PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 January, 2009, 12:00am

Should CCTV be installed in busy pedestrian areas?

Lawmakers are being asked to seriously consider the use of CCTV following an incident in Mong Kok when bottles of acid were thrown from a height.

They will be asked to discuss such cameras not just for a pilot scheme at two buildings in Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mong Kok, but eventually in other busy areas.

The acid attack is recent, but I can also think back to 1993 when 21 people were crushed to death in Lan Kwai Fong on New Year's Eve. There may be incidents in the future and precious time will be lost debating this issue.

If surveillance is for the purpose of ensuring the safety of citizens, why should one object, as long as police can guarantee that footage from the cameras will not be misused or released to anyone, and it can be proved beyond doubt that it is needed, for example, for criminal proceedings in court?

These kinds of cameras are installed at busy locations in many of the big cities of the world, such as Times Square in New York and areas of London. I do not think any sensible person can reasonably object, unless he is intent on mischief. Therefore I urge lawmakers and Yau Tsim Mong District Council to expedite this matter in the interests of the community.

Lalchandani Nanik, Tsim Sha Tsui

What do you think of the review of MTR by-laws?

I agree some outdated MTR bylaws should be abandoned. However, I don't think it would be a good idea to repeal the ban on the consumption of food and drinks in train compartments.

Maybe I feel this way because of an unpleasant experience I had in a carriage, when a commuter accidentally dropped her cup of coffee and it spilled all over the floor. She was so embarrassed that she got off the train immediately.

Coffee has a pleasant smell, but it can be altogether different with food. If someone boarded an MTR carriage and started eating some smelly tofu or Chinese salty fish, MTR Corporation staff would have no authority to stop him if the bylaws were changed and the consumption of food was allowed.

Other passengers would be forced to tolerate this smell. And what would happen when the passenger wanted to get rid of the rubbish? Putting trash bins in the compartment would not be a solution as there is only limited room.

Actually few journeys on the MTR network last longer than an hour. Therefore, perhaps with the exception of water, there is no need for food and drink on board. I think repealing the ban would be totally unacceptable.

Wong Pui-lam, Kwun Tong

On other matters ...

I have been here a very long time, but rarely have I read a letter as prejudiced as that of Prakash Mahbubani (Talkback, January 13). He asks why domestic helpers are allowed to use up all of Statue Square on Sundays. Well I think the answer is - we all are. Since when has anyone the right to ban a group of people from a public area of the city or dictate how they spend their precious free time?

Many tourists I've met thoroughly enjoy seeing the girls enjoying their day, singing and chatting, dancing and praying. They are friendly and gentle and lend colour to our world, I believe.

He suggests that they go elsewhere and spend money. I would ask what spare money these people have with their pittance of a salary that goes home to their families, all HK$3,580 of it.

Could Mr Mahbubani support his family on that and find money to spend in malls and restaurants? Maybe he too works for over 12 hours a day before he can rest. He even states they do not contribute financially to the city. What if they all went home? Even more ludicrous is the statement that they don't pay tax. To pay tax they would have to earn double what they get. Many of these girls are banned from staying in their employers' homes on their day off, even in the freezing weather.

Our helpers are not like 'every other citizen' (thank God) and they cannot spend money on, for example, shopping and cinemas. So maybe your correspondent should be a little more thoughtful towards these much-abused, underpaid, undervalued and overworked (in many cases) members of our community. There are many cases of Filipino domestic helpers not being allowed to use a washing machine and having to scrub sheets in cold water until their hands are cracked and bleeding. Or the girls who have to sleep in the kitchen and have no place to put their belongings.

If you were treated like that, Mr Mahbubani, would you not be glad to meet your friends, talk in your language and have a sing-song? Try a little tolerance. You will be happier.

Sara Rennison, Fanling

Thank you, John Wilson (Talkback, January 15), for telling off Prakash Mahbubani (Talkback, January 13) who complained that foreign domestics use public parks on their days off.

It's been tiresome over the years to hear such criticism from various quarters about these women who help keep the city clean and tidy. Where are they supposed to have their one day of rest, for heaven's sake? With Filipinos relaxing on Central's pavements and Indonesians in Victoria Park, why should locals look askance at them for occupying space when there are not many areas near their places of work in which they can congregate. With transport costs rising, many cannot afford to wander far.

The constant moaning over these hard-working women, and their out-and-out maltreatment is unconscionable. Must they always be treated as less than human beings? Small wonder there are occasional suicides among them, as documented by local non-governmental organisations. Magistrate Anthony Kwok Kai-on was quoted as saying ill treatment like this may make the domestics 'think Hongkongers are barbarians' ('Woman who slapped maid fined HK$2,000', January 14).

I've got news for him: for years many domestics (and others) have been saying precisely this.

Isabel Escoda, Lantau