PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 April, 2010, 12:00am

Make HK centre of veterinary excellence

The World Health Organisation and other health experts around the world have strongly advocated the importance of veterinary health care and urged the world to step up veterinary training as an effective means to control zoonotic (diseases transmissible from animals to humans) epidemics at source and to improve human health.

On the mainland and in Taiwan we have seen determined moves in this direction.

In Beijing, the Chinese Veterinary Medical Association was established in October.

In Taipei, the National Taiwan University set up Asia's first animal cancer research centre in February. These efforts will benefit animal and human health.

However, they are lacking in Hong Kong even though the community is becoming increasingly vocal about the need for more vet doctors to take care of animal welfare, public health and food safety.

A year ago the president of City University, Professor Way Kuo, voiced his vision in establishing Asia's first world-class vet school in Hong Kong.

It has received enthusiastic support from various sectors of the community.

I heard some interested local students and their parents had already inquired about the possibility of studying veterinary medicine in Hong Kong.

When we talk about a vet school we are not only talking about caring for pets or more productive farming.

We are also talking about improving animal and human health as a whole.

The role of veterinary science is becoming broader and much more important today.

With the signing of the recent framework agreement on Hong Kong and Guangdong co-operation, Hong Kong became even more closely linked with the Pearl River Delta area.

This further underscores the significance of the proposed vet school for the region.

We cannot rely only on universities overseas to produce the necessary talent in such a key area of health and well-being.

It is also the Hong Kong government's aim to establish the city as the region's education hub. This is an insightful policy. Now a local institution plans to collaborate with a top-notch university from abroad to establish a vet school with international recognition.

Graduates from the school will contribute significantly to the health and welfare of the people of Hong Kong and the region. This is a contribution we should be proud of.

Raymond Ho Chung-tai, legislative councillor

Taking shark fin off the menu

The consumption of shark's fin has increased throughout the world, but especially in China.

At traditional Chinese banquets, shark's fin soup is seen as a must-have item on the menu. It is not an essential course, but diners seem to feel something is missing if it is not included. Shark fins have no nutritional value, but having the soup they are made from on the menu is a symbol of wealth.

This is an attitude that must be changed.

Guests at these banquets might think differently if they knew about the depleted populations of many species of shark caught for their fins. Some species face extinction. We must make people realise that they are worth protecting.

Attitudes can only be influenced with education. Since shark's fin soup is so popular in China, that is where education should be focused so that the Chinese appreciate the importance of biodiversity.

This is one tradition where radical changes are required.

The central and Hong Kong governments should spare no effort to protect sharks.

Bryan Chan, Tsuen Wan

So much for URA openness

The Urban Renewal Authority receives HK$10 billion from the government annually for its projects. It claims to be 'open, transparent and publicly accountable' in its operations.

I contacted it for further information for research purposes.

I wanted a breakdown of the URA's annual revenue (where its income comes from and a breakdown of its budget and how it is spent).

In an e-mail on March 15, the URA said it could not provide the information I required.

Given that the URA receives substantial public funding and has a less than spectacular track record, I would have thought it would recognise the importance of being transparent.

Jason Cheng, Wan Chai

Be resolute on columbariums

I refer to the report (' 'Does this too solid flesh melt, thaw and resolve itself into a chemical stew?'', April 7).

The comment by Gilbert Leung Kam-ho, executive director of a private columbarium - that since virtually no DNA can be found in ashes after cremation that scientifically it can be argued that they are not human remains - is beyond belief.

Does Mr Leung and the other operators of columbariums consider that people would pay a small fortune for niches to store the ashes if they thought they were merely chemicals?

There is a loved one who has passed away and whose body has been cremated, and any lack of DNA does not alter the fact that the remains were previously a person.

Fortunately, the Lands Department for the purpose of land administration does consider such ashes as human remains and that various leases have been breached by the provision of columbariums.

What is needed now, however, is immediate lease enforcement action, that is, the government should take the land back.

Any policy debate on the provision of such facilities is a completely separate issue, and normal land administration should not be delayed by it.

Regularisation should not be considered an option, as that would only encourage more people to build illegally and apply for permission only if they are subsequently discovered.

Allan Hay, Tai Po

By-elections 'unnecessary'

I refer to Michael Ko's letter ('Clarify stand on by-elections', April 12).

The consistent position of the Hong Kong SAR government is that this round of resignations of the five Legislative Council members and the subsequent by-elections are unnecessary and could have been avoided. In September 2008 the electors of Hong Kong voted 60 members into Legco to serve the community for a term of four years.

The five members who resigned could have chosen to stay in the council to deal with important issues such as constitutional development for 2012 and other economic and social issues, and to reflect the views of their constituents. However, as they have chosen to resign, the SAR government will, in accordance with the law, organise the by-elections to ensure that the public will be fully represented by 60 members in Legco.

As with recent by-elections, the government will make use of various publicity channels (including posters, television and radio commercials) to inform electors of details of the upcoming Legco by-elections, including their date and polling hours.

All registered voters, including principal officials, will decide on their own whether, and if so how, to participate in the by-elections.

Ivanhoe Chang, for secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs

Don't ignore Bangkok alert

The Hong Kong government has raised the travel alert for Thailand to black, the highest level, 'for the first time since the system was introduced in October' ('HK holidaymakers defy travel warning', April 12).

Therefore, I am concerned that some Hongkongers are continuing to visit Thailand, and Bangkok in particular, for their holidays.

When interviewed in the press they say they find the city safe and will avoid those crowded areas where the red-shirt protesters are present.

May I remind readers of what happened in 2008 when [yellow-shirted] protesters occupied Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi international airport.

Again, there were clashes between police and protesters.

The Hong Kong government used taxpayers' money to pay for charter flights to bring back some of the Hong Kong residents who were stuck in Bangkok.

I do not want us to have to pay again for someone's careless mistakes, especially after this highest level official warning has been issued by the SAR administration.

Samuel Chan, Sha Tin

Cheated by KL cabbies

I read Rick Weil's letter ('Time to hail our cabbies', April 9) while on a flight back from Kuala Lumpur.

In that city I had some unpleasant encounters with taxi drivers.

My friend and I were overcharged twice by the KL taxi drivers.

We tried to get in metered taxis but at the taxi stands they asked for a fixed price, four times the actual fare.

Once we managed to hire a metered cab from the same taxi rank to take us to our hotel. The fare was just half the fare we paid on the previous journey thanks to a dishonest driver. We felt upset and annoyed that we had been cheated, and it affected our enjoyment of the trip.

I wish anyone planning to visit KL good luck if they are hoping to get a metered taxi.

It is true that we have a very reliable and efficient taxi service in Hong Kong, thanks to the professional drivers.

Locals and tourists should be grateful for their reliability and honesty.

Bless Ho, Tai Po