PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 May, 2010, 12:00am

HK needs green laws, parking for bicycles

More than 50 per cent of Danes cycle to work but, in my Tung Chung estate, there is not even provision made for parking a bicycle. Flat owners, many of whom are simply speculators, claim that it would make the estate untidy and lower their property values.

And, of course, there is considerable paperwork involved in changing the designated land use.

Yes, indeed, one has to obtain government permission in order to install a bike rack.

Of course, a bicycle parking area could be placed underground in the car park, out of sight and out of the weather, but why wasn't it built? The reason is there is no compulsion on a developer to adhere to any genuine green practices. Flats do not have to be insulated. There is no compulsion to clad a building in solar panels or provide a rubbish room that could handle recycling or to put real plants in a garden instead of plastic ones.

Infrared sensors on escalators that run 24/7 would save thousands of kilowatts of energy - they are expensive to add after installation but there is no gain for the developer to install them during initial construction.

The estate management company, which also happens to be the developer, adds 10 per cent to all estate expenses, so the higher the electricity charges, the more money it makes.

Hong Kong needs immediate green legislation, starting with developers, if it is at all serious about environmental protection - which I don't believe it is, especially if there is a cost involved.

G. Dykes, Tung Chung

Rogue agents will be punished

I refer to the letter by Kwan Ho-yin ('Estate agents can flout rules', May 19).

The Estate Agents Authority, set up under the Estate Agents Ordinance, is tasked with regulating estate agents in Hong Kong. Under the ordinance, estate agents will be disciplined by the authority if they fail to abide by the ordinance or rules that it has set. Disciplinary sanctions range from a reprimand to revocation of licences. Agents also face a fine of up to HK$300,000.

The authority has updated and consolidated 10 practice circulars on the sale of first-hand properties into three new ones. One of the new rules is that agents must remind prospective first-sale purchasers to pay attention to the actual dimensions of the unit as stated in the sales brochure and not to rely only on their perception of the size of the units gathered from viewing the show flats.

Whether prospective buyers can take photographs at a show flat is up to the owner of the flat, that is, the property developer, to decide. When acting for developers, estate agents must follow the instructions of the developers and at the same time be impartial and just to all parties involved.

The authority attaches great importance to estate agents' practices in the sale of first-hand properties. It organises seminars and conducts inspections to ensure compliance.

Estate agents who are proved to have breached the rules will be disciplined. Should any members of the public believe an estate agent is not abiding by the law or the guidelines, they are welcome to lodge a complaint with us.

Connie Law, corporate communications manager, Estate Agents Authority

Our water is just too cheap

Hong Kong citizens are among the most fortunate people in the world. We do not face natural disasters such as earthquakes or tornadoes. Also, thanks to being part of China, we are never short of water.

In the past, Hong Kong suffered from drought. Then it signed a contract with Beijing to get water from the Dongjiang, or East River. Also, our water tariffs have not been increased since 1995. However, the government may raise those charges ('Water fee review may mean higher bills', May 18), and I would support this.

If they face increased bills, consumers will think more carefully about how much water they use, especially for leisure purposes. Our charges are much lower than in some developed countries, so it is the right time for the government to take concrete steps.

R. Hau, Kowloon Bay

Don't bottle up mental stress

I refer to the spate of attacks on children on the mainland.

Some experts have talked about a global trend of random attacks that is due to people feeling discontented - feelings that could only get worse.

I can understand this given the problems faced, not just by our motherland, but by other nations around the world. A severe economic downturn can cause psychological depression.

In Hong Kong, we have rising property prices, a political crisis and instability in our society. As a consequence, people feel insecure. They try to deal with the pressure they are under because they have to fulfil their workplace expectations.

But sometimes they keep their feelings bottled up, and this can have serious consequences, even with professionals.

I think Hongkongers are now more aware of the problems resulting from such pressure. But it is not good enough just to recognise there is a problem. We also must do something about it.

Tiffany Chan, Sham Tseng

Electorate's maturity shows

I disagree with James A. Campbell ('HK electorate lacks maturity', May 17). I think the Hong Kong electorate is mature enough to know when its vote is necessary and when it is a pointless waste of time.

The vote on May 16, which cost taxpayers millions of dollars, was to re-elect five legislators who resigned just to be re-elected - and to prove what?

Well, whatever it was for, 83 per cent of Hong Kong voters clearly decided that it wasn't worth giving up their precious Sunday. And I, for one, don't blame them.

Keith McNab, Sai Kung

By-elections far from farcical

I found the results of the May 16 by-elections (or de facto referendum) encouraging even though the turnout was a dismal 17.1 per cent.

In any election, those who abstain from voting are, by default, giving up their rights. In the final analysis, they cannot complain that their wishes are being disregarded.

In this respect, the mandate for deciding the direction of political reform falls squarely on the shoulders of the winners of the by-elections, who are from the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats.

They have more than 85 per cent of the votes and no one else can claim to have such a mandate when it comes to determining political reform.

Those people who respect election results and their legitimacy should recognise the moral and legal authority the Civic Party and the league have earned from this de facto referendum.

And those who criticise the low turnout rate and do not recognise the result are being hypocritical if they gave up their right to vote.

They call this election a farce and yet they are the ones who are responsible for making the turnout look so unimpressive.

If those critics are so confident that they could win an election, why did they not participate and defeat the Civic Party and the league on May 16?

Stephen C. K. Chan, Lai Chi Kok

Mixed message on the ballot

I read with some bewilderment a sentence printed on the polling card that I was required to present at the polling station for the by-elections on May 16.

It said: 'Please exercise your civic rights and fulfil your civic responsibilities by casting your vote in the by-election.'

Since the sentence was printed in heavy black type, I felt it was my duty to do so.

But as some very senior members of the administration that issued these polling cards had announced publicly that they would not vote, would it not have been less confusing if this sentence had been omitted?

Maybe I was expecting too much, since, as we were told, these officials only made up their minds on Friday, May 14.

Nevertheless, radio and television announcements could have been made on Saturday, May 15, advising the public that the exhortation on the polling card could and should be ignored.

Sean Coghlan, Pok Fu Lam

Parents could try to lighten up

I agree with Paul Surtees ('We overburden young students both physically and mentally', May 14), but is it really practical to have no homework ('below the age of 10') and would that lead to a happy childhood?

In Hong Kong, schools compete with one another to get good results.

Even if they do not force pupils to study hard, pressure comes from the parents who send their children to tutorial classes after school.

It would be difficult to change the education system that exists in this city.

But parents do have a crucial role to play to try and ensure their sons and daughters have a happy childhood.

There should be less pressure put on them to excel in exam results. They should not be forced to attend tutorial classes after school. They need to be allowed some free time.

I am not saying that students who are not academically gifted should not work hard.

But if, for example, your child does not want to learn the piano, do not force him or her to have lessons.

What is needed on the part of Hong Kong parents is a change of attitude.

Thomas Leung, Tseung Kwan O