes when they bought the flats that created those surpluses. Double-taxing property owners, if a sales tax is introduced, may not seem fair.
There is an inherent reluctance by the government to discontinue depending on revenue from property. Such revenue has always been assured, with land and immigration policies in support of it. A sales tax is just not as reliable. Without a soul-searching process, Hong Kong will continue on its historical path, filling harbours and halving hills to create land for property occupants, of whom mainlanders are the new taxpayers.
JOHN YUAN, Dalian
I refer to the article 'Keep the spirit alive' (September 9) by Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping, where he compares the recent Hungry Ghost Festival to the Christian Eucharist.
Some might dismiss his stories of spirits returning from another dimension. But spirituality is a vital part of a rational person's life, and too important to leave to mystics - eastern or western. Indeed, there is no scientific proof of a spiritual world separate from this Earth, and advocates of this idea subjugate common sense to primitive ideas of faith. Instead, the individual spirit can be found by simple introspection as part of human consciousness. From it comes human happiness, and it is what drives individuals to strive for their best. It must be nourished by great art and pride in achievement, not self-sacrifice to a mystical being that does not exist.
Today the greatest spirituality is possible in a secular society, where the human spirit is left free to soar unencumbered by the demands of church and state. Spirituality based on faith is bootleg at best and ultimately leaves men unfulfilled. In the careless hands of some in the Middle East, bootleg spirituality can be destructive to life on Earth.
SIMON PATKIN, Causeway Bay
Cuba's help refused
Immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit the US, Cuba offered to send 1,500 doctors and 36 tonnes of medical supplies to cope with the relief effort.
Cuba has a wealth of experience, as hurricanes often strike with little or no loss of life. Unfortunately, the US government rejected this offer, condemning many residents of New Orleans to disease and possibly death. There seems to be no explanation for this, other than that Cuba is a socialist country and must not be allowed to set a good example. In Cuba, the army is used before a hurricane hits. Unarmed, soldiers help with evacuation. In America, the army, fresh from killing civilians in Iraq, was sent in after the event with orders to 'shoot to kill'.
JACK MUIR, Lamma