PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 December, 2006, 12:00am

Q What should be done to improve food safety?

The recent food scare and the mainland's unilateral suspension of fish imports - apparently a retaliatory gesture from those to our north - illustrate all too clearly the risk that Hong Kong is subjected to when we become overly reliant on the mainland.

Instead of allowing ourselves to be held hostage to their blackmail, the government and the local fish vending industry should seek alternative food imports.

It should also be made mandatory for vendors to state clearly the origins of their food produce so that even when the monitoring system fails, we as consumers are still able to make a choice.

Joyce Siu, Tsing Yi

Hong Kong's marine fishery base line has shifted dramatically since the 1960s. It was once said that more than 70 per cent of seafood consumed by the local market was caught and supplied by the local industry.

From yesterday's Post article, prawns, crabs and shellfish now make up a staggering 50 per cent of seafood imported into Hong Kong, and we have not included fish yet.

The choice is yours: either a crab that was born and lived its life cycle in Sai Kung waters, or a crab that has been fed drugs, lived its life in polluted ponds, was shipped across the mainland under suspicious conditions and stamped 'eat at risk' by the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau.

Hong Kong's fishery resources are the common property of all, and many of us expect fresh and uncontaminated seafood in our markets every morning.

I suggest the territory's fishermen and suppliers start adapting to market demands and look at becoming more self-sufficient.

I strongly urge that we all support WWF's Save Our Seas campaign before 100 per cent of our fish are imported. The WWF website has further details.

Charles Frew, Sai Kung

Q How can Hong Kong better protect its heritage?

I grew up in Hong Kong. I have many fond memories of crossing the harbour, which was rather larger when I was young, in a Star Ferry. I was dismayed to discover on my recent holiday to Hong Kong that the Central Star Ferry pier, including the clock tower, were to be demolished.

This is lamentable news. Hong Kong has precious few remaining heritage buildings; the old Supreme Court (now Legco building), the Governor's House, the Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower.

I understand the need for renewal and redevelopment and economic growth. But what price is Hong Kong willing to pay for the irreparable loss of its history, character and heritage? One cannot place a dollar value on such historic buildings and what they represent. They are Hong Kong's history. Heritage must not be sacrificed lightly in the name of profit or progress.

Indeed, it is debatable whether such sacrifice can be called progress. What is one to make of a society that so readily, recklessly, discards its past? Where will it all end, I wonder? Is anything 'sacred' in Hong Kong? What a shame.

Dr Gee Yen Shin, London

Q Should trains have women-only compartments?

I am so sorry for women who are being groped by nauseating individuals on trains. But I cannot help but declare that women are not the only victims.

Has anyone ever thought that many of the reported or unreported sexual harassments were not intentional. My friend, very unfortunately, was once accused by a shrew of trying to grope her when the MTR train was rocking during peak hour.

She was yelling, and it was absolutely the most embarrassing moment we ever had. My friend had unintentionally touched her skin. He experienced the most unreasonable accusation and derogatory condemnation.

Although he apologised over a hundred times, that shrew still insulted him as an obscene scoundrel. My friend was a top student in school, both academically and in conduct; however, this would, needless to say, be a blot on his life. Is that fair? I urge the department concerned to introduce women-only compartments. At least, after that, a lot fewer innocent men would be accused.

Roy Hui, Siu Sai Wan

Q How can people be encouraged to have more children?

Couples who want to have a child should be aware that some of their freedoms will be curbed. Time is the most important factor for consideration. If they have no time to share with a child, due to heavy workloads, it is not a good idea to leave the child in the hands of an unhealthy relative or perhaps a maid. If this person is gone at any time, the poor child would probably find it difficult to adjust to a set of unfamiliar parents. Conflicts may arise and instead of being a good source of unity in a marriage, a break-up follows.

Young couples are wise to delay starting a family until more security is found, financial and emotional. This will ensure a happy family environment for all.

Some couples also prefer to adopt a child. An adopted child always has more love and care from new-found parents. With the influx of mainland women leaving their babies behind after giving birth in Hong Kong, how are these babies cared for? Are they put in adoption homes? If they are, then they stand a better chance of a good life with loving parents, here or elsewhere.

Until the pace of everyday living eases for young couples, I don't think they should be encouraged to have a child. Let them enjoy some relaxation and time with each other first.

P. Souza, Tai Po

Q Is it fair to charge mainlanders more for maternity services?

With more mainland mothers flocking to Hong Kong to give birth, charging them more is justified. Public hospitals are set up to serve locals. However, we read that a group of pregnant women have taken to the streets recently to demand beds in hospitals as mainland mothers have taken most places. At Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital, for example, 80 per cent of mothers giving birth are mainlanders. Some local mothers are then forced to take beds next to the toilets. It seems that the hospitals give priority to mainland mothers rather than local ones. Where does the taxpayers' money go?

Charging more does not mean exploiting mainland mothers, but protecting locals. Mainland mothers giving birth here require more complicated procedures and more services than locals. Of course, the fee should be higher. With the recruitment of mainland midwives in response to the rash of mainlanders, more resources are allocated to mainland mothers. Charges should be raised accordingly.

There may be a deterrent effect on the influx of the mainlanders as charges go up. This will help ease the lack of beds. Local mothers may then be guaranteed to receive maternity service.

I hope the hospitals can prioritise who they are supposed to serve first: the cross-border mothers or the local ones?

Novia Fong, Western

Q Should the government extend the voucher system to all kindergartens?

The government should extend it to all kindergartens because it's only fair to the parents. However, I support this stance only if details of schools' expenses are disclosed. The aim of the voucher scheme is to relieve the heavy burden on parents. When parents decide on a private kindergarten, it's because these schools put extra resources into education. It's just the same as parents picking an international school for youngsters.

Nonetheless, the government has no supervision of these schools. It is reasonable for the government to reject the extension unless it knows the schools' operations.

Priscilla Wong, Chai Wan

On other matters ...

Isabel Escoda's comments on the prosecution of Filipino maid Preslyn-saga Catacutan and the court's finding against her are extraordinary and irresponsible. She appears unconcerned that the maid both stole property from her employer and also committed a serious breach of trust.

The nature of the items stolen is immaterial; the fact is the maid committed a theft. Ms Escoda's comments about pop star Jacky Cheung Hok-yau's arrival at court are also beneath contempt. Cheung may be a public figure but that does not excuse an invasion of his personal privacy by an employee or a personal attack by an observer who appears not only to have an axe to grind but a very tenuous grasp of the law.

Norman Wingrove, Discovery Bay