PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 July, 2009, 12:00am

Another helping hand for rich developers

The Development Bureau is proposing that developers' powers of compulsory confiscation of residential flats be increased in what the bureau terms as 'old buildings' - that is 50 years old.

The Hong Kong government has a direct involvement in granting property rights by selling land and requiring compliance with building regulations before project sales.

The Basic Law is supposed to guarantee property ownership rights without discrimination on whether the building was erected last year or in previous decades.

The bureau now wants to create a breach in that contractual agreement with the government by stating that 'old buildings' should be excluded from Basic Law protection.

This is an artificial excuse since these 'old buildings' can be adequately maintained, if necessary by the Buildings Department serving repair notices.

The real motivation for lowering the threshold for compulsory purchase is to take back land values for those 'old buildings' so that developers can profit by building bigger developments.

In many cases flat owners bought their homes because of the locality and they have strong ties to their family home and to the memories enshrined therein.

Why should they be dictated to and forcibly removed just so that developers can continue to make massive profits?

The Urban Renewal Authority has already met with strong public resistance and it is apparent that the Development Bureau is trying to solve this by giving private developers enhanced powers.

An enlightened government would leave behind this greed-is-good mentality and understand that age discrimination - either with people or with buildings - has no place in present-day Hong Kong.

Our government needs to climb out of the pockets of the major property developers if it values the support of the wider public.

The bureau's policy proposal will sow social discord.

Christian Rogers, Wan Chai

A flawed system with limitations

I admire the objectivity of Rob Carmichael, a British national, admitting that Britain has no 'true democracy' ('Frustration is understandable', July 16).

He says, 'Many argue that the only true Western democracy was in the ancient Greek city states . . . where all male citizens could address the assembly.'

He is thereby affirming that even in those true democracies universal suffrage never came into the picture.

How about women and the servants in ancient Greece, many of whom were slaves?

In the US today, what good has universal suffrage done to give US women a voice? The Senate has still not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted by the United Nations in 1979.

Even US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, despite her attempts, has failed to get this item included on the agenda of the Senate.

Tony Ngan, Causeway Bay

Stemming flow of plastic bags

Hong Kong is known to use many plastic bags - more than three per person per day.

Many of your correspondents doubt this, though this number is not out of thin air.

The government has surveyed landfills and based on those surveys comes to a typical 23 million plastic bags per day used, or with seven million people living in Hong Kong, more than three per person per day. And if anyone doesn't believe this, go and buy two buns in a bakery.

They will normally pack each bun in a plastic bag and then put the two together in another bag.

There you go, your first three plastic bags and you have only just bought breakfast. And please let no one claim they use those bags to collect garbage. I have never seen a refuse bin that small.

If, as many of your correspondents claim, all supermarket bags are used to collect and dispose of refuse, then either the bags contain very little garbage or these people produce excessive amounts of waste, which would indicate another problem.

For the record, I am of course one of the supporters of the plastic bag tax.

I do not think it will do much to reduce the actual amount of refuse (and not because everyone is rushing out to buy garbage bags instead), but because plastic bags are only a small fraction of our waste.

It is however a very visible fraction and it is high time that Hong Kong people learned that there is a world outside of this urban jungle that we must protect, as otherwise we will not be able to survive in the long run.

Wouter van Marle, Tai Po

Get citizens behind levy

The plastic bag levy has not been as effective as it should be.

I feel that after a while people will forget to bring their own bags while others will use shops where a levy is not imposed. I also wonder if people really think about the meaning of the levy.

If they bring their own bags, what is their motivation?

Do they want to save the Earth or just save money?

This calls into question how effective it will be in the long term.

I also have concerns regarding hygiene, with some customers putting meat and cooked food into used bags which may not be very clean.

Some customers will just pay the 50 cents levy, because they share these hygiene concerns.

Some companies will get round the levy by packing their products in a plastic bag.

Further legislation can put a stop to this practice.

I think the government must do a better job of getting the message across to citizens through more advertisements, about the importance of protecting the environment.

This can hopefully encourage people to take their own bags when they go shopping.

Chung Man-yau, Kwun Tong

Financial boost for government

I agree wholeheartedly with Charles Chow Chi-man ('No basis to bags claim', July 13).

Our household does exactly the same as his.

We have a carton where we store all kinds of plastic bags that we get from the shops.

I use the plastic bag which comes with my copy of the South China Morning Post, to clean up after my three dogs.

The conclusion I have reached regarding this levy is that I need to pay 50 cents which goes to the government coffers for what use I am not aware of.

Penny Yong Archer, Tai Po

Colour-coded seats on MTR

I agree with correspondents who have written to these columns urging better behaviour by passengers on MTR trains.

More must be done to encourage people to give up their seats to people who need them, such as the elderly and pregnant women.

I think the MTR Corporation could help.

I would suggest a certain number of seats in each carriage which are painted a different colour, making it clear that they are designated seats for people in need.

If there were, for example, no elderly or pregnant passengers, then of course anyone could use them.

I think this would help other passengers develop a more considerate approach.

Wong Pui-lam, Kwun Tong