Debates raised political awareness

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 March, 2007, 12:00am

Yesterday, my eight-year-old son and I were watching news about the chief executive election on television. The conversation went like this:

Son: Mum, will you go to vote?

Me: No, I am not eligible to vote.

Son: Why?

Me: Only 800 people can vote.

Son: Did you tell them which one you want them to vote for?

Me: No.

Son: Did they ask you which one you want them to vote for?

Me: No.

Son: How can they know which one you want them to vote for?

Me: I think they vote according to their own preference.

Son: That's so unfair. When can you vote for the chief executive?

Me: Alan Leong Kah-kit proposes one person, one vote in 2012.

Son: So you can vote in 2012?

Me: Not sure, it's only a proposal.

Son: But how will that become real?

Me: Through legal means.

Though the two televised debates will be insignificant to the outcome of the election, they have been vital to increasing political awareness.


Sorry for the noise

We regret to learn that Amy Lau is being woken early by the renovation works under way in the UNY Store in Cityplaza ('Swire noise pollution', March 21). Construction and renovation noise is inevitable if you live in integrated residential and commercial development. But, of course, we apologise on behalf of our tenant for any disturbance.

The renovation works, which are intended to greatly enhance the shopping centre and to benefit the residents of Taikoo Shing, are being conducted in close accordance with the Noise Control Ordinance which is there to protect the rights of every member of the community. Statutorily, our tenant breaks no rule or code of conduct. Nonetheless, Ms Lau, who has been in contact with us earlier, has already been made aware that we have made arrangements to reduce the noisy work between the hours of 7am and 8am so as to mitigate her concerns.

To restrict the working time further is simply not feasible, nor is it financially supportable for the parties concerned.

Safety, comfort and the environment are always important to us, as is satisfying our customers - even if, on this occasion - we are unable to accede to Ms Lau's demands.

MIRANDA SZETO, head of public affairs, Swire Properties

Convert to hybrid buses

KMB knows that there is no such thing as an environmentally friendly diesel bus. Even the latest models pump out huge amounts of very fine particulate pollution that lodges in our lungs forever.

KMB's franchise expires in June this year. But it is too late for the public to comment.

Over a year ago, slipped in with other franchises, KMB was granted 10 more years - 18 months ahead of schedule - by the Chief Executive in Council. The contract has no decreasing cap on emissions for their fleet; no targets; no required action at all. There are only vague statements.

KMB is exempt from diesel tax which encourages the company to waste fuel, often caused by poor driving, fast braking and hard acceleration. Right now hybrid-electric diesel double-decker buses are on the road in London - but KMB refuses to give one a trial.

At least one company has one ready for production. These hybrids use 40 per cent less diesel in town and do not spew any pollution into our faces in our urban canyons.

If the entire fuel tax subsidy, currently HK$1 billion for all franchise buses, was instead converted to leasing hybrid buses, we would eliminate bus pollution within three years.

So we would like to know when KMB is going to put its first hybrid double-decker buses on the road.


Democracy vs growth

Zack Culvert in his letter ('Strange logic', March 19) made strange allegations against Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee . He alleged that she supported the central government's insistence on no democracy for Hong Kong, and that she argued that democracy and capitalism were incompatible.

Mrs Ip said no such things in her article 'Too much of a good thing', (March 12).

Citing economist Robert Barro of Harvard University and various examples of political decisions affecting unfettered free markets, she pointed out only that there are trade-offs between more political rights and growth. This is precisely what is happening in Hong Kong now. In the past, when power was concentrated in the hands of the bureaucrats, major infrastructural projects were launched and completed in record time. For example, former governor Sir David Wilson decided to build the new airport only after confidence plummeted following the events of June 4, 1989.

The US$20 billion airport and related projects at Chek Lap Kok were completed in 1998, less than a decade after the green light was given. Similarly, the construction of the extension to the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai was completed within three years. Now, we have been talking about the development of the West Kowloon Cultural Project for at least five to six years and have got nowhere. The construction of the coastal highway on Hong Kong Island may have to be re-configured and face further delays because of the need to re-open discussions on the conservation of crumbling piers. If this is not trade-off between democracy and growth, what is?


Small leap of faith

The Portuguese may have been in Australia in the 16th century, but the theory is not new. Portuguese historians have been supporting it since the 1930s. For a people who had sailed all the way from western Europe to Timor, the journey from Timor to Australia seems a small, and probable, step.


Let there be light

Bonnie Tam in 'Turn lights out', (March 20), compares Hong Kong with Shanghai, where lights on display hoardings are turned off at 10.30pm.

But this is not due to Shanghai's love of the environment, but because of the city's acute power shortage. Fortunately, that is not the case with Hong Kong, which is lively and vibrant - Asia's 'world city' that never sleeps.

It would be sensible and practical to recommend to the government that - with the exception of restaurants, bars and other food outlets that remain open 24 hours - other businesses could turn off their display advertising lights earlier. This could be done at 2am, to help the environment by using less electricity. The government could give incentives to developers to install solar panels on their rooftops to garner more energy. They could also put lawns on the rooftops and use any other method which would keep the building cool, or reduce power consumption. And our street and traffic lights should be installed with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) which consume very little electricity.

A.L. NANIK, Tsim Sha Tsui

What green belt?

Referring to the story 'Soko Islands green belt plea rejected' (March 17), I have to ask: what Soko Islands green belt?

Has anyone looked at the Soko Islands recently?

On a flight from Thailand, my plane took a more easterly approach than usual. That, combined with an unusually clear day for Hong Kong, gave me a grandstand view of the Sokos.

It was a scene of devastation, with mountains stripped down to bedrock and numerous industrial developments spread along the shoreline.

Strangely though, the northern side of the islands - visible from Lantau - remains largely unblemished. Sadly, it seems this particular 'green belt' battle was lost long ago, out of sight of the Hong Kong public.


Prison-like existence

Last weekend, I attended a heartbreaking exhibition in Sham Shui Po where I could tour the appalling living conditions that still exist in that part of Hong Kong.

I applaud the Society for Community Organisation and others for revealing that hundreds of thousands of children live well below the poverty line, tens of thousands fester in cramped windowless cubicles, and many of them earn a living on the street by collecting cardboard and cans.

Many of these children identified their primary wish as simply having a window in their tiny prison-like cubicle. How can an affluent government allow this kind of disparity to exist?

T. SCHMIDT, Mid-Levels

Catch the dog owners

Paul Gardiner made a very good point yesterday about installing CCTV cameras to deter the dog poisoner ('CCTV a big deterrent'). These same cameras could be used to spot the idiots who let their dogs roam freely to deposit their faeces and urine wherever they wish, thus spoiling the landscape for everyone else. Perhaps fines could be imposed to offset the cost of the cameras.

I would much rather see the reckless, selfish and thoughtless owners be caught and fined than the poisoner.


Not behaving badly

The matter of taxi drivers overcharging US sailors is unacceptable and must be investigated by the police ('Taxis take US sailors for an expensive ride', March 16).

But I strongly disagree with Michael May's perception of Hong Kong taxi drivers ('Overcharging is just one problem with taxi drivers', March 20).

In more than 30 years here, I can count on one hand the number of bad encounters I have had. Count me in on reporter Barclay Crawford's side. I would agree most drivers are outstanding.