PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2007, 12:00am

Spare a thought for diligent middle class

Emotive utterances based on groundless simplifications typify the rather widespread but ill-conceived allegations about foreign domestic helpers being maltreated and underpaid in Hong Kong.

C. Low's ('Why not move to Kowloon?' July 2), in reply to K. Singh, of Mid-Levels ('Maids get really good deal with wages in HK,' June 27), is a case in point.

Spacious apartments are quite rare in Mid-Levels and most residential buildings are cramped honeycombs.

Striving salaried office workers who cannot afford the commute time entailed in moving to larger apartments in the New Territories and cannot compete with well-off industrialists for units in the few quiet residential areas in Kowloon, are stuck in their shoebox-sized apartments in Mid-Levels.

In any case, why should Mr Singh's choice of residential location affect the reasonableness of his comments?

It is irrational for Mr Low to raise the spectre of slavery in response to the fact which Mr Singh pointed out that employers who work long hours on weekdays have to take over their helpers' work when the latter go off on Sundays and public holidays. In a typical Mid-Levels family, the working couples leave their helpers alone in their apartments between 8am and 8pm and work with their children's homework until midnight while their helpers have long retired to bed.

Hong Kong is economically superior to countries where the helpers come from, partly because of the work ethic of its middle class.

While C. Low is right that slavery has long been abolished, it nevertheless persists in the mind of irrational idealists, including those helpers who refuse to exercise their free will to give up jobs which they consider are below them.

My sympathy is with the unfortunate employers of these ungrateful helpers.

Pierce Lam, Central

Further blow for Star Ferry

I oppose the government's proposal to relocate the existing Tsim Sha Tsui ferry pier bus terminus.

The plan involves replacement of the bus terminus by another public transport interchange at Wing On Plaza. This is more than 2km from the current terminus which has been in service for decades.

Even after the MTR began operating, the Tsim Sha Tsui ferry bus terminus continued to be the point-to-point interchange for bus passengers after or before crossing the harbour. The Star Ferry serves more than 50,000 passengers every day. Even now, many bus passengers prefer to get off at the terminus to catch a ferry as an economical way to Hong Kong Island.

Some transport officials claim relocation could ease congestion. However, there will be bus-stops outside the Cultural Centre for a number of routes.

Buses will have to turn around via the Star Ferry Pier before heading to the new bus terminus at Tsim Sha Tsui East. The journey time from Nathan Road to the terminus will be increased from two to five minutes to in excess of 10 minutes, which cause another bottleneck at Salisbury Road.

After the relocation, more passengers will see the MTR as the only way to travel from Tsim Sha Tsui to Hong Kong Island and passenger numbers will drop on the Star Ferry, which could lead to a loss of its competitiveness.

Many tourists would be disappointed if the Star Ferry ceased to exist, as they could no longer enjoy an economical trip across the harbour.

Bac Wai-hung, Aberdeen

Put new road underground

I generally agree with the views of Lee Yat-sau ('We must be sensible over conservation,' June 18).

Most of the great architecture of Hong Kong has already been demolished. I feel strongly that Queen's Pier does not have to go and the old Star Ferry pier did not need to be demolished simply to make way for a multi-lane highway which will dominate, cut off and further pollute the Central district to Causeway Bay waterfront area.

Similar to the project recently completed in Boston, in the US, the Central to Causeway Bay section of the new road could be located underground so the surface area could be converted into a vast waterfront parkland having lots of natural shading/trees, water and flower features, night markets and alfresco dining. Means should also be employed to minimise all unnecessary 'cross city' road traffic (by electronic road pricing?) and introduce ground level, zero emission people movers such as modern trams and/or trolley buses.

Yes, it would be expensive but it would also be money well spent.

Iain Seymour-Hart, Chai Wan

We must follow Deng's vision

I refer to('Lessons learned in first 10 years: Hu' July 2).

Of course 'one country' comes first.

However, if 'two systems' is watered down to a weak version of a highly centralised system of government, today's leaders will be missing the spirit of active non-intervention envisioned by its architect, the late Deng Xiaoping .

Running Hong Kong is not that different from operating a five-star hotel.

A professional team of hotel management, not always the owner, understands the needs of its customers better and know what to do.

If customers ask for the pepper, why give them the salt?

Sam Chow, Central

Argument is nonsense

I refer to the letter by Peter Lok ('Sort out your own affairs first,' June 28).

I find the statement that 'the more tragic they can make the Tiananmen incident, the less uncomfortable they will feel about emigrating and encouraging friends and relatives to follow suit' complete nonsense.

Why would those people feel uncomfortable? Don't people have the right to choose where they live? Do people need to justify their decision of emigrating to another place?

Susan Chan, Wan Chai

Who is to blame for this rip-off?

As an Australian, I was concerned about the report on Chinese visitors to Australia ('Mainland tourists getting fleeced on trips Down Under,' June 28).

I understand that what you have reported is correct - for example, charging mainland tourists to walk on beaches and taking them to warehouses where they are required to buy before they can leave.

The part which was not reported was that these tour groups are being conducted by Chinese operators.

These tourists do not speak English and are being told that Australians don't want them in the stores. Who is telling them this, and in Putonghua?

I believe that they are being taken to unregistered illegal businesses.

Sadly, in the case of the mainland tourists, I believe it is one of their own doing this to them.

It is another case of mistreating and ripping off your own people and by implication bolstering the belief that racism is rife in Australia.

Perhaps information should be provided to individual tourists on arrival in the country to resolve the matter.

Karen Ellis, Kwai Chung