New rule plays into hands of developers
The chief executive may do a U-turn on Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng's much-criticised refusal to use government resources to help people own their homes ('Minister comes under fire over HOS comments', May 5).
It would be consistent to do a U-turn on the 80 per cent rule as well.
I am sure both of these senior members of our government well understand that homeowners only come to own their property after years of hard work.
It would be politically and ethically more consistent with that understanding if the government were also to reverse its support for the recently passed measure by which privately held property in older buildings can be compulsorily acquired by a developer if just 80 per cent of building owners agree to sell.
This rule applies even when there is no public benefit but only profit for the developer.
How compulsion will work in practice has recently been vividly demonstrated by Mike Rowse ('Early rumbles from the compulsory-sale volcano', May 4).
He points out that, subsequent to this new legislation, offers on the table to property owners in Seymour Road were withdrawn and the value they are likely to get for their property will be 30 per cent less.
If the government truly respects the hard work of the middle class and truly understands the political implications of this change, it will reverse it as soon as possible.
It is corrosive to the incentives in respectable society if people can have the fruits of their labour stripped from them, on unfavourable terms, simply because others wish to profit.
Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels
The Vatican is a sovereign state
I would like to respond to Peter Robertson's suggestion ('Interpol best to handle scandal', May 1) that Interpol becomes involved in investigating the minuscule minority of Catholic priests who broke their vows and committed sexual abuse. He also calls for an investigation of the Vatican.
The situation of sexual abuse is most serious, but it would be absurd to accuse the Vatican of complicity.
But I want to treat separately the idea that Interpol could rightfully investigate the Vatican.
Mr Robertson's rationale is that, 'for many years the Vatican has, inexplicably, been allowed to maintain its own 'state', thus considering itself above the law of any country, and has taken advantage of this privilege'.
This is wrong both historically and in international law.
The Vatican City State became a sovereign state again with the Lateran Treaty of 1929 (well before most modern independent African states). Today, 109 countries have ambassadors to the Vatican, thereby recognising it as independent.
Moreover, the 'Papal States', covering most of central Italy (bigger than modern Belgium and the Netherlands combined) comprised a sovereign state from the ninth century until 1870. This is a far longer period than the vast majority of member states of the United Nations.
Therefore, I find it strange that Mr Robertson would question the right of the Vatican to exist and to be treated as an independent state.
National sovereignty is not determined by size, otherwise Monaco, Andorra, San Marino and Liechtenstein would not be independent.
It is established by international law and treaties. This is clearly the case with the Vatican. No, Interpol could never investigate the Vatican.
Walter Puccetti, Tin Shui Wai
Free-toy ban a small start
I refer to the report ('Santa Clara seeks to prohibit toys in McDonald's Happy Meals' April 28).
I wonder if this ban will have a significant impact given the high-calorie, fast-food culture in the United States.
Of course, taking away the incentive of the free toy may have some effect. However, the presence or absence of a toy is not the main influence on children's eating habits.
They are chiefly affected by how and what their parents eat.
Unfortunately, the eating habits of many adults in Western countries are unhealthy and their children will often copy what their parents do.
Also, even with the toy ban, McDonald's can find other ways to tempt youngsters to buy its meals. When bans like this are introduced, I have doubts about how effective they can be.
But, on a positive note, it is good to see that people in the United States are beginning to recognise the need to change their unhealthy eating habits.
Their bad diets kill thousands of Americans every year.
What they must do is come up with more practical ways to improve the health of US citizens.
Li On-ki, Lam Tin
Big salad can replace Big Mac
I fully support the decision by the US county of Santa Clara to stop McDonald's giving out toys with its meals.
Toys are often used by restaurants as promotions and prove very popular with children. The McDonald's Happy Meal sells well. It is because of the high consumption of such fast food that childhood obesity is a problem in the United States.
I fully back measures like this, aimed at trying to dissuade youngsters from purchasing food that contains a lot of fat and calories.
If they do not get any free products, children may decide not to buy a McDonald's meal.
This may even persuade such fast-food restaurants to start offering children more nutritious meals.
Healthy food is becoming increasingly popular with consumers, and fast food chains should recognise this trend and follow it if they want to remain competitive. Offering healthy meals would be a good sales strategy.
It would be a novelty for those children, who are so used to eating fast food, and could help curb the growing problem of childhood obesity.
Cecilia Wong, Ngau Tau Kok
Problem with smoking in flats
My neighbours are heavy smokers. Because of that, the air in the corridor is often filled with carcinogens.
The smell of cigarettes and smoke continually seep into non-smokers' units, affecting their safety and health.
I asked the management of the building to do something about this problem.
They replied that the law allows people to smoke inside their homes.
It only prohibits people from carrying lighted cigarettes in indoor public areas.
This does not make sense to me.
Let's say a tenant listened to really loud music inside his flat.
His neighbours could complain about this noise disturbance even if he did not take the hi-fi system out into the corridor and turn the sound up.
Working at home is becoming more common.
The law now protects workers in office buildings from second-hand smoke.
Should non-smokers in residential buildings also be protected from their neighbours' smoking, particularly when the latter are inconsiderate chain-smokers?
Can the relevant government departments, legislators and health professionals enlighten me on this issue?
Is there anything we can do to prohibit smokers from allowing carcinogen-filled air to flow into the corridors of residential buildings?
Catherine Ng, Hung Hom
Too long a wait for buses to go
Kowloon Motor Bus should be applauded for its plans to retire 288 of its most polluting buses by the end of the year.
But one has to wonder why it took so long to do so, and why Citybus and First Bus - which combined have 448 pre-Euro or Euro I buses on our roads - are not doing the same.
They will not be removed till 2012. Why such a long wait?
I am sure the bus companies know our roadside pollution is getting worse.
Do Citybus and First Bus not care or feel they should be environmentally responsible companies?
These pre-Euro and Euro I buses have been on our roads for years, so please do not claim financial hardship.
Good planning and a proper concern for our health and the environment would have dealt with this issue long ago.
I hope Citybus and First Bus will explain why they feel they should continue running these highly polluting buses for nearly two more years.
Terry Scott, Sha Tin
We should have Macau rail link
If the roadside air is really so dirty, what sense does it make to build a six-lane road bridge to Macau?
This will also involve the construction of access roads and car-holding areas.
Who profits from the construction if roads are dangerous to our health?
It would be better to have an electric train link to Macau.
Andreas Renn, Sai Kung
Great showcase for the nation
The World Expo, which has opened in Shanghai, is the biggest international event staged by China since the Olympics were held in Beijing in 2008.
It gives the country an opportunity to show the world how it is developing and the advances it is making.
The expo also gives foreign visitors a good chance to learn more about the country.
I am confident that the tourists who come to Shanghai will leave China with a good impression.
Andy Sze, Tsuen Wan