No buildings are sacred for this government

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 January, 2007, 12:00am

The protest over the demolition of the Star Ferry is one of those rare events in history after which 'things can never be the same again'. It has amused me to see how many of our politicians and parties have so quickly appreciated this and sought to make political capital out of this popular groundswell.

Earlier this year, Christine Loh Kung-wai, Paul Zimmerman, Peter Wong King-keung and I fought against the government's plans for Tamar and the Central Reclamation. We pointed out to our legislators that a direct consequence of moving the government headquarters to Tamar would be the eventual sale and redevelopment of the present Central Government Offices site on Lower Albert Road. Despite this, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen got the support he needed for his new offices at Tamar.

But if those legislators who supported him thought the protest over the Star Ferry was energetic, just wait and see how the community responds when it realises that the Lower Albert Road site will go the same way.

As in the case of Star Ferry, the buildings themselves are undistinguished, but the level of sentimental attachment is high. The site is part of a core area that includes St John's Cathedral, the Court of Final Appeal and the chief executive's residence. It is a green corridor full of old paths, old trees and historic buildings. It should be untouchable. But for this government, nothing is sacred.

In 'Our inheritance through heritage', (December 30) David Tang Wing-cheung decries the lack of culture of our oligarchs. Let me offer another perspective. Throughout history, wealthy and powerful cities have sought to build monuments to posterity. Leading citizens vied to build houses and palaces to outdo each other in beauty and refinement - to show that they were cultured as well as wealthy.

Cities took great pride in their civic and religious buildings, fountains, statues, and other monuments, and spent much time and many resources on them.

Hong Kong is one of the richest cities the world has known. Our oligarchs are some of the wealthiest in the world. What civic buildings can we point to with pride?

Mr Tsang has now got a prime waterfront site for new government buildings. Rather than running an architectural design competition for these important civic buildings, the government is tendering the project on a design and build basis, almost guaranteeing a mediocre outcome.

Are our leading citizens showing any interest in the eventual design? Will our government allow us a real say rather than rush things through with unseemly haste? Will our legislators forget their penny-pinching for a moment and ensure that we end up with buildings which can compare with the best in the world?


HIV/Aids vigilance vital

The letter by Chung To, head of the Chi Heng Foundation, about Aids orphans in central provinces and his urging that the public be vigilant to prevent HIV spreading, should act as a strong signal both to the mainland and Hong Kong governments. Fear of the virus is no excuse to cover up HIV/Aids or be slack about prevention. If HIV/Aids is not contained, thousands of people will die and more children will be orphaned. A high level of transparency will help reduce the impact of HIV/Aids, as more people will be educated about prevention. The prestige of government or top officials is much less important than human lives.

If we fight this pandemic then the photographs of orphans crying for their parents will never appear again.


Back to Earth

With reference to 'Earth science needed to shake us out of our complacency', (December 28), it is important to note that schools are provided with the opportunity to teach this subject at a basic level in Form 2 and at a more advanced level in Form 4 or above under the geography curriculum. If only there were more schools willing to do this.

It is a pity that academics tend to forget the continued existence of this very important subject, which provides students with the broad perspectives needed to embrace the sciences and humanities at the same time.


End marathon shifts

I am a civil servant and once every 10 days I work a 32-hour shift. I'm not a lighthouse keeper or a national park ranger, but a hospital doctor.

There is medical evidence that shows a person starts to show signs of impaired judgment after working continuously for 16 hours. So, in theory, a hospital doctor cannot be counted on to make sound medical judgments after working 24 hours or so. And to make matters worse, such a person would also, in theory, be exempted from any medical liability by virtue of his/her medical condition.

This situation is not because of a lack of manpower but due to the unequal distribution of workload.

If this government is serious about the medical service, it should halt these dangerous 32-hour shifts immediately. The apparent success of the Hospital Authority is built entirely on the sacrifices of the frontline staff, with no help from the management.

TIMOTHY WONG, Happy Valley

Pope is no villain

I would like to express my disappointment over 'Heroes and villains', (December 26) written by Simon Parry. It is very disturbing to see Pope Benedict categorised as a villain because a single issue was blown out of proportion by some journalists who did not capture the context of what the head of the Catholic Church quoted in one of his speeches. The Pope had already stated that his message was not intended to intimidate or criticise Islam.

I strongly believe that it benefits neither our Muslim brethren nor the Pope (or Christians, in general) to regurgitate ideas concerning this issue when the matter has already been clarified and laid to rest.

What we need to do now is bridge the gap that has been created by this unfortunate misunderstanding and not widen it further.

The Pope has done many good things and it is a great insult to consider him a 'villain' based on this issue alone.


Please switch to gas

Our children's health is being increasingly affected by asthma and bronchial conditions; the old and sick suffer longer as the season's coughs and colds pass through the city. Looking out today at the dirty sky and reflecting upon the seemingly prolonged debate of the available gas reserves for one of our power generators must surely compel the government and society to swiftly resolve this.

It is a matter of quality of life and health, not politics and business. Please switch back to gas, quickly implement renewable power-generation schemes and plan for a long-term gas supply that will not damage our local ecology. As with the quality of our water supply, we must not tolerate polluters of the air that we breathe.


Lacking sparkle

I have been visiting Hong Kong and staying with my daughter and her family.

Having last been here 15 years ago, I was astonished to see no evidence of any New Year's Eve fireworks celebrations on the harbour - unlike Sydney, Berlin, Paris, London and many other cities featured on TVB News on January 1. The city is full of tourists at the best time of year in terms of weather - clear blue skies, no haze and without the humidity evident at other times of the year, which I am told so often spoils fireworks celebrations.

Surely the government can afford more than one fireworks display at this time of year to show off what is the most stunning harbour in the world? If it wants to portray Hong Kong as a world city, it needs to lift its game.


ETA's true nature

I refer to your reports about the latest bomb planted by ETA at Madrid Barajas International Airport, causing pain and damage, and the deaths of two innocent people. You define ETA as an (armed) Basque separatist organisation. It is not.

ETA is a terrorist organisation that kills and maims men, women and children. ETA is not fighting for independence for the Basque region.

For 25 years, Spain has been a democracy where peaceful Basque nationalists are present in their own Basque institutions and in the central parliament.

Terrorism is one of the major threats to our world. By naming the terrorists as fighters or armed groups you are romanticising them and not giving away their true nature.

A. PENA, Repulse Bay