PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2007, 12:00am

What can be done to reduce domestic violence?

The murder-suicide tragedy in Tin Shui Wai in which a mentally ill mother committed suicide after throwing her children from their 24th-floor flat has sent shockwaves through the city.

With so many cases of domestic violence and suicide taking place in Tin Shui Wai in recent years, residents of the new town have grown numb to family tragedies. Shocking cases like this one are just the tip of the iceberg as many domestic violence cases in Tin Shui Wai often go unreported.

We have to ask why there are so many of these cases in this new town. One of the contributory factors is that there are many new immigrants living there.

Many of the public housing residents in Tin Shui Wai are low-income families who have come from the mainland and as more public housing estates are built, more migrants move in.

Most of them have found it difficult to adapt to the fast pace of life in Hong Kong and they do not possess the skills they need to get work. Consequently, employment opportunities are scarce and they usually live on welfare.

They have no one to talk to about their problems and small disputes can escalate into domestic violence or end in suicide. Another problem is that social services have not kept pace with the rapid growth of the population. There are not enough integrated family service centres in the district. Therefore, many high-risk cases which urgently need attention are not identified.

This tragic event lays bare the problems of an impoverished community in which a large number of socially isolated, poverty-stricken and stressed families have been neglected due to poor social planning.

The Social Welfare Department must review its policies. More social community centres and integrated family service centres should be set up. There should be talks and workshops to help new migrants adapt to life in Hong Kong.

There must be greater co-operation between the district social welfare office and police, and other service units of the Social Welfare Department should be enhanced to deal with family problems. The government should try harder to build a harmonious community to prevent a repeat of this tragedy.

Celia Cheung Ka-yin, Yau Yat Tsuen

To promote a more caring society, the government and voluntary organisations need to closely co-operate to educate the public about the importance of caring about others. People need to learn to deal with their emotions and to be good citizens and good neighbours.

When problems arise, social workers and professionals should work hand in hand and visit the families concerned.

We must have 24-hour hotlines for those who need help immediately.

Talks must be arranged in schools, so students are made aware of the social problems that exist in Hong Kong and can discuss possible solutions.

It seems that promoting a more caring society requires a lot of work and effort. However, we as ordinary citizens can do our bit simply by helping the people around us whenever necessary.

Tiffany Chan Chung-tak, Quarry Bay

Do poor owners get enough aid for flat repairs?

I do not think the aid from the Housing Society is enough to ease the plight of the Kwai Chung residents described in the report, 'Help us repair our flats, say elderly' (October 12).

The existing subsidies are just scratching the surface, not getting to the root of the problem. The subsidies offered for improving safety and hygiene of old buildings can only be applied to buildings that are more than 20 years old and have fewer than 200 flats.

This rule should be relaxed, as there are many old buildings with more than 200 flats that are owned by elderly people who need financial help.

Most of these elderly people are retired and depend on their savings. Some of them may get welfare payments, but even with that they struggle to pay for their daily needs, such as food and medicine. How can they be expected to pay extra bills for house repairs? It is too heavy a financial burden for them.

If the Housing Society does not help them, then it is putting people at risk, because if repairs are not carried out, the buildings will fall into disrepair.

It is important that the funds are made available to make the necessary repairs and ensure these old people can enjoy an improved and safer environment in their retirement.

I really hope the Housing Society can relax its restrictions and make more money available for the maintenance of these old buildings. We must not ignore the needs of these people.

Natalie Ho Sin-wa, Sham Shui Po

What do you think of the Jockey Club plan for Central Police Station?

Tucked away in the Jockey Club's plans for the Central Police Station, magistracy and prison complex was a statement that 17 of the 27 buildings would be retained. Which 10 are to be demolished and on what grounds?

Having worked there on several occasions since 1967, I am not at all sure that any of them deserve such a fate.

Perhaps the Jockey Club should knock down 10 off-course betting centres to make way for sitting-out areas instead?

G. Shirra, Sai Kung

The Jockey Club suggestion is good for this area and I have some additional suggestions for the project. A medium-sized hotel should be built with convention facilities provided. Also, how about a garden where office workers can relax during their lunch breaks?

The roundabout at Wyndham Street/Arbuthnot Road must be redesigned. It must be made bigger and there must be a pedestrian crossing.

The pavement from Wyndham Street post office to Hollywood Road must be widened. A pedestrian has to walk on the road if two people are on the pavement and this is dangerous. There is no pavement between Wyndham Street and Hollywood Road. Some space should be provided for antique shops, or a small Chinese bazaar could be built, which would suit the character of the area.

I would like to see a cultural music centre, where Chinese and western classical music could be performed, and there should be a venue for jazz. A cinema should be built, but its purpose should be educational and it should only show documentaries. There should be a Chinese restaurant with Chinese opera being performed at lunch or dinner.

It must be made easy for visitors to get around the police station compound and I would like to see a spectacular traditional Chinese fountain built.

G. Hein, Mid-Levels

How can swimming safety be improved?

During the first weekend of this month, when there were big waves because of the weather, lifeguards had to rescue 50 people. Even though people at some beaches were asked not to go into the water, they did so. Rules exist for a reason. It is conceited to ignore them.

Such people are stupid. The red-flag system has been in place for years and people should know what it means.

Yet many swimmers chose to ignore the signs and verbal warnings that were issued, waded into the water and subsequently got into trouble.

By their irresponsible actions they put themselves at risk and also the lifeguards who had to go into the water to save them. I am sure the lifeguards did not want to put their lives at risk, but they could not stand on the beach and watch someone drown.

The message must be got across to the public of the need to be vigilant when bad weather makes swimming dangerous.

Because some people will continue to ignore warnings that are issued when it is too risky to go into the water, we have to tighten the laws in this area.

Bertha Hui, Kwai Chung

On other matters ...

In his policy address, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Kam-yuen promised a public consultation on idling engines. He felt it was a step in the right direction.

However, I fear that just like idling engines, it is going to create more hot air and no forward momentum.

A golden opportunity to act decisively in the interests of the majority was missed.

If Mr Tsang does not realise by now what the public thinks on this issue, then he really is out of touch.

Surely the only consultation that needs to be made involves the roadside air pollution index. It will tell the chief executive all he needs to know.

Sadly, this all reminds me of watching episodes of Yes, Minister, where the right decisions are never made because of vested interests.

When was the last time you got into a car that was hot Mr Tsang?

Gareth Jones, North Point