PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 June, 2009, 12:00am

Railings create a deceptive sense of safety

I refer to the letters in these columns on the use of railings on paths.

Adding railings along Old Peak Road and Hatton Road are examples of how our streetscape and countryside are destroyed with ever more railings, fences and concrete for no good reason: no accidents have ever been reported.

I have accompanied my children along Old Peak Road from the time they had just started walking.

I would hold their hands just as I would do when we were on a busy road or an escalator.

The upper part of Old Peak Road is a wide pedestrian path without cars and there is no need for crowd control as few people use it.

No warnings are needed as the drop along the road is clearly visible.

People want to be able to have a clear view of the countryside.

Winnie Wong ('Hazardous footpaths require railings to protect pedestrians', June 13) has suggested that railings are needed to stop cars parking illegally on the narrow footpaths along the lower part of Old Peak Road.

However, I think that instead of railings we need wider footpaths, and the police should be given more support with heftier fines imposed for illegal parking.

In Singapore I noticed there were few railings along the waterfront or parks including a challenging and hazardous-looking skateboarding facility.

I asked Singaporean officials about this policy and they replied that safety was down to 'personal responsibility'.

In the Netherlands traffic engineer Hans Monderman's concept of 'shared space' has a proven track record of reducing accidents with the removal of railings, signals and signs.

He said: 'If you want a place to be safe, make it feel dangerous.'

Once some railings are put up along upper Old Peak Road people will start to feel safe and no longer hold their children by the hand.

The children may get close to the edge and run down the road. That is when accidents will happen and then there will be calls for even more fences and warning signs.

This vicious circle has to be broken. To help make Hong Kong Asia's most beautiful city we have to start removing fences, railings, poles and concrete from our streets and countryside.

Paul Zimmerman, founding member, Designing Hong Kong

Pay cuts make matters worse

Our respected Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen supports a 5.38 per cent pay cut from his package of HK$371, 855 per month amounting to roughly HK$20,000.

This amount is negligible to anyone earning this sort of money.

In any case why is the government initiating a pay cut?

What is the objective of such irresponsible decision-making?

Given that the economy will be set to recover in the last quarter, salaries should be frozen not reduced.

The effect of salary cuts will send negative signals to the public and lead to another round of reduced spending.

As a responsible employer of more than 80 staff in Hong Kong, I have not frozen salaries and have not initiated salary cuts yet.

In my opinion, such a reduction is the last option in any prudent business policy designed to ensure a company's survival.

Private businesses and governments should act responsibly. Savings can be made by adopting prudent spending policies plus cutting back on entertainment expenses. Also property leases, which take a substantial slice of a firm's budget, can be renegotiated.

The effect of salary cuts will only prolong the pain and slow down the rate of recovery in all sectors. Hong Kong does not need that right now.

If anyone doubts the motivation behind my opposition to wage cuts let me point out that I am not a government employee.

Eric Kee, Mid-Levels

Authoritarian and simplistic

I am dismayed by the suggestion school students should be tested for drugs. Like corporal punishment, this is an authoritarian idea. Those who support it are treating students like objects.

We should not take a simplistic approach. The drug abuse problem cannot be tackled by focusing on the students. The availability of drugs, lack of awareness and neglect by parents are all factors that contribute to the problem.

Our education system punishes and torments our young people instead of helping them. A drug test for pupils, if handled badly, will only drive away those we want to help.

If there is to be a test, the whole process has to be done with consent from the student and in strictest confidence.

Virginia Yue, Tsuen Wan

Bodyguard case belongs in court

I refer to the letter by Grenville Cross, director of public prosecutions ('Prosecution of bodyguards was not justified', June 17).

Mr Cross said: 'Borderline or sensitive cases cannot simply be pushed off for trial because the prosecutor wants to shirk his responsibilities.' Surely it is precisely those cases that are not obviously going to fail that should go to court for judgment. Otherwise, the director of public prosecutions becomes rather more than a gatekeeper.

If there is even a borderline possibility that the commission of an offence, and particularly a violent one, can be established, despite the existence of apparent mitigating circumstances, then this should be decided in a public court and not in the private offices of the director of public prosecutions.

Mr Cross fails to recognise this vital element of what should be public policy in an open society.

Jon Fearon-Jones, Macau

Quash verdict

I refer to the report ('Mixed opinions on Deng Yujiao verdict', June 17).

I believe that Deng Yujiao should have been given a verdict of 'not guilty'. She killed 'a government official who tried to force her to have sex with him' ('Court convicts, frees waitress who killed cadre', June 17).

She acted in self defence to protect her dignity and honour.

I agree with the statement by a member of a Wuhan women's rights group: 'I believe there's no such thing as excessive force when you fight against rape.' Ms Deng did not commit a crime and should not be penalised.

The guilty verdict will deter other women who find themselves in the same situation.

They may not defend themselves for fear of being treated unfairly.

The verdict of guilty should be overturned. Why should she be punished after what she went through?

Michele Kalish, The Peak

Job requirement

Hans Ebert ('Language rule a bad move', June 16) complains that ability to read Chinese is a requirement for the job of the head of CreateHK.

Let me ask whether he would expect any government to recruit a high profile public servant who cannot read, write or speak the country's language.

Perhaps Mr Ebert lives and works in a sector where little Chinese is used and thinks that is the norm.

He has forgotten that he is a guest worker in China.

Otherwise why does he belittle the requirement of Chinese as 'lazy', unenterprising and doing things by half measures? He should accept that his friend lacks a major requirement and is not qualified for the job.

John Cheong, Kowloon Tong