PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 January, 2009, 12:00am

Should the government buy back the outlying-islands ferry service?

I am delighted that the government has taken on board the suggestion made by Lamma Island residents during meetings with the Transport Department that it should consider the role of actively managing the outlying-islands routes.

The argument that it is not government policy to subsidise or support transport links is untenable, as can be seen from the assets granted to the KCR in the past and the grants to the MTR Corporation (although a listed company, the government in effect controls it with a 76 per cent stake).

While the other island residents have some sympathy with Discovery Bay residents, the situation is in many ways far more acute on places such as Cheung Chau, Peng Chau, Lamma and Po Toi, where there is no alternative road link and bearing in mind that the Islands District has some of the highest unemployment and lowest family-income levels in Hong Kong.

There is perhaps some validity in the argument that the MTR affects and supports far greater numbers of Hong Kong residents, but that view would necessarily confirm the categorising of island residents as second-class. Is that the government's wish or stated policy? We have requested that the government investigate the cost of purchasing suitable, modern, environmentally friendly ferries and then including their cost over an extended period of years in tender packages.

An added benefit would be in ensuring transparency for the paying public, as the government would be able to accurately apportion ferry-company costs in a far simpler way, since the variables would be reduced to little more than wages, fuel and maintenance.

Nick Bilcliffe, Lamma Island

Should cameras be installed in busy pedestrian areas?

I think it is a good idea to have security cameras in Mong Kok, one of the most crowded areas in Hong Kong ('Mong Kok to install spy cameras', January 7).

I think the installation of closed-circuit TV, with 24-hour surveillance, can help deter people from throwing objects from heights, as happened on Sai Yeung Choi Street South last month, when two bottles of acid were thrown. If such an incident is repeated, it will be easier with the camera footage for police to find out who is responsible.

Critics of these cameras have raised the issue of privacy.

Some are concerned that the activities of pedestrians and Mong Kok residents in their homes will be monitored.

In terms of privacy in the home, I do not think this will be a problem so long as the cameras do not point directly into apartments.

It is important that we appreciate why this CCTV system is being installed.

It is designed to deter people from throwing objects from a height, a practice that has increased in recent years.

There are advantages and disadvantages with regard to this scheme.

However, I think we need to accept that with these spy cameras, the positive impact outweighs the negative aspects.

Desmond Wong, Tuen Mun

Should the full smoking ban be delayed?

A. J. Hedley, Clear the Air and Dr Judith Mackay continue to mislead Hong Kong residents about the comparative dangers of second-hand smoke.

Anti-tobacco crusaders, some of whom depend on promoting these views for their living, love dusting off long-forgotten files to extract meaningless statistics. Did you know for instance that someone once concluded that 67 per cent of all statistics are wrong?

But coming back to Professor Hedley's '40 tonnes of highly poisonous chemicals' spewed out by Hong Kong's smokers (Talkback January 8), most of this smoke with its poison never reaches the outside air you and I have to breathe.

It gets deposited in the lungs of smokers or clings to the walls as a yellow filth inside smoking premises. This is the legitimate choice of those who smoke, enter or permit smoking premises.

Smokers are not 'compelled' by their addiction to continue smoking as Clear the Air suggests. If this were the case, how is it that thousands of smokers successfully quit each year? Clear the Air has to accept people choose not to give up smoking and this is their right.

I challenge every person who has condemned smokers in these columns to verify that they never travel in a private car in Hong Kong. Since your correspondents are so beholden to statistics, here are some for them.

The University of Tennessee's Centre for Energy, Transportation and Environment, after years of research, concludes the 'personal automobile is the single greatest polluter' and 'driving a private car is a typical citizen's most polluting activity'.

The Calor Gas Company of Britain goes even further and states that by just walking about in the streets of Oxford, for instance, one of Britain's most traffic-congested and vehicle-emission-polluted cities, you will inhale in one day the equivalent of smoking 60 cigarettes.

So let's get things into perspective. It is outside air quality that Clear the Air and company should be concerned with, not a few guys who wish to enjoy a cigarette at their own risk in a smoky bar.

Clear the Air has in the past consistently rejected requests to add private cars to the list of polluters. Its committee prefers to attack smokers and 'polluting' buses, which provide seating accommodation for 150 passengers.

P. A. Crush, Sha Tin

How can teens' internet ethics be improved?

I am concerned about the level of ignorance among people of the law as it relates to use of the internet ('40pc of young people ignorant of cyberspace law, survey shows', January 5).

The Edison Chen Koon-hei sex-photos scandal shows how young people can be influenced by what they see on the internet and how something put on the Net can spread quickly.

This is an example of improper use, but some teenagers are also using the internet illegally.

Although law enforcement on the internet is not easy, the government must try to get the message across to teenagers that they face penalties if they illegally upload sexually explicit photos.

It is normal for young people to be curious about sex. However, it is up to parents and schools to help teenagers develop a mature attitude and not share indecent pictures with friends on the Web. Parents should also monitor computers in the home.

The trend of young people to download indecent and illegal material must be reversed and parents, schools and the government must ensure this.

Smith Ho, Kwun Tong