PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2008, 12:00am

Asylum seekers choose HK for good reason

In 'Alarm over court finding' (February 25), which is about the High Court's recent refusal of six asylum seekers' applications for judicial review, Phil C. W. Chan rightly observed that Mr Justice Michael Hartmann's ruling was not entirely clear whether the court in Hong Kong considered non-refoulement a rule of customary international law. But he overlooked the real cause of alarm.

According to a leading law journal, which Mr Justice Hartmann referred to in his ruling, non-refoulement is 'customary law in Western Europe, the American continent, and Africa - but not in Asia'.

Five of the applicants were from Africa and one from Sri Lanka. They are representative of an increasing number of similar claims, which currently total about 2,000. These asylum seekers came to Hong Kong and not somewhere much nearer home in Europe or North America where non-refoulement is unequivocally a rule of law. Why?

Countries which trumpet the high-sounding principle of non-refoulement invariably practise restrictive immigration policies that effectively deny the entry of visitors from regions beleaguered by political prosecutions.

These countries vainly embrace non-refoulement as an international law where there is hardly any domestic case to apply it.

The real cause of alarm lies at a previous Court of Final Appeal's declaratory ruling which holds that 'where UNHCR rejects the claim for refugee status, the secretary for security must conduct a proper independent assessment of the torture claim', and to give sufficient reasons so that rejected claimants could consider an application for administrative and judicial review. It also provides detailed administrative guidelines for the required assessment. As a result of this ruling, a great many refugee claimants make claims under the Convention Against Torture.

The fact is, Hong Kong's immigration policy has always been more accommodating than the so-called international customs embraced by self-styled humanitarian states.

It is time international humanitarians advocated their home countries follow Hong Kong's immigration policy and Hong Kong lawmakers reviewed it.

Pierce Lam, Central

Incinerator is a major polluter

I am writing to express my concern over the present environmental policy regarding waste treatment.

Waste and the disposal of waste is a long-term problem in Hong Kong, especially since our landfills are nearly saturated.

The possibility of having an incinerator has been discussed again.

Yet, is it the best solution to tackle the waste disposal problem, or will it actually be regressive?

Some argue that an incinerator will solve the problem caused by saturation of landfills. However, incineration causes serious air pollution as burning rubbish generates carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide as well as sulfur dioxide, which is carcinogenic.

I do not think an incinerator will solve our waste disposal problems. It will only create new headaches.

To ease the pressure on our landfills, the government should consider practical ways to ensure less waste is produced, rather than turn to incineration.

The government should raise a heavy levy on all waste, either domestic or industrial.

Such an idea has been touted for some time and it is time for the government to go ahead with it.

Once the government has implemented the higher waste charges, less waste will be produced and the pressure on our landfills will be reduced.

We need to come up with effective policies to reduce waste in Hong Kong and abandon plans to have an incinerator.

Tracy Lai, Kwun Tong

US not ready for female leader

Though she's had a boost of sorts from last week's primaries, I predict that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will be unable to overcome the pervasive misogyny in her country. Americans may gradually be accepting of blacks in their society, but having a woman lead their country seems still far in the future. As some analysts have said, misogyny in the US is certainly more rampant than racism.

Unlike New Zealand, Finland, Chile, Liberia, Argentina (Britain, Israel and India in the past), and a few other enlightened countries who have elected women as heads of state, the citizens of a nation that's more than 200 years old are apparently still not mature enough to allow a female to be their president. What does that tell you about the world's greatest democracy?

Beatriz Taylor, Cheung Chau

Surpluses can be used well

Hong Kong's financial secretary has doled out his one-off giveaways to different sectors of society.

His generosity, in my humble opinion, is rather rare in any financial administration anywhere.

He should not be criticised, because some received more than others. He should, in general, be commended for what he has done. However, the cutting of taxes on wine did not win a lot of support.

People who are in this consumption category do not care about savings they will make. These people have money to burn.

If this surplus becomes normal each year, then the financial secretary should consider raising the old-age allowance and he should set aside some of the money to pay for future health-care needs.

I would also like to see a more generous allocation for the environmental issues that so many people talk about.

William Loo, Calgary, Canada

No reciprocity for expats

I welcome the call to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, by legislator Howard Young, proposing that foreign nationals who are permanent residents in Hong Kong be granted permits to visit the mainland ('Bid to give HK expats permits', March 3).

Expats who are permanent residents in Hong Kong are currently required to hold a valid visa to enter the mainland. Many expats travel to the mainland on a regular basis, and I guess that most would do so more if they could enter and leave the mainland on either their Hong Kong identity card or similar document, perhaps along the lines of the home return permit issued to Chinese nationals with permanent residence.

For British passport holders like myself, it is very expensive to obtain, say, a multi-entry visitor visa to the mainland. I understand that this is because the visa charges are not based on the cost of processing but on the principle of 'reciprocity'.

This means that because visa fees for mainland visitors to Britain are relatively high, the PRC government charges a similarly high visa fee for British citizens travelling to the mainland.

Well, it's simply illogical and certainly unfair not to apply the same principle of reciprocity to the matter of Hong Kong permanent residents.

Chinese nationals who are permanent residents of Hong Kong and who hold HKSAR or BNO passports enjoy visa-free access to many European countries, including Britain, for trips of up to six months at a time. However, foreign nationals who are permanent residents of Hong Kong receive no such privileges when travelling to the mainland.

Tom Smith, Tseung Kwan O