PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 May, 2010, 12:00am

Open abuse of small-house policy is tragic

I write regarding the saga in Shan Liu village in Tai Po ('Developer reveals why illegal bridge was built', May 19).

That a developer is eyeing the land with the intention to build houses on it - undoubtedly houses under the small-house policy - should warrant more than a passing remark.

I live in the New Territories and have seen first-hand how the small-house policy is openly and widely abused by small developers to build houses for sale.

This is done with the full knowledge of the Lands Department.

The small-house policy was not enacted to be used in this manner and has led to the rural landscape being destroyed with inappropriately, and mostly poorly planned, developments of invariably ugly houses.

Furthermore, the developments are usually walled off.

This creates wealthier, middle-class islands in the mainly poor villages.

The social conflicts that this creates are very real and lead to disharmony and ill feelings between new and old villagers.

The fact that the Lands Department allows ever-increasing numbers of this type of development to take place is a tragedy for the rural villages and spells a lamentable end to the countryside as we knew it.

If they are going to continue to allow the small-house policy to be abused by developers for profit, then this policy has to be scrapped.

John Li, Fanling

Left out of home subsidy scheme

I am writing in response to the government's recent proposal concerning subsidising first-time homebuyers. I am a secondary-school teacher in my 30s, earning a decent income.

About a decade ago, I purchased a Home Ownership Scheme flat. I was trying to provide a better living environment for my parents.

Now I am reaching the age of marriage, but I still cannot afford to buy another flat for myself because I have to repay the mortgage on the HOS flat.

Not having a choice, I have to stay with my parents, even in my 30s. In the Western world, I would be seen as a laughing stock. My Western counterparts have normally left the family home while still in their 20s.

According to government policy, I am not allowed to buy another HOS home because I have already bought one.

Nor can I afford to buy a private flat now, as property prices are unreasonably high.

What is worse, if the government were to subsidise first-time homebuyers, I would probably not be eligible to be put on the list.

I believe many people in Hong Kong are in the same situation as me.

We have to support our parents and yet have difficulty finding a new home for ourselves.

I hope that, when the government considers subsidising prospective homebuyers, it will consider the position of people like me.

Samson Yuen, Tin Shui Wai

Firms investing in cleaner buses

We refer to the letter from Terry Scott regarding the Euro-standard bus fleets of Citybus and New World First Bus ('Too long a wait for buses to go', May 10).

Citybus and New World First Bus always try their best to protect the environment when it comes to the operation of their vehicles.

To enhance the air quality of Hong Kong, we have been implementing a series of emission reduction initiatives, including:

Ongoing replacement of old buses with new models equipped with the latest eco-friendly engines;

Installation of diesel-particulate filters on Euro II buses to reduce the emissions of particulate matter by 90 per cent;

Adoption of Euro V diesel in the whole fleet to ensure the lowest emissions; and

Carrying out regular emission tests and inspections on all buses to ensure compliance with the stringent emission standards stipulated by the Environmental Protection Department and the Transport Department.

At present, we have ordered 124 brand new Euro V double-deckers, which are gradually being put into service from the second quarter of this year to the middle of next year.

As the average age of the Citybus and New World First Bus fleets are 12 and 10 years respectively, huge financial losses will be incurred by the replacement of buses before the end of their useful lifespan of 18 years. In future, with regard to fleet replacement, we will continuously upgrade our services.

Beatrice Wong, public affairs manager, Citybus Limited, New World First Bus Services Limited

Singapore taxis so much better

I have just returned from a trip to Singapore.

I found that taxis there do not have walkie-talkies turned up to maximum volume with a woman squawking messages and competing over a loud local-language radio station.

The drivers play pleasant music on their radios at low volume and will happily turn them off if requested to by the passenger.

They do not have multiple mobile phones on the dashboard.

Singapore taxi drivers are multilingual and speak English.

They do not impose an extra luggage charge for a passenger with a parcel or suitcase.

Also, they do not take long naps in side streets with idling engines so their air-conditioning keeps working while they sleep.

They use toilets rather than urinating in a plastic bag and throwing the bag onto the street.

Singapore taxis all accept credit cards for payment of the fare, regardless of how short the trip is. And they have not demanded the right to keep their engines idling while waiting in taxi queues.

Hong Kong should try to emulate Singapore when it comes to its taxi service and standards.

Rembert Meyer-Rochow, Mid-Levels

The case for breastfeeding

I am sure readers of the article 'Couple let baby starve to death in filthy flat', (May 12) were appalled that this was allowed to happen. The parents obviously did not get the support they needed, and a baby suffered.

While I am sure that the Social Welfare Department and others, such as Lai Tsang-hing, chairman of the Hong Kong Parents Association quoted in the article, have the best intentions, I am angry that none of the supposed support systems are doing anything to promote breastfeeding.

Milk powder is expensive. Why are we not aggressively educating parents and parents-to-be that they could save a fortune simply by feeding their babies the free milk that God provides all mothers with?

Welfare organisations regularly appeal for donations of milk powder yet they are simply taking the easy option and not doing enough to stem the demand.

If Hong Kong families are not persuaded by all the health benefits normally used by breastfeeding advocates, perhaps the significant financial benefit will appeal to them. For families on welfare, a good effort at breastfeeding, with proper support, should be mandatory.

Ruth Benny, hongkongbabies.com

Weak finances at health clubs

An increasing number of people are getting caught up in the craze to keep fit through joining health clubs. Companies respond to this demand by opening clubs offering a wide range of activities such as yoga and dance classes.

However, some of them get into financial trouble and close their doors, such as happened recently with two chains, Planet Yoga and Yoga Yoga. People are often left out of pocket, having paid as much as a year's fees in advance. They are tempted by the larger discounts on offer.

Surely this is wrong, and businessmen opening such clubs should think carefully about what special offers they should make.

Consumers must also take care before agreeing to pay months in advance.

Jessie Kwok, Kowloon Bay

Child obesity calls for action

Child obesity is a serious health problem in Hong Kong.

Parents need to make healthy meals and persuade their children that food that is good for you can also be appetising.

It may be difficult for them to do this during the working week, but they should try to make healthy meals during weekends and get their children involved.

The government must pursue the goal of 'physical life education' so Hongkongers can learn about healthy lifestyles. It has so far failed to get this message across and people continue to have unhealthy diets, eating fast food.

There needs to be a change of attitude by all Hong Kong citizens.

Winky Sit Wing-ki, To Kwa Wan

Wage floor peril

Supporters of a statutory minimum wage argue that workers doing long hours with few holidays deserve to be paid more. But they have ignored the consequences of passing such a law.

Some firms may find they cannot survive after being forced to raise wages, and are forced to shut down. Other companies might lay off staff to keep operating.

This could lead to more people being made jobless and going on welfare.

On a superficial level, it may look as though a minimum wage law will improve conditions for low-paid workers. But the government should think very carefully about this legislation before introducing it.

Aly Chau, Tseung Kwan O