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

Should there be more controls of outdoor smoking?

I refer to the report 'Pedestrians complain of fumes from outdoor areas where smoking allowed' (July 13).

Smoke Terminators' Society chairwoman Betty Kwan Ka-mei said it was unfair to non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. What about the rights of the smoking population?

We now have smoke-free buildings, parks and beaches, and, since July 1, smoke-free bars and clubs. Where are smokers supposed to go? At least we are able to keep to the designated areas and street corners.

The report referred to a designated area in Wan Chai: Gloucester Road Garden. I am sorry if the smoke seems concentrated, but that is what happens when the smoking population congregates in segregated areas.

Did people who have voiced their concerns think the smoking population of Hong Kong consisted of only a few thousand people?

I am always hearing about the damage of second-hand smoke but have yet to see a study comparing the effects of second-hand smoke to the effects of vehicular pollution in a densely populated city with heavy traffic like Hong Kong. When I am on the pavements I cannot be sure which is stronger, the smell of cigarette smoke or the exhaust fumes of the city's traffic.

Ken Wong, Happy Valley

Do you think buses are too cold?

Most of the buses in Hong Kong are far too cold. We should follow the example set by cities like Singapore or Tokyo, where temperatures on buses are set at 22 to 25 degrees Celsius.

In our buses it is mostly sub-20, and I agree with the report 'Bus exhaust a major source of roadside heat nuisance' (July 21) that the contrast with outside temperatures is too stark and this is not very healthy for passengers.

Rahil Ahuja, Repulse Bay

On other matters ...

Tim Hamlett's droll column (July 15) regarding religious affiliations of independent schools in Hong Kong raises some interesting issues.

In most other English-speaking jurisdictions in the region, almost all independent schools are affiliated with a church or other religious organisation; this is certainly the case in Australia and New Zealand.

Perhaps only 25 per cent of students in these countries come from religiously observant families, but families willingly accept the deal that admission to the school is contingent upon students submitting to religious education and regular religious services.

Having been through this system, I can attest that the rigours of religious education have never yet killed a student, although it could occasionally be blamed for inducing narcolepsy if delivered ineptly.

Those parents who cannot accept this send their children to secular state schools. In contrast, Hong Kong has a wealth of secular non-government schools, in fact a greater proportion than most other countries.

In Indonesia, Christian schools are heavily populated with Muslim students. Their parents acknowledge the high standard of education offered and solid ethical values taught. While very few of these Muslim students convert, most leave school with many Christian friends and a balanced, fraternal view of their Christian compatriots.

Likewise, many Christian and Buddhist school graduates seek to enter elite universities run by Islamic foundations in that country. All leave university with many Muslim friends and a balanced view of Islam.

Hong Kong is one of the very few jurisdictions in the world to run schools based on ancestral ethnic origin rather than religion. The Kiangsu-Chekiang schools and the Fujian schools are a case in point. Schools run by secular charities like Heung Yee Kuk and Po Leung Kuk are also a feature unique to Hong Kong.

In short, parents have little to fear and much to appreciate in sending their children to religious schools, but should they object to this, many secular alternatives of good quality exist.

Simon Appleby, Sai Kung

I refer to the report 'Only 46pc of calls are genuine emergencies' (July 20).

Police requested that people phone their local police station for non-emergency incidents. They totally ignore the fact that people move around the area and do not have a list with the phone numbers of every police station, nor do they know exactly which police station is the 'local' one.

The police have never followed up on the request - made more than 10 years ago when they got riled at inessential 'emergency calls' - that they instigate another citywide phone number to handle calls that are not real emergencies but incidents that place people in potential danger.

I have on several occasions asked my Cantonese-speaking wife to call 999 to bring to the attention of the police large pieces of debris on the elevated highway passing the Macau-ferry pier, which could cause a pile-up. Why, if the police are so eager to rid themselves of inessential 'emergency' calls, have they dragged their heels for more than 10 years and not had a citywide 'near-emergency' number for public-spirited citizens to make a report?

It has been many years since the subject was brought up by me and other correspondents, in the Letters to the Editor page. My two letters were published in 1999 and 2001. Nothing positive has ever happened, only police procrastination.

Anthony R.C. Green, Pok Fu Lam

I had to smile ironically when I read the report 'Call for action to stop dishonest depictions in real estate brochures' (July 13). A green group claimed that 80 per cent of brochures were misleading and it intended to lobby the government to correct the situation.

Let me get this clear.

It intends to lobby a government that systematically misleads the public with illustrations of finished infrastructure projects, which in no way represent reality on the ground, and then arrogantly dismisses any objection to the disparity as merely being 'an artist's impression'.

In other fields of commerce and industry this is called deception and it is a criminal offence. However, as usual, when dealing with a government that is so sycophantic in its dealings with property tycoons, and in some cases employed by them after retiring from the civil service, this deception is seen as normal.

So I wish the green group all the best in its endeavour to change the government's mindset, but let's face it, as the system stands, that will never happen.

Stuart Brookes, Sheung Wan