PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 June, 2010, 12:00am

Anti-smoking laws are being openly flouted

I refer to the letter by Y.L. Chan ('Extend smoking ban to streets', June 9).

Your correspondent wrote: 'I can now have a smoke-free environment in any restaurant.' That is not true. Hong Kong has smoking laws that appear to be deliberately flawed. It has to be the only place in the world with legislation that does not place the onus on the premises' manager or licensee to enforce the smoking ban.

Elsewhere, there is a 'two strikes and you're out' situation. If inspectors find repeated smoking on the premises, businesses can lose their liquor and restaurant licences. Laws already require landlords not to serve alcohol to drunk people, but for some incredible reason they do not compel them to enforce the smoking law, which only relates to individual smokers.

Therein lies the next problem - the paucity of tobacco control inspectors. This means there is a lack of enforcement capability. For a population of more than seven million, we have only 99 inspectors, on a good day, working two shifts. The chances of being caught smoking in a bar or restaurant are remote.

Last year a TVB Pearl Report programme exposed the fact that the laws are being openly flouted.

Just walk around Wan Chai: it is clear to see that no one cares and the laws are being openly abused. Why has the government issued flawed legislation and failed to allocate at least five times more manpower to tobacco control, if it is sincere?

It is about to do the same with the idling engine bill by allocating only 16 additional traffic wardens to enforce legislation that is a minefield of loopholes, targeting drivers instead of vehicle owners.

James Middleton, chairman, anti-tobacco committee, Clear the Air

University right to reject statue

In February last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled against a religious group, the Summum, which sought to erect a monument in a public park in a city in Utah. The court ruled that the city had the right to reject displays that are unrelated to its history.

Justice Samuel Alito said that it was hard to imagine how a public park could be opened up for the installation of permanent monuments by every group wishing to engage in its own form of expression.

Similarly, Chinese University was within its rights to reject the demand of the student union for the permanent erection of the Goddess of Democracy statue on the campus.

The administration of the university has a duty to ensure a politically neutral environment within the school community, to accommodate all individuals holding different beliefs.

I find it disappointing that the university has been demonised over this disagreement with the student union. It forces us to look at the bigger picture.

If Hong Kong's journey on the road to democracy continues to be led by political parties and individuals with a nebulous understanding of what real democracy is - who, at times, simply exploit the topic to serve their own political agenda - we will be treading precariously towards chaos.

Kenneth Kung, Mong Kok

Officials don't want reform

Last week, Hong Kong's principal officials told the media where they would be promoting their political 'Act Now' roadshow, throughout the city, as they reached out to the public on the reform issue.

However, on Sunday, perhaps because they wanted to avoid embarrassment, they seemed more reluctant to let the press know of their whereabouts.

But if they were so sure and confident about the positive effect their work would have on the political reform package, then they should not have been worried about reaching out to the public.

It is obvious that, deep down, our officials do not believe in the political reform package.

You can see that in the look of discomfort on their faces and in the way they have reacted to demonstrators.

How can we feel hopeful about the future of Hong Kong when we see their attitude regarding such an important matter?

Alpha Keung, Sai Wan Ho

Daily grind for schoolchildren

It is quite a contradiction that Hong Kong trams are not subject to the Noise Abatement Ordinance. The older trams make steel-on-steel grinding noises until almost 2am, then start up again at 5am.

Schoolchildren suffer disturbed sleep caused by these trams, which have undercarriages of a design dating back to the 1930s. The trams running in Yuen Long, which were made in Melbourne, Australia, are quiet.

So which is more important, abating the noise of happy schoolchildren ('School faces stiff fine for noise at recess after neighbours complain', June 5) between 8am and 4pm [at Lantau International School], or abating the noise of trams between 10pm and 5am, when schoolchildren need their sleep?

Ross Smith, Shek Tong Tsui

Let's all cut back on waste

I am concerned about the amount of refuse that I see everywhere.

In areas where this problem is particularly serious, this waste can pollute water sources.

I think the penalties for people caught littering should be heavier. This would act as a deterrent to litterbugs.

To reduce volumes of waste, more must be done to encourage people to participate in the recycling of plastic and paper. Individuals can help by using a cloth bag rather than plastic when they go shopping.

I am also worried about our air pollution, which is made worse by cars.

Motorists should try to cut back on the frequent use of cars. They should walk when they can, or - when possible - go to their destination by bicycle.

Jee Hye Lee, Sai Wan Ho

Emissions plan misses the mark

I refer to the letter by Dave Ho of the Environmental Protection Department ('Two-pronged strategy to clean up region's air', June 9).

I admire the department's cross-border efforts. However, I am somewhat disappointed with its policies regarding coal-fired power plants. The EPD has not included many greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, in its emission standards and caps.

Addressing global warming ought to be the EPD's primary duty, since no other department appears to be taking a lead in this area. Controlling and reducing carbon dioxide emissions must be top of its list. Regarding its policies in the transport sector, it should take a visionary approach and accept that replacing old diesel vehicles with cleaner versions, such as Euro V, is only a temporary solution. It should be promoting zero-emission vehicles like electric vehicles, or at least hybrids.

It must try harder to ensure that the Transport Department does not continue to prevent [some] electric vehicles from obtaining registration. For example, an electric truck has been brought into Hong Kong, but has still not been given approval for road use.

This is not an isolated case. There are many electric vehicles that have failed to get road registration.

There really is little point in the government saying the first registration tax will be waived for electric vehicles when they cannot even get registered.

Nigel Lam, CEO, Electric Transport System Limited

Humans, apes in the same boat

I agree with Leung Chun-ying's assessment of our land and housing situation ('The root of our social woes', June 14), and I imagine orang-utans would, too - since their rainforest habitat is rapidly being destroyed by land-grabbers and ruthless developers.

As Mr Leung rightly points out, the orang-utans housed at the Zoological and Botanical Gardens have more space than the average Hong Kong human.

While I also agree that their cramped state of captivity is deplorable, their living conditions compare favourably to our scandalously large number of caged-accommodation dwellers.

With the intense level of roadside pollution in our city, a stroll in the streets is a pleasure that the orang-utans would be wise to forgo.

They share the same uncongested neighbourhood with Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, but do not need to visit the Legislative Council to get their supply of free bananas.

'Bold and long-range planning' is indeed essential to save both our Hong Kong human habitat and the orang-utans' forest home, as Mr Leung noted.

Good luck, then, to Mr Leung in handling the interests of the Lands Department and the property tycoons.

Roger Emmerton, Wan Chai

African soccer coaches needed

It is a shame that, after decades of success on the world stage by African nations such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana, black Africa is still unable to produce a single coach for any of its teams at the current World Cup.

This is a shame given that blacks around the world have fought off apartheid, colonisation, Jim Crow laws, segregation - and have even produced a black American president.

I think this is partly due to corruption.

There is a desperate need for Fifa, soccer's world governing body, to deal with this problem. It must help the different national associations to appoint former African players, who have been properly trained, to administer the game on the continent, including the domestic leagues.

Ehi Aimiuwu, Atlanta, Georgia, US