PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 April, 2008, 12:00am

Tourism Board mindful of public funding

I refer to the letter by Robert Maes ('Olympic sign a waste of money', April 19).

The construction of the Olympic rings at Hong Kong Museum of Art is one of the initiatives implemented by the Hong Kong Tourism Board locally to support the SAR government's effort to create a citywide Olympic ambience. In tandem with the local initiatives there have been overseas marketing activities, which have been staged in various source markets since late last year.

Measuring 15 metres in height and 35 metres in width, the Olympic ring structure will become a landmark at the harbourfront and complement the city's skyline when lit at night. We hope it will not only attract the global media, but also leave a lasting impression of the city among visitors.

Along with other initiatives, our goal is to maximise global exposure and publicity for Hong Kong as an Olympic co-host city, further elevating the city's image.

To achieve this, the Tourism Board will arrange coverage by local and international media, including Olympic official broadcasters, upon the completion of the rings. We will also build publicity through events and video releases, showcasing to overseas TV audiences the citywide ambience that befits an Olympic city.

The construction of the Olympic rings, which involves additional funding, has already been approved by the Legislative Council, along with various other initiatives. These were presented to Legco's home affairs panel in November and approved by the Finance Committee in December.

In addition, the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee, Friends of the Earth and The Conservancy Association have expressed support for the proposal.

In working out the estimated cost of the Olympic rings structure, the Tourism Board also sought the views of architects and building consultants. To ensure competitive pricing, the board appointed a professional project manager to oversee the open tender process for the selection of the contractor to build and maintain the rings during the display period. The estimated cost covers the project manager's fees, expenses on preliminary study and site survey, design and submissions, construction, electricity and maintenance, as well as other related works, such as dismantling.

Keenly aware of the importance of using public funding in a prudent and cost-effective manner, the board will continue to ensure proper use of resources while striving to promote Hong Kong.

Anthony Lau, executive director, Hong Kong Tourism Board

Relay wrong protest venue

I refer to the report ('Rights activists aim to hold parallel torch relay', April 21), about a planned action by human rights supporters when Hong Kong hosts the Olympic flame on May 2. These activists are holding this alternative torch relay to highlight the mainland's human rights record. But for ordinary Chinese people, this summer's Olympics in Beijing are just an occasion to celebrate China's rising global status.

They see such protests as an attempt to humiliate China.

Given the nature of Chinese culture, saving face is very important. I therefore think it is unwise for these activists to choose the day of the torch relay to mount their protest.

It will be seen as a controversial act and I cannot see what it will achieve.

At the same time, it is unwise of the central government to bar activists like Szeto Wah, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, from entering the mainland.

Beijing should have an open-door policy, so people like Mr Szeto can visit and see for themselves, the great changes that have taken place on the mainland.

Chen Hongjie, Shenzhen

Games must not be exploited

Some European countries have indicated their leaders will not attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics, because of Beijing's policy regarding Tibet. I think this is an attempt to sully the Olympic spirit.

The Olympic Games is a great international sporting occasion.

Politics has no place in the Olympics. Politicians who exploit the Games in this way, should be ashamed of themselves.

They say that what they are doing is to highlight what is happening in Tibet, but this is not the way to go about it and they are showing great disrespect towards the government in Beijing.

If they really want to show their concern for Tibet, they should go about it in the right way, that is, through diplomacy. They should meet and talk with mainland officials.

Lo Wing-lee, Kowloon Tong

Beijing naive in handling crisis

In all the debate and press reports on the torch relay, one question has not been asked: Is the government in Beijing naive or stupid?

When you look at the tightrope they have to walk when it comes to governing China's masses and the improvements that have been achieved on the mainland, you have to conclude that the leaders are definitely not stupid. So that leaves one to conclude that they are naive. Does this stem from the fact they control their media to such an extent that they now believe their own propaganda? That would certainly explain how they reacted with shock at the torch relay protests.

The leaders must realise that if they ban the western media, such as the BBC, from places like Lhasa, the overseas press will have to speculate on what is happening. If they stand by and say nothing over what is happening in Darfur, the media will tell the world and they will be held responsible for their inaction. When their security forces are seen attacking monks in Tibet, the world also sees this.

In other words, the central government has very bad PR. People around the world have seen and heard so much negative information about China, that they cannot let the Olympics take place without voicing their concerns.

I think China has a lot to offer the world, but to do so it must open its doors to the international media and face up to the hard questions it will be asked.

Stephen Anderson, Macau

Raise allowance

The old-age allowance was not increased in the last budget. This will impose a greater financial burden on elderly people over 70.

I think it is fair to keep the basic rate of 'fruit money' at HK$705 per month. However it should be raised for those whose assets are below a certain amount, say, HK$500,000.

William Koo, North Point

No subsidies

While I agree with Tracy Lai ('We need a budget airline', April 23) that budget airlines are desirable and to be encouraged, she is mistaken when she says that the government 'could set lower taxes to give budget airlines a better chance of surviving'.

Does she not realise Oasis went broke and therefore did not pay taxes?

The public should not be asked to subsidise commercial efforts through its taxes.

However the government could assist by having legislation preventing anti-competitive behaviour. Europe has a long history of established airlines bankrupting upstart airlines by predatory fare price cuts and then raising fares afterwards.

Of course that could never happen in Hong Kong, could it?

Jeremy M. Barr, Kowloon City