PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 April, 2007, 12:00am

Sewage plan is a second-rate solution

The government is lobbying hard to get the Legislative Council to agree to a 10-year schedule of sewage-charge increases, in return for which it will bear the capital cost of a second-rate sewage treatment scheme for the harbour.

Members of Legco, and the community at large, need to understand that this is not a good trade-off.

In 2000, after years of consultation and deliberation, a panel of international sewage treatment experts, set up by the government, recommended secondary (biological) treatment for harbour sewage.

This level of treatment is now the norm in the developed world and even on the mainland. Instead, the government is now proposing only primary treatment, with further disinfection 'on the cheap' through chlorination. The proposed chlorine disinfection will be of such a scale as to make our government one of the largest consumers of chlorine in the world, with consequent environmental risks.

The government says it is committed to proceeding to secondary treatment upon a further review in 2011. This is a completely meaningless - not to say conditional - commitment and amounts to no more than 'read my lips'.

If Legco approves the sewage-charge increases for the next 10 years, it will lose any leverage it has to demand a real commitment to secondary treatment.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was re-elected on a platform, inter alia, of continued infrastructure development. Why doesn't he commit to an infrastructure project that will have clear community benefits, which we can afford and will bring Hong Kong in line with worldwide best practice. If even Macau, Shenzhen and other mainland cities are committing to advanced and expensive secondary or even tertiary sewage treatment schemes, what excuse does Hong Kong have for making do with a second-rate solution?

Markus Shaw, chairman, WWF Hong Kong

Watch ad wasn't meant to offend

With reference to our IWC advert on the front page of the South China Morning Post on April 25, you, as readers, and your perceptions of our brand and products are very important to us, which is why we are grateful for your comments. First and foremost, we apologise for any offence we may have caused.

It was by no means intended when the advert was created.

IWC as a brand demands technological excellence, packed in classical, masculinely designed timepieces. Exactly the same demands are applied to our adverts: our core target is male, which is why the campaign is embedded in a 'man's world'. It is all about the search for excellence in every aspect of life and the ambition to be superior. But also, and probably most important, we want to be perceived as being charming and always thought of with a twinkle in the eye.

The pilot's watch is one of our classics and was initially created specifically for the demands of pilots before it became a desirable piece of jewellery for a larger group of men. This was why the idea for this advert was anchored in the world of flying.

In addition, we were aiming to add an element from the 'myth of being a pilot' and focused on the old cliche about pilots and stewardesses. Unfortunately we failed in the aspects of 'charm' and 'twinkle in the eye', which were surely intended, but not brought across in a more obvious manner.

Again, we'd like to sincerely apologise and truly hope you understand and appreciate our intentions. Additionally, we are following your advice and will withdraw this specific advert from the market.

Hopefully the replacement can reassure you of our good intentions and we do hope you return to IWC as a fan and with an open mind. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 2532-7693 for any further information.

Etienne de Gramont, managing director, IWC Asia Pacific

Amnesty shuns human rights

Amnesty International should be ashamed of its complete disregard for human rights in its public outreach practice in Hong Kong.

I watched in disbelief last week on Caine Road while their volunteers mimicked the worst behaviour of shady street hawkers, inhibiting freedom of movement while menacing and harassing pedestrians.

When I confronted them and told them of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights articles 12 and 13; (No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy... and; Everyone has the right to freedom of movement...) their defence was that their office trained and sent them to do this.

I believe it is disgraceful that an NGO allegedly promoting human rights would so easily abandon them in pursuit of funding.

Christopher Gallaga, Ma Wan

Real issues of religion

This mini forum on religious issues is a bit unusual, but in my view highly courageous and valuable. Thank you, South China Morning Post, for keeping the topic alive.

People globally are increasingly aware of the flaws in religion. This is not to say God does not exist. Instead, there is an awareness of the harm caused by religious people or of people doing bad things in the name of religion.

Far too much of today's religion is rooted in ignorance and has nothing to do with the real issues: what is God; how we conduct ourselves; and why were we given the gift of thought and awareness, for example. This is all about the 'bigger picture': we have gifts, responsibilities and purpose.

Yet, religion has become a vehicle for bullies. Every once in a while, it seems, people are given insight. Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed, for example. Then, other people write about them, and their words are hijacked by the bullies, and ultimately the essence of the messages, peace and goodwill, is lost.

The Prophet Mohammed said that the primary job God gave him was to spread the notion of peace; and the primary reason God gave him was that too many people were killing each other. I strongly suspect that today the Prophet would be very upset with his most vitriolic supporters. It is not just Islam. But Muslims do regularly give us the most dramatic examples of all that is possibly bad in religion. However, 300 years ago, you could have said the same about Catholics.

Ongoing dialogue is important. Please keep publishing letters; writers, keep sending your letters. They show that, notwithstanding our differences of opinion, we are mostly good. It also shows us others' mindsets. Understanding is essential for peace.

Gregory Pek, Happy Valley

Transparency in a democracy

Representation of an individual's rights and freedoms is essential in any good government. Freedoms and rights must not be defined in a vacuum, but rather within the context of stakeholders in a functioning society.

The trouble with western governments is that elections are designed to deceive the public. We are stuck in a myth that elections are very likely to 'select' a good candidate among a few - often only two - nominees, who are determined by party apparatchiks and powerful stakeholders.

Proportional representation of stakeholders is never, nor will it ever be allowed to become, transparent to 'Joe Sixpack' in the American democracy. Without understanding, we are not even at the threshold of good governance.

William Mak, New Jersey, US