PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 May, 2010, 12:00am

HK risks becoming a concrete world unsuitable for children

In January the government published a document online entitled 'Hong Kong; The Facts - Town Planning'.

It reminds us, in case we had forgotten, that town planning aims at 'providing a quality living environment, facilitating economic development, and promoting the health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the community'.

It is well known that Hong Kong and Macau are two of the most densely populated regions in the world (ranking fourth and first respectively on Wikipedia, with Hong Kong also No.1 in Russell Ashe's list of the most densely populated cities in The Top Ten of Everything). Shenzhen also ranks in his top 10.

With unprecedentedly aggressive development continuing either side of the soon to be non-existent Lo Wu border, and with the two regional planning agencies (Shenzhen's and Hong Kong's) oblivious to each other's programmes, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen conurbation risks becoming an urban monster of unprecedented proportions.

Hong Kong lacks the foresight and sustainable development ethos of conurbations such as the Randstad in the Netherlands that incorporates only seven million people in the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht and that yet surrounds a green heart of woods and lakes.

With no 'green heart' either geographically or politically, Hong Kong will soon become a polluted, concrete world unsuitable for children.

A generations-old forest that surrounded my village has been slowly disappearing under caterpillar tracks over the last couple of months.

On occasion as I walked by I photographed the destruction on my mobile phone. A developer standing close by rushed up to me and in a threatening tone shouted,'No photos'.

He continued with his threatening gestures, 'Not for internet'. It would seem, then, that even the developers themselves are aware they are doing something wrong.

Michael O'Sullivan, Sai Kung

Plenty of people are learning the pipes

It was a real pleasure to see half a page devoted to the role of the great Highland bagpipe in Hong Kong ('The pipes are calling - for new bandsmen', April 25). But I was distressed by the pessimistic suggestion that since 'the handover, civilians in Hong Kong do not want to learn to play the pipes'.

Politics, as your interviewee rightly pointed out, has nothing to do with it. The use of pipes on public occasions is part of Hong Kong's own culture. Actually there are plenty of people learning the pipes.

Several youth groups, including the Scouts, St John Ambulance, Hong Kong Adventure Corps and the Road Safety Patrol have prosperous pipe bands whose members learn as part of their group activities. Uniformed government entities such as the customs and the Auxiliary Medical Service have amateur pipe bands formed by their own staff.

There are also pipe bands with no affiliation to a uniformed organisation. The one of which I am a member gets one or two inquiries a month from people interested in learning piping and our more experienced members happily spend a lot of their time teaching. The piping scene in Hong Kong has its problems. but a shortage of people interested in learning the instrument is not one of them.

Tim Hamlett, Fo Tan

Seeking clarification on government vehicles

On April 18 at 12.45am, I saw a new white Mitsubishi four-wheel-drive jeep parked at Lo Fai Road, Tai Po, opposite Forest Hill.

It had an AM licence plate, meaning it was a government car.

About five minutes later I drove down to the bottom of the hill from Lo Fai Road, and my car and the government jeep stopped at the red traffic lights.

In the vehicle I saw two adults on the front seats and several children in the back.

I pulled down my window and asked the driver if he had the appropriate official licence to use a government car.

He said: 'Why wouldn't I have a licence?'

I would like the relevant department to clarify the rules regarding use of government cars. Can officials use them for recreational purposes?

Is this appropriate use of a government vehicle? I would be interested to know what the policy is on this.

I can provide the full registration number to the relevant government department, on request.

Eugene Li, Deep Water Bay

Some iPod users oblivious to danger

Jason Ali ('Bugged by ear buds', April 25) decried the incessant wearing of iPod earpieces, saying that seeing other people wearing them irritated him, however, he did not say why.

Could it be that, like many of us, he has been bumped into on the street by iPod wearers who are often apparently oblivious to what's going on around them? Some clearly lack the ability to listen to music on them and walk safely at the same time, making them a hazard to other pedestrians. But they can be just as much of a hazard to their own safety.

The other day, an iPod wearer strolled right in front of a moving bus on a busy street in Central. The driver had to brake sharply and sound the horn.

However, the iPod wearer was blithely unaware of any of this, and continued to jaywalk. Another time he might not be able to avoid an encounter with a bus - an encounter that would surely put him in hospital or the morgue.

It is all very well for music-lovers to entertain themselves by the use of iPods as they perambulate our city. But where this makes them insensible to their surroundings, it must be seen as the very real danger to safety that such behaviour really represents.

Paul Surtees, Mid-Levels

Benefiting from wonderful technology

I am one of the youngish, non-Chinese males to whom Jason Ali ('Bugged by ear buds', April 25) refers, and who invariably walks around listening to an iPod. Among the things I regularly listen to are Cantonese lessons, podcasts about the history of ideas and classical music.

I can't say for sure whether I wear a vacant stare when I'm doing this but if I do, it's because I'm busy educating myself.

I very much hope that Mr Ali's seven-year-old daughter, to whom he refers, will indeed choose to spend a substantial fraction of her own time on the move making the most of this wonderful technology.

Richard McGeough, Lamma

Flawed employers

I would like to respond to Jeremy M. Barr ('Merits of wisdom', April 18) who was responding to my letter ('Best candidate can be blocked by nepotism', April 11).

He tells me I 'should note that (older people) have...wisdom and experience'. That is precisely the point I was trying to make, suggesting further that those qualities are more important than ancient qualifications.

To reiterate; I believe a significant number of Hong Kong employers do not know how to assess qualities other than qualifications and so rely on the latter exclusively, even if they are, in effect, meaningless. Thus speaks the wisdom of a 49-year-old, since he asked.

Brian Hart, Sai Kung