Committed to building vibrant cultural scene
I refer to the editorial ('Wanted: an improved artistic impression', July 14).
The government is providing regular funding, amounting to more than HK$260 million in 2010-11, to the nine major performing arts groups, including the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society. The reduction of subvention for the society in 2003-04 was a result of government-wide cost-saving measures. The same reduction rate was applied to all arts groups receiving government subvention. However, the amount of subvention has increased substantially since 2008-09 as part of the government's initiatives to enhance our cultural software.
As for 2010-11, the funding to the Philharmonic Society stands at HK$62 million. At the same time, we recognise that the society has made tremendous efforts to actively solicit sponsorship and donations from corporations and individuals over the past few years, so that government funding now accounts for about 57 per cent of the society's total expenditure.
In addition to the budget of around HK$2.8 billion (excluding capital works expenditure) for promoting the arts and culture in 2010-11, another HK$3 billion was recently injected into the Arts and Sport Development Fund as seed money for generating investment returns to support the long-term development of the arts and sport. The West Kowloon Cultural District is a major initiative to bring that development to the next level.
The government's sincerity in promoting the arts and culture should not be doubted.
We will continue to create a facilitating environment for our arts groups to produce quality programmes, undertake outreach and cultural exchange activities, build up audiences and train talent.
We appreciate the efforts of arts groups like the Philharmonic Society, which shares the same vision to produce quality programmes, promote arts education and foster public appreciation of the arts.
We look forward to the continuous partnership with our arts community to build a vibrant cultural scene in Hong Kong.
Gilford Law, for secretary for home affairs
Bridge should be a rail link
I had to smile when reading the exercise in stating the obvious ('Will it be a bridge with no traffic?' July 19). Hong Kong and the mainland drive on different sides of the road and there are few vehicles with cross-border permits. Well, who would have known it?
Irrespective of whether the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau project is justifiable at all, or just another dream of bureaucrats and developers that stiffs Hong Kong taxpayers, if it is to be built it should be a rail bridge. This at least would be consistent with Beijing's high-speed train network plans, it would arguably be less environmentally destructive, and would also benefit a far wider cohort of citizens in all three locations.
After all, we have already agreed to shell out HK$66.9 billion on the new Hong Kong-Guangdong line. So surely if the SAR has already pledged to foot the disproportionate part of the HK$44.23 billion for this boondoggle, it can afford to spend a little more to get something at least semi-sensible.
Of course, a rail link would destroy the business of the ferry companies. And we cannot have that, can we? One answer is to do what Tokyo did when the Narita Express line opened. Trains could only trundle along at the same speed as the coaches they threatened. And another is to make a one-off payment to the molested party to exit the scene. I wait with baited breath.
Simon Ogus, Central
High tolls will put off drivers
I refer to the report ('Will it be a bridge with no traffic?' July 19). Yes, it will not be easy to drive a private car across the bridge into either Macau or Guangdong. The point of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is not to move more cars around the Pearl River Delta but more people.
Both Macau and Zhuhai will have large parking garages at their immigration terminals so that those wishing to do a journey of a few days may consider taking their car for a scenic tour of the bridge. But those who are doing business will simply have another option for transport that is faster than the current options: cross-border buses and minivans.
Macau, for one, is looking forward to the day that a convention visitor can get off a plane in Hong Kong, hop on a bus that leaves every 15 minutes, and be in Macau 20 minutes later.
The real question about the bridge's potential usage volumes is not related to whether cars can get cross-border licences. It's all about tolls. If this bridge charges too much, people will stick to the ferries. That would be great for Chu Kong Shipping, but bad for the rest of us and for the environment.
Anthony Lawrance, Discovery Bay
Little faith in new channels
Three companies are bidding for new free-to-air TV licences. But they appear to have modest investment levels, and the outcome could be counterproductive.
With increased advertising on the internet, billboards and phone marketing, and fewer people watching television, a smaller number of advertisers use this medium to promote their products. This means there will be more companies seeking to share limited advertising profits.
The priority will be to produce programmes that grab the attention of viewers. There will be less emphasis on quality, and I think we might see more violence on our screens.
We could see misleading information being given out. It will be difficult to monitor the broadcasts, and if inaccurate information is conveyed to viewers this could lead to more social problems.
I have no objection to opening the market to more competition, but quality control should be seen as a priority.
The relevant authorities should limit the number of licences issued at first and undertake regular checks of licensees.
Alice Chan, Kwun Tong
Empty pledge on World Cup
In my letter ('Own goal for government', June 26) I asked the government to use its influence - and if necessary pay i-cable TV - so that ATV or TVB could show World Cup soccer matches on their normal channels during the last two weeks of the tournament.
Now Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has made a pledge regarding the next World Cup ('World Cup free for all is Tsang's pledge for 2014', July 14).
This is of little consolation for those Hongkongers who missed out on the successful tournament in South Africa. How can Mr Tsang make such a pledge for 2014 knowing that he will step down in 2012?
Joop B. M. Litmaath, Stanley
New law might not be effective
The views of W. Y. Li ('Street smoking ban can work', July 14) and P. R. Bissell ('Comfortable smoking areas', July 19) indicate that the current anti-smoking laws and enforcement mechanisms in Hong Kong are inadequate.
On the one hand, the spill-over effect of law-abiding smokers in designated smoking areas may leave non-smokers in the vicinity gasping for breath. The entrances to The Gateway off Canton Road are prime examples of poorly designated smoking areas. However, sometimes people who light up in no-smoking areas are tolerated. The rooftop of Queensway Plaza is a shocking example of this.
Therefore, we need to improve the way our anti-smoking laws are enforced. However, we might be getting ahead of ourselves if we look for new legislation to be passed.
If the current anti-smoking laws are being enforced by 99 tobacco control officers with questionable results, is it not likely that new laws would meet the same fate?
David Yuen, Admiralty
Save natural treasures
I am saddened by the recent developments near Sai Wan beach.
It is a place I have visited many times as a hiker. Now it is under great threat of being ruined. A businessman has bought a plot of land there and is developing it for his own private pleasure.
In 2005 I visited Sai Wan with a small film crew on an assignment to shoot environmental hot spots in Hong Kong. We were producing it for the visitor centre of a government department.
It was clear all along that Sai Wan was an environmental disaster waiting to happen.
Why wasn't action taken to protect it? The Hong Kong government surely has the financial resources to save these spots from selfish rich individuals? Spots like Sai Wan should be declared a country park. These places belong to all of us.
It also means the same danger is lurking for other important ecological sites, most notably Sha Lo Tung (near Tai Po) with its beautiful old villages that would make a great outdoor museum. The Hong Kong government should act to rescue these natural and cultural treasures and save them for the enjoyment of all.
Kees van Es, Tai Po
I refer to the letter by Paola Dindo about the felling of trees in various parts of Hong Kong, including Pok Fu Lam ('Mistreatment of trees appalling', July 9).
I would like an explanation from St Andrew's Church, in Nathan Road, regarding two flame of forest trees that appear to have been cut down recently.
I took a picture of these trees when they were flowering two years ago. The church authorities have so much space that there was no excuse for not taking care of these trees.
G. Chan, Happy Valley