PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 March, 2008, 12:00am

How can sex workers be better protected?

Action for Reach Out (Rights of Entertainers in Asia to Combat Human Oppression and Unjust Treatment), or Afro, applauds the statements by Civic Party legislator Alan Leong Kah-kit, legislator Leung Kwok-hung and Simon Young Ngai-man of the University of Hong Kong ('Taboo gone, time to discuss sex industry', March 19).

The women - who our staff and volunteers meet on the street, in bars and discos, and in one-woman apartments - are all extremely vulnerable. Many suffer abuse and violence from clients, but have no hope of redress given our community's discriminatory attitude towards them.

Society seeks to protect construction workers and others in dangerous occupations but we neglect or choose to ignore the needs of women working in the sex industry. Safe working conditions are a human right.

If the government would sanction two-women apartments - currently the law is interpreted so that a woman may work in a one-woman apartment - then the likelihood of violence and of murder would be much reduced.

Professor Young points out that under the Sexual and Related Offences law even one-woman apartments could contravene the law as currently drafted. Yet prostitution is legal in Hong Kong.

Afro, celebrating its 15th year of struggle this year, is committed to improving the lives and working conditions of sex workers in Hong Kong. Afro staff, if requested, accompany sex workers to the police station, the law courts or hospital, provide a telephone hotline, a clinic for health checks, peer support groups, educational classes and support for the families.

A paramount concern is to raise the self-esteem of a group of women who are treated by society with contempt.

There is an urgent need to review the existing law. Sadly, only when the issue is forced upon public attention is there hope of change.

Perhaps our community will now confront the situation and seek ways of safeguarding the welfare of Hong Kong sex workers.

Moyreen Tilbrook, Action for Reach Out

Should a height limit be imposed in Happy Valley?

The Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital wants to appeal against height restrictions now imposed in the Happy Valley area, which is limited to 12 storeys ('Limit on hospital's height to protect Happy Valley, say planners', March 19).

The hospital management is upset by the latest height restriction, arguing that it will prevent the hospital from expanding.

It is good that the hospital wants to expand so it can serve more people. However, any development's plans must also respect the context in which it is situated. I am not convinced that erecting a 38-storey building is the only way the hospital can expand.

The hospital must not send out the message that it should have the authority to negotiate around regulations in the name of health care. On the other hand, the constantly changing conditions of the outline zoning plan by the Planning Department have confused people.

I believe consistency and common sense are needed in the working methods within the Planning Department.

H.C. Bee, Ho Man Tin

What do you think of Times Square's new seats?

A few months ago when I was still heavily pregnant, I was shopping with my dad, who is a diabetic.

We just wanted to lean on the benches [that have now been replaced] for a quick rest. I could not believe it when a security guard came over and wanted us to get off the bench. I was furious. We had not been there for long and obviously they had been watching us.

I did not realise at the time that they did not have the right to tell us to get off the bench. I am so glad that things have changed.

Christine Chan, Tin Hau

On other matters...

Who is McDonald's trying to fool with its twice-monthly 'No Straw Day'? On a recent visit I noted that every single customer, without exception, asked for and received a straw.

McDonald's should call it 'No Straw Unless You Ask For One Day'. And staff still put the same lid that can only be used with a straw on my soft drink.

My order was presented on a paper-lined tray, my already paper-wrapped burger was put inside another paper container, my fries were in a paper container, I was given seven paper napkins for a single-person order. I was also given five packets of sauce that I did not ask for. My soda was in a paper cup with a plastic cover. And I was asked if I wanted a straw.

It is ridiculous for McDonald's to tout that it is doing anything for the environment by saying it has two days a month where there are no self-service straws.

Charles Swindle, Ho Man Tin

An elderly friend invited to attend a wedding in Britain tried a number of times to apply for a visa online through the website of the British Consulate but the operation stalled. She then called another friend to assist her, again with no success.

This friend then promised to call the consulate to make inquiries. The response was that the only way one could get help is to call an 800 line or e-mail.

The 800 call requires a credit card but the person in question always uses cash and does not have a computer. She was told that no one would help her, in a rude and abrupt manner, even though she pointed out she is a British citizen.

When she asked if help would be forthcoming if she went to the consulate in person, she was advised not to bother as everything is now done online. Is this the way our elderly citizens who are not so tech-savvy should be treated?

The visa in question costs a non-refundable HK$1,010 so one would expect it to come with a little support service.

As the British Consulate appears to be now functioning as an offshore call centre, one has to question why it is occupying a prime site on Supreme Court Road. I suggest that our government offers it a site out in Tin Shui Wai as part of its programme to attract business there and that the current site be used for something more useful to Hong Kong.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai