PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 December, 2008, 12:00am

Travellers not at risk during Thai airport protest

It was ridiculous for travellers to Thailand to hold the Hong Kong government to account for failing to rescue them during the recent airport occupation.

I was travelling in Thailand throughout the period and the problem was not lack of aircraft, but lack of facilities to fuel and provision aircraft and process travellers. Thai International did a valiant job trying to get stranded passengers seats on available aircraft and was quite willing to credit their tickets to different carriers.

As I was staying privately I was amazed to receive a text message from the Hong Kong authorities with a number to call for help.

As to all the horror stories, daily life in Thailand was as easy as ever and stranded friends who had to take long-distance coaches overnight to airports were impressed with their luxuriousness.

Meanwhile, the Thai government paid 2,000 baht (HK$455) per day for those whose stay was extended. It was hardly a hardship or dangerous situation and I would rather see the government spend its valuable time on more pressing considerations.

Antony Wood, Mid-Levels

Consultants' advice ignored

I refer to the letter by Alfred Lee, assistant director of the Environmental Protection Department ('Bag levy will act as economic disincentive', December 9) replying to the letter by Alex Chu ('Government should scrap this pointless plastic bag levy', November 29).

The Hong Kong Retail Management Association agrees with Mr Chu that the plastic bag levy scheme should not be implemented in the first place. Mr Chu pointed out that plastic bags distributed by retailers are reused by consumers as garbage bags or for other purposes before they are dumped in the landfills.

The government has ignored the advice of its own consultant, which in 2007 recommended voluntary plastic bag reduction measures and stated that 'reductions in plastic bags do not necessarily have positive environmental impacts . . . Indeed bag bulk to landfill is anticipated to increase under all of the charging schemes, reflecting the impact of switching to alternatives'.

Even if all the affected retail outlets were to give no plastic bags, the number of bags saved each year (that they distribute) could not be more than 770 million. The government's target of reducing one billion bags per year is not achievable.

Unlike the plastic bag tax on the mainland that applies across the board, the proposed levy in Hong Kong will cover less than 4 per cent of the city's retail outlets, creating unnecessary confusion among consumers.

Mr Lee said the government will soon table the subsidiary legislation to activate the bag levy. In Legco's environmental affairs meeting on November 24, however, some lawmakers cast doubt on the effectiveness of the levy scheme, because of the small percentage of retail outlets covered.

The government should not rush through the legislation before it comes up with more useful measures to reduce municipal waste.

Philippe Giard, chairman, government regulations sub-committee, Hong Kong Retail Management Association

Let cashiers do the packing

I refer to the letter from Wolfgang Ehmann ('No extra cost', December 16) questioning my social responsibility and my assessment of add-on costs to consumers as a result of bringing our own bags ('Shoppers will pay for levy', December 15). In my shoulder bag I carry 10 additional bags. (Two sizes of environmentally-friendly cloth bags because one size does not fit all, four plastic bags from supermarkets into which I put chilled and frozen items so the condensing moisture does not get all over everything else, two different sizes of bubble pack bags into which chilled and frozen items are placed so they will still be chilled or frozen before I get them into the fridge, and two quite small plastic bags for rain-drenched umbrellas so I will avoid using those given out in malls.) So I am probably accepting my responsibility to avoid or reuse plastic bags at a higher level than Mr Ehmann, though my practice also seems a bit ludicrous to me.

Apparently Mr Ehmann has never noticed the look on cashiers' faces and people behind in the queue that I have seen when I try to bag my own items. The cashiers know they can do it more quickly than those of us who are non-professionals. They are extremely adroit when packing into their own store plastic bags. They simply go slower or even fumble with bags that are foreign to them. My observation is an accurate assessment of the situation.

Danny Thurston, Sheung Shui

Band-aid for a bullet wound

I refer to the letter by Paul Surtees ('Plastic bag levy makes sense', December 16).

As Mr Surtees appears to be a sensible fellow I would like to know if he can tell me how many plastic bags I can get inside a sofa, or a refrigerator, or a bed, or any of the other household and construction waste that gets dumped daily in Hong Kong.

It seems to me that plastic bags would take up a fraction of space in comparison to these other kinds of waste and are one of the few things in Hong Kong that actually get reused.

This obsession with plastic bags is just a 'band-aid for a bullet wound' approach.

John McHaffie, Mong Kok

Education the ultimate loser

I refer to the report ('Pushy parents offer 'gifts' to advance their child's cause', December 11).

Apparently some parents in Sydney, Australia, are giving teachers gifts to 'advance the prospects of their un-academic offspring'.

It appears that the shiny, red apple has long lost its appeal on the teacher's desk, replaced by a parade of fine wine, theatre tickets and extravagant holidays.

Parents are now using these monetary lures to try and raise their child's grades.

Society has a way of keeping the rich, rich and the poor, poor.

With their parents' extreme generosity and flashy attempts at persuasion, undeserving students always manage to wiggle their way into the top schools, while the rest rely on hard work and a helpless belief that the world is honest and fair. What will be next? Will we see parents offering teachers BMWs, Gucci shoes and private pools? Obviously, the development of a student's intelligence is not at all important now.

Rather, one must strive to attain the deepest pockets and find the greatest incentive for the teachers.

Lin Mimi Han, Ap Lei Chau

Good initiative

Restaurants have been praised for offering HK$1 as a way to help people deal with the economic recession.

I agree that this is a good initiative. It helps people deal with the problems created by the downturn and it also helps the restaurants, because with these discounts they can attract more customers.

However, while these discounts are good, restaurants are still suffering and many will find it difficult to survive. I think the government should be thinking of ways in which it can help eateries which are threatened with closure.

I do hope that Hong Kong can eventually solve its financial problems.

Yu Wun-ting, Kowloon Tong




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