PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2008, 12:00am

NPC decision a significant step for Hong Kong

I refer to the letter by Graham Warburton ('Defining line', January 4).

Mr Warburton asked me to explain 'what exactly is the NPC's definition of 'universal suffrage' '.

The decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, in making clear that the chief executive and the Legislative Council may be elected by universal suffrage respectively in 2017 and 2020, is a most significant step in our constitutional development.

It has also determined that appropriate amendments may be made to the electoral methods for returning the chief executive and the Legislative Council in 2012, allowing our electoral system to be further democratised in 2012.

As stated in the green paper on constitutional development released last July for public consultation, having regard to the constitutional basis and principles of design of Hong Kong's political structure, as well as the concept of 'universal suffrage' as generally understood internationally, the concept of universal suffrage should include the principles of 'universal' and 'equal' suffrage.

Universal suffrage commonly adopted in overseas jurisdictions is a one-person-one-vote system that can take the form of direct or indirect election.

As far as any individual jurisdiction is concerned, while conforming to the general international understanding of universal suffrage, it can also develop its electoral system having regard to the particular needs and aspirations of its people, the uniqueness of its socio-economic situation, and its historical realities.

Now that the timetable for universal suffrage has been set, it is up to the Hong Kong SAR to narrow differences and arrive at a consensus on the road map and electoral models to roll forward democracy in 2012 with a view to laying a solid foundation for attaining universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020.

Stephen Lam, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs

In defence of a fairer society

I refer to the letter by Bernard White ('Minimum wage will force some factories to shut down', January 2).

It is shameful that, well into the 21st century and in a first world city, your correspondent can state that many in Hong Kong earning less than HK$5,000 per month are grateful to be considered part of the workforce and work willingly.

Mr White says that, after all, they have no English skills and are over 40, anyway.

He goes on to say that the lower paid factory workers enable higher paid admin staff to be employed and this is good for society.

This sort of thing from presumably someone in the middle classes sums up all that is wrong sometimes with society in Hong Kong.

Shame on you Mr White.

This is an appalling attitude in a rich city where many people can spend HK$5,000 on a family Sunday brunch, or represents the cost of drinks out during the month or a weekend break out of town. More in society should be able to enjoy such freedoms and activities.

If the introduction of a minimum living wage leads to some factories shutting down then I say that's good.

Personally, I used to be against the minimum wage on principle, but the experience in Britain, in the years since it was introduced, has been positive and seemingly not detrimental to employment opportunities for those less qualified in this technological age.

Such a move should induce the rest of society to act reasonably, responsibly and righteously towards the overwhelming numbers of have-nots who can never experience income tax refunds, share gains or overseas holidays, or even perhaps enjoy heating in winter, to achieve the harmonious society we surely all desire.

At the start of 2008, would it not be rather noble for the middle classes and super rich to start giving something meaningful and tangible back to the underclass in Hong Kong? This surely should start with a basic living wage.

Gary Collings, Mid-Levels

Ban private cars from tunnel

I would like to suggest that the government restrict the use of the Cross Harbour Tunnel to public vehicles and permit holders only.

This restriction could be in force either at all times or, at least, be introduced during peak periods. All private vehicles would then have the option of using the other underutilised tunnels across the harbour.

If this measure was introduced, traffic would, hopefully, move faster and there would be less congestion and as a result less pollution.

Those people who choose to use a private vehicle, must be able to afford the higher tunnel costs.

H. Harania, Mid-Levels

Blind need guide paths

I refer to the report ('MTR defends safety after mishap', January 3).

The blind passenger who fell on to Light Rail tracks at Tin Shui Wai, said that 'such accidents would not happen if guide paths were provided'. Some blind people have criticised these tactile guide paths, saying they cannot feel them even though they know they are there.

The MTR Corporation has said that tactile guide paths have been installed on 39 out of 158 platforms. However, even if some blind people have criticised them, the Hong Kong Blind Union believes they do help and has asked for them at all stations. It is surprising that only one-fifth of the platforms have the paths. The corporation has said its improvement programme will be finished in 2010, however, that should be sped up.

There are around 80,000 blind and visually impaired people in Hong Kong, and most of them use our mass transit systems. We should build a barrier-free environment that can help blind people integrate into society.

Vivien Au Wing-man, Yau Yat Tsuen

Plea for buses

I wonder if more passengers would avoid customs at Lo Wu during peak times if there were more buses and other transport options when they crossed the border at Lok Ma Chau ('Riders on spur line rising but still falling short', January 7).

Transport problems can be solved if the MTR Corporation co-operates with mainland authorities.

They should see whether it is possible for mainland bus companies or buses organised by the MTRC to provide efficient service for Lok Ma Chau spur line passengers after they have left mainland customs.

The MTRC should undertake an investigation to look at various factors before it implements these transport changes.

Bill Wong, Lai Chi Kok

Bold initiative

I read with interest the report that the mainland is taking the lead in reducing the use of plastic bags ('Plastic bag crackdown to include ban on free handouts from June 1', January 9).

I applaud the firm and forward-looking stance that the mainland has taken, which places it alongside other forward-looking nations which are prepared to take decisive action to deal with the environmental problems caused by excessive and irresponsible plastic use.

It therefore is all the more shameful and inexplicable that Legco and Hong Kong retailers are so spineless in their efforts to curb plastic (mis)use.

Where are the leaders who are prepared to take the brave and morally responsible decisions necessary to bring Hong Kong into line with the mainland?

Claire Garner, Mid-Levels