PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2007, 12:00am

More flexible leave needed

Your reports and editorial on March 22 on Hong Kong's population policies have only scratched the surface of the issue of Hong Kong's declining birth rate. Paternity leave, as your editorial points out, is a step in the right direction, but a more flexible approach to maternity leave is also needed.

We should not limit our comparisons, or our thinking, to our Asian neighbours - declining birth rates are an issue in a number of major economies and countries across the world.

Families need more options, to juggle work and home life while creating financial security for their future. Hong Kong employers, certainly in the financial and professional services sectors, offer very little by way of options, such as part-time work, job sharing, flexible work hours and additional (unpaid) maternity leave.

Providing families with more options to balance family, work and personal time could help lift birth rates, and make for happier families.

Options such as part-time work and job sharing would also be welcomed by other groups in our society such as the over 65s.

Joanne O'Callaghan, Mid-Levels

Yoghurt and shoes don't mix

There's a reason we don't put our shoes in the fridge. They have walked in dog urine, bird droppings, rat poison and fish entrails at the wet markets.

But it is common practice at our leading supermarkets for the shop assistants to stand on the bottom shelf of the dairy produce refrigerator to reach and pack the top shelves. Two shoes among the yoghurts, milk and cheeses. I have seen this happen three times. I have complained to the guilty assistants and I have spoken to their managers. Each time I received an assurance that it wouldn't happen again and that the staff member would be reprimanded.

I have written to the managing director of the supermarket chain and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. Both have written to assure me that it would not happen again.

But on Saturday, I saw it happening again at a large supermarket in Stanley. An assistant stepped on to the bottom shelf while I was choosing my milk. Previously it was a superstore in Causeway Bay, which has since closed. Before that it was one in Robinson Road, Mid-Levels.

I do not stand for hours waiting for a problem to complain about. I was in the store for less than 15 minutes.

I can only assume that standing on the fridge shelves is common practice by the staff in supermarkets.

How can they allow this to continue? And what other practices are occurring to jeopardise our health?

Rosalie Lennard, Causeway Bay

Well done on dog park

As an expatriate living in Hong Kong, I would like to congratulate the government for an excellent job in utilising the Wan Chai waterfront for a dog park. I spent the day with my dog, joined by many other Hong Kong dog lovers, and the joy on both the dogs' and owners' faces was a site to behold. For many, a dog is more than a pet, it's a member of the family, and the provision of such public facilities is a long overdue present to us all.

Darren Harding, Happy Valley

Tomato science

On yesterday's health page I read about how US engineers have genetically engineered a super tomato that contains as much as 25 per cent more folate than ordinary crops ('Souped-up tomato a folate feast'). The increased folate apparently reduces birth defects, which is an admirable objective. But why can't there be a simple recommendation to expectant mothers that they eat tomatoes, and increase their consumption by 25 per cent?

R. Coates, Mei Foo

Movie policy

I would like to know how films are rated in Hong Kong, as both Pan's Labyrinth and Hannibal Rising are either 'R' in the United States or 18 in Britain.

I understand that it is a government department that does the rating.

How a film like Hannibal Rising, with such subject material, can be anything but a category III film beats me.

I am disgusted that, when talking to many students of mine who are in Primary 6 to Form 2, they tell me they can get into cinemas to watch these films.

I hope that they are going with their parents.

They claim, as is evident, that Hong Kong has a policy that basically says that some films are not suitable for children, whereas the United States and Britain, both state adults only.

Please tell me how the policy is decided here.

Tim Greening, Sha Tin

Truth on the harbour, please

A recent article by Christine Loh Kung-wai accused the government of serious misconduct over Central Reclamation Phase III, which led to the demolition of the Star Ferry pier and the loss of part of the harbour.

Her article showed that the government failed to conduct proper public consultation or to allow proper consideration by the Town Planning Board after the Court of Final Appeal judgment. It showed that the government entered into the works contract for the reclamation with undue haste, with the result that the Star Ferry pier was demolished despite a directive from the board and a Legislative Council motion.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has promised to respect public views and to provide good governance in his second term.

He has a personal obligation to investigate and answer these complaints which, if true, would contradict his public statements that all proper procedures had been complied with. The Hong Kong public is entitled to know whether the complaints are true.

J. Mackie, Aberdeen

All aspects considered

John Schofield's letter 'Council's scope limited' (March 23), suggested that the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE), in its deliberations of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on the 'Liquefied natural gas receiving terminal and associated facilities' had not given due consideration to a number of environmental issues. This is not true.

In considering any EIA report, the council can give any comments it has to the director of environmental protection. The council's EIA subcommittee and the full council examined the EIA report in great detail at their meetings on January 19 and February 12.

Members of the subcommittee looked at the project's background, site selection, risk assessment, ecological impact (including the impact of the project on the potential marine park), as well as the impact on water quality and landscape, plus waste management and archaeological and cultural heritage, among other issues.

The issues of visual impact, land-use compatibility, noise impact on marine mammals, among others, were further considered.

It was only after very careful consideration and lengthy discussion that the council endorsed the EIA report, subject to a number of conditions.

The minutes of the meetings of the council and the EIA subcommittee have been uploaded on the website of the Environmental Protection Department (www.epd.gov.hk).

Lam Kin-che, chairman, Advisory Council on the Environment