PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 April, 2009, 12:00am

We can turn new cultural district into a major tourist attraction

I am grateful to Sir David Tang for initiating the forum on April 18 on the West Kowloon Cultural District ('New cultural district needs autonomy, experts say', April 19).

Building a cultural and arts hub on its own will not guarantee people visit it. Conversely, look at New York, where Broadway and the Lincoln Arts Centre are embedded within the community, or London, where Soho and [the West End] are similarly intertwined.

Hong Kong is going through its midlife crisis, desperately trying to reinvent itself as a major metropolis and tourist attraction. It has a stunning harbour, but residents and tourist struggle to get to and use its shoreline. New or refreshed attractions are lifeless and superficial, such as the Central Star Ferry pier.

West Kowloon is the last opportunity to create a world-class attraction that will embody the heart and soul of Hong Kong. Kai Tak is already on its way to becoming yet another luxury mass housing development with a cruise terminal thrown in.

While it still has the time, Hong Kong should pause and take a step back and reflect on how it can create a significant footfall (visitation), an outstanding local destination and a 'must-visit' tourism attraction. I have a number of suggestions.

Drop the emphasis on arts and culture. Keep relevant components, but be open about reusing existing (but renovated) facilities throughout the city.

Address the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (or Mice) market. This high-spending market will move over to Macau and Singapore when the Venetian Sands circuit with Las Vegas is completed.

There must be a permanent venue for Cirque du Soleil.

Move the cruise terminal to West Kowloon, to be the appropriate disembarkation experience for cruise passengers to enjoy Hong Kong's heart and soul. Incorporate the existing Ocean Terminal into the master plan. Build casinos, not the brash version across the border, but facilities that represent the stature of the city. Have retail outlets, restaurants, entertainment, hotels, service apartments and limited luxury homes.

Monte Carlo is not bigger than Hong Kong, but still continues to attract significant visitors.

Importantly, make this a truly sustainable development. Use the latest in sustainable and environmental material and technology to achieving carbon neutrality. Members of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority must give change a chance.

K. K. Fong, Lantau

One country, but no level playing field

I appreciate Owen Tang's response ('Not comparing like with like when looking at visa rules on mainland', April 19) to my letter ('Official should explain visa difficulties', April 12) questioning the possibility of unfair visa practices of Shenzhen residents coming to Hong Kong on relaxed restrictions, while expat permanent residents do not have the same rights.

Mr Tang says I am comparing an orange to an apple. I think not.

First, he says that if I want to be treated as a local Chinese I should change my nationality. Why should one's nationality have anything to do with equitable treatment? Would Mr Tang concede that a green card in America is equivalent to permanent residency in Hong Kong?

Hongkongers or mainlanders who go to America get a green card and can travel, work and live anywhere they choose in the 50 states, with no need to change their citizenship or their passports - as Mr Tang suggested I should do. Why should I change my nationality and have to have a Hong Kong passport? America makes no such requirements!

Are we not 'one country'? If so, why can I travel to Macau with only my Hong Kong identity card, but not to the mainland?

If I were to take Mr Tang's advice and get a Hong Kong passport, would I as a 'westerner' be able to get a 'home return permit'? I think not.

If not, why not?

Finally, people from the mainland do not have Hong Kong passports or citizenship. So why are they given special treatment but I am not?

Terry Scott, Sha Tin

Recycle rather than just throwing away

Since technology is improving all the time, a lot of outdated electronic devices, such as electrical appliances and games consoles, are thrown away every year in Hong Kong. This is very wasteful.

People should think carefully before buying a new product and ask themselves if they really need it. Rather than throwing the old item away they should give it to a charity or make sure they put it into a recycling bin.

The government should do more to ensure students are taught about the importance of environmental awareness.

We are responsible for protecting our planet.

Chow Man-hong, Tsuen Wan

Scrap highway lane and do more for the poor

I would like to thank Alan Alanson for his Banker/Road Warrior column ('Poverty: you can't afford to ignore it any longer', April 19).

He's right that any action we take, small or large, to fight extreme poverty will help people.

Though it will be a challenge to balance the government budget while accommodating the desire to keep taxes low and build more infrastructure, let's remember the greatest need: those 1 billion plus people, not fortunate enough to live here, who survive on less than HK$250 a month. Though they are a lower priority than Hong Kong residents, they are still human beings and our relative wealth gives us tremendous power and opportunity to help them.

The UN suggests rich countries give 0.7 per cent of their gross national product to development aid. Hong Kong can easily meet this modest goal.

I, and many residents, would gladly forgo, for example, another new highway lane to raise the money needed. If I am in slow traffic for a minute or two, I will remember the millions of people we helped and be happy to have made a small sacrifice for such a rich return.

The government's programme to match individual donations to some charities is great. This could be expanded, or direct grants could be given to charities with the most efficient and effective programmes.

Larry Baum, Ma On Shan

Practical shopper

Regarding the reports on discounts, do Hongkongers really buy items from the supermarket just because they're (supposedly) discounted?

I only buy items that I need, and even then only if I think the price is reasonable and affordable for me.

When I first moved to Hong Kong more than 10 years ago, a prepacked Emmenthal cheese cost about HK$30 or so in these supermarkets. It now costs about HK$70. Even if the supermarket gave a 10 per cent or even 20 per cent discount on this item, I still would not buy it, for obvious reasons.

When shopping, I look at the price, and I look into my wallet, and then I decide what to buy and what not to buy.

Nina Cheung, Sha Tin

Time to switch off

I am concerned about the levels of light pollution in Hong Kong, which is wasting electricity.

We do not need to have so many lights on in our buildings at night. I do not understand why so many lights continue to be turned on at night.

Light pollution is very bad for people's health. It raise stress levels for those people who are most affected by it.

When will the government realise that this is a problem and decide to do something about it?

Andrea Tsui, Jardine's Lookout