Should old buildings be able to skirt new planning standards?
It has been proposed that for the purpose of preservation of old buildings, the current stringent building regulations should not apply to them; rather, a new set of building codes should be developed.
Building regulations are designed with public safety in mind and not just the safety of the public, but also of firemen. They are also meant to be accessible to the disabled.
Sometimes it would be difficult to impose these stringent regulations on old buildings as old buildings were not designed to cater to modern requirements.
Some of the smaller old buildings would fail the current building codes miserably. To keep the old fabric intact, any new codes would be very different from the current ones.
This raises interesting questions about possible double standards.
How do we balance public safety against doing something in the name of preservation?
H.C. Bee, Ho Man Tin
Should ParknShop have stuck to its 'no plastic bags' campaign?
The plastic shopping bag is simply another example of vast management malaise and incompetence at ParknShop.
At the ParknShop in Parkview the out-of-stock situation is ludicrous.
In addition to 'no plastic bag day', recently I have experienced no orange juice day, no coriander day, no Lilydale chicken day, no skim milk day, no pizza day and countless other items out of stock.
In addition, I object to the way the chain is presenting its special offer labels to customers.
In one instance, Thomas Hyland Chardonnay was HK$189, reduced post budget to HK$109. However the price has now been increased to HK$138, but the special offer ticket still shows HK$189 crossed out to HK$138.
What is actually happening is a 27 per cent price increase, but it is highlighted as a special offer.
This is disguising a huge price hike (and is probably occurring on other items) and is cynical marketing.
The chain should be more honest and efficient.
The solution to the plastic bags is simple - provide US-style paper bags.
Rob Naylor, Tai Tam
I do not think it is practical to get shops to adopt the 'no plastic bag' policy.
I usually buy on impulse and when I see a ParknShop after doing some errands I will often just drop in and do some shopping, and I am not armed with shopping bags.
Instead we should be concentrating on recycling. Asking the customer to pay for the plastic bags is not an incentive to cut down on plastic bags. It only victimises the poor.
We should be offered paper bags made from recycled paper.
The supermarkets can also offer customers the boxes that they have from unpacking canned goods to carry their purchases.
Recycling should also be practised in our homes.
I know many homes in condominiums that buy and then use plastic rubbish bags.
They should be using the plastic bags they get from their shopping as rubbish bags.
Jars that contained such products as peanut butter, jams and sauces should not be thrown away. They can be cleaned and used as containers instead of buying plastic containers or plastic ziplock bags.
Instead of hounding the supermarkets, we should be thinking of and publicising innovative ways to reuse things that are reusable.
J. Tan, Mid-Levels
The issues of global warming and climate change have been controversial subjects in recent years. Is this the price we have to pay to create industrial wealth and to be prosperous?
It is time we showed more respect for our environment.
ParknShop reflected this sentiment with its 'no plastic bag' policy, which it scrapped after a few days.
I think it was wrong to do this.
I think the policy was effective, because it reduced the use of plastic bags and encouraged Hong Kong citizens to bring their own bags when they went shopping.
I think it helped strengthen public awareness about the need to use fewer plastics bags and helped people get into the habit of using their own shopping bags.
Although it was only a small step which was likely to have only a limited impact on the campaign against global warming, it was another way of trying to get members of our community to get into a way of thinking about the environment that is sadly lacking in Hong Kong.
This was a good start by ParknShop and I believe that other retailers would have followed suit.
In effect it would have acted as a model for others to follow.
After all, a programme to protect the environment is absolutely worthless without the involvement of the entire community.
As I see it, nature is taking its revenge on human beings for the environmental damage we have caused.
Something must be done before it is too late.
Apart from bringing our own plastic bags when we go shopping, we can also help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and slow global warming by reducing our energy consumption, especially with regard to the use of air conditioners.
I think a long-term solution lies with education.
Most people have still not developed the necessary mindset that should tell them they need to protect the environment.
We should see the environment as being like our own homes.
You clean it and protect it, not just for you and your family, but for future generations.
Cheung Celia Ka-yin, Kowloon Tong
How can respect for animals be promoted?
One important way to promote respect for animals is by passing laws that require everyone to have their cats and dogs spayed or neutered.
Spaying and neutering animals can drastically reduce the number of cats and dogs which are born only to end up homeless and struggling to survive on the streets or having to be put down in animal shelters.
Another way to promote respect for animals is to ban the cruel and dangerous practice of chaining dogs.
Dogs are social animals and, as such, they need companionship, exercise and lots of love.
They deserve to be treated as part of the family.
Keeping them tied up in a lonely backyard and forcing them to eat, sleep and relieve themselves in the same dirt patch is not only cruel but also dangerous.
Chained dogs are more likely to bite because they have no way of escaping if a perceived threat - such as a toddler - encroaches on their 'territory'.
If we start treating the animals who share our homes with more respect, people hopefully will begin to realise that all animals - from cats to chickens - deserve our compassion.
Rebecca Chui, Yau Yat Chuen
Should Putonghua be used to teach Chinese language?
I believe using Putonghua as a medium to teach Chinese language can have a profound influence on the next generation.
Putonghua is becoming an increasingly important language.
It is the main medium of communication on the mainland.
Also, more foreigners have shown an interest in learning the language.
Putonghua will play a more prominent role on the world stage. So, it's vitally important that our young people learn it.
There are many employers nowadays who require candidates for jobs to have a good spoken command of both Putonghua and English.
The government is putting more resources into the promotion of English.
However, in some areas, people are ignoring Putonghua.
If it is used as the medium of instruction for Chinese language, this will encourage more people in Hong Kong to learn it and that would be good for our young people.
If Putonghua is used to teach Chinese language, students will benefit in other ways.
It will improve their writing skills and they will find it easier to read some articles.
If students in Hong Kong are being taught every day in Putonghua, they will become more confident about using it, because at present, with only a limited number of lessons, they lack the confidence to speak it.
However, while I support the Putonghua teaching scheme, it should not be implemented without proper preparation.
The government must ensure schools have all the support they need before the scheme is launched.
If there are not enough resources such as qualified teachers and a new curriculum, the scheme will not be successful.
This is what has happened in the past with some educational reforms, brought in with insufficient preparation.
Cathy Wong, Sheung Shui
I do not support using Putonghua as the medium of instruction in Chinese language.
Of course, learning Putonghua can help students when it comes to joining the job market and they are looking for work.
However, there are a number of problems related to using Putonghua as the medium of instruction.
Chinese teachers will have to attend extra Putonghua lessons and this will increase their workload.
It will put them under enormous pressure, as they will have to pass the necessary tests.
Besides, students may not adapt to the sudden change.
However, if it is decided to bring in Putonghua as the medium of instruction, it must be done step by step and students must be helped as they try to adapt to the changes.
It will take a long time for students and teachers to adapt to this new system.
Wong Chui-shan, Fanling