PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 November, 2010, 12:00am

Older building rules mock property rights

The Development Bureau's persistent undermining of the status of so-called older buildings is a reflection of the inability of officials to withstand the demands of the developer lobby. Either that or it represents a failure to understand the unfair impact on the lives of the less wealthy members of society who are homeowners or shop owners in older buildings and who have their property rights taken away.

The bureau is guilty of displaying duplicity. With its right hand the bureau requires the Lands Department to sell land to developers at full market value on 75-year leases, in order to raise government revenue, and requires the developer to build flats and shops which are sold to members of the public.

The legal ownership right to the flats and shops is based on the undivided shares in the 75-year land lease, attributed to each unit, and the full market value paid by a member of the public reflects this situation.

The Basic Law is supposed to guarantee these ownership rights.

Later, however, the left hand of the bureau reneges on this deal by passing legislation allowing a third party - another developer - to confiscate these property rights after 50 years. This is contrary to the 75-year term of the land lease and compels the owner to move elsewhere.

It is based on the excuse, invented by the bureau, that a 50-year building is so old that it should be demolished and replaced to allow another developer to make a huge profit.

There is surely something seriously wrong with the moral and legal behaviour of the bureau in this situation.

Where is the respect for property rights?

If the Basic Law is Hong Kong's equivalent of a constitutional document, how have officials been allowed to introduce such unfair legislation that discriminates against homeowners and small business owners in older buildings?

As each year passes, another batch of 'older buildings' is transferred into the profit-making mechanism of the developers. Slowly, major portions of the city are demolished for developer profit, regardless of whether small owners have maintained and renovated their homes or shops.

The government has set up a permanent profit-making juggernaut which favours major developers at the expense of the less wealthy members of society.

W. F. Fan, Mid-Levels

Cafe de Coral wrong target

Cafe de Coral has been widely known as a company that cares for its employees.

It is evident in its outlets where employees show their dedication to their job, unlike many other retail chains. You can still find many restaurants hiring at a monthly wage of HK$6,600 with employees working 11 hours a day, six days a week, with minimal or no fringe benefits.

I know of a young waiter in a cha chaan teng who said his pay cheque was all he got.

Picking on a big company is newsworthy. Ironically the labour movement picks a company that over the years has stood out for the care it has shown for its employees. What about the other companies?

There are so many more firms in Hong Kong that don't treat their employees with dignity. If the campaign focuses on Cafe de Coral it will be perceived by the public as no more than an exercise to grab political points.

K. C. Yuen, Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada

Now tighten wages loophole

I was one of the many Hongkongers angered by the decision by Cafe de Coral to cancel paid meal breaks. Faced with widespread protests the company made a U-turn and I have mixed feelings about this.

I am glad in the sense that those opposed to this new measure showed unity and, in the face of this, the company backed down.

However, the fact that Cafe de Coral even considered this measure calls into question its commitment to corporate social responsibility. It exploited legal loopholes to reduce overheads.

Wages are a moral issue. Having a fair minimum wage shows that a just and fair society is willing to draw a line to protect unskilled, low-paid workers. Talking advantage of a loophole in the law violates their dignity.

The government must do all it can to make sure no one can get round the new legislation.

Christy Lee Sze-wing, Tsuen Wan

Poor idea of sportsmanship

I found simply hilarious the photo of poker-faced Chinese fans in Guangzhou closely flanked by police during the soccer match there ('Chinese fans take loss to Japan sitting down,' November 9). Since it had been anticipated that China would lose to Japan, the police had to be called in to ensure riots would not break out.

Ordinary humans normally attend sports tournaments to enjoy themselves and gamely cheer on their home teams. But in the case of some Chinese citizens, it seems attendance is based on hopes of carrying out political vendettas.

The absence of sportsmanship would be sad if it weren't so funny.

Isabel Escoda, Mui Wo

Set one-way tolls for tunnels

You reported on the conclusions of a two-year government-commissioned consultancy ('Consultant offers nine scenarios to ease traffic', November 4).

The aim of the study was to find a solution to the persistent and severe congestion at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.

All the different scenarios involved toll adjustments.

May I therefore suggest a 10th scenario of doubling the fees at all three cross-harbour tunnels for the southbound direction to Hong Kong Island, but making the northbound trip to Kowloon free of charge?

Drivers would then have the freedom to decide which of the tunnels is more convenient for their journey to Kowloon - western, eastern, or cross-harbour.

This also has the advantage of reducing toll collection times.

Frank Lee, Mid-Levels

Drug tests still best deterrent

The voluntary drug-testing scheme in schools has proved controversial since it was launched last year.

Most students were opposed to it, as they did not feel it was the best way to solve the problem of drug abuse in schools.

Also, calls for it to be compulsory were also opposed as it was felt this would create feelings of mistrust between pupils and their teachers.

It was feared that young people identified as drug users would be discriminated against.

However, I believe that having a compulsory test is an effective way of identifying drug abusers.

If they are identified and start treatment at an early stage then hopefully they will they will have a better chance of getting on the road to recovery.

Prevention is always better than a cure. Knowing a test is compulsory can also act as a deterrent for other young people who might be tempted to experiment with illicit drugs.

I believe a compulsory testing scheme could help give strength to an anti-drug culture.

While backing a compulsory testing scheme, I would also urge the government to keep trying to increase levels of awareness about the dangers of drugs among the student population. Young people must learn the importance of saying no to drugs.

If members of the younger generation suffer from drug abuse then at the end of the day it is society as a whole that suffers.

Terry Chan, Tsuen Wan

Small classes help students

Because of the declining birth rate enrollments are falling in Hong Kong's schools.

Some educators have suggested having smaller class sizes, although this idea has met with strong opposition.

I definitely believe that class sizes should be reduced.

It might be felt that education groups backing this proposal are only doing so out of self-interest, because they do not want to see a lot of teachers being made redundant.

However, I believe we should be looking at what is in the best long-term interests of society. Teachers in small classes will be able to focus more on students' individual needs and this could raise educational standards.

Even though the government says such a policy would prove costly, that is no excuse for not implementing it. It will prove much more difficult to cut sizes once student numbers are increasing again.

Given the obvious educational benefits it is important to decrease class sizes at this time.

Kelly Cheung, Yau Ma Tei

Schools need to work together

I refer to the report ('Tai Po schools join class-reduction scheme', November 5).

I agree with the government's suggestion that schools should back class-reduction initiatives.

Thanks to the falling birthrate, some schools are finding that they are unable to enrol a sufficient number of students.

Sadly, some high-profile schools are reluctant to join up for fear of giving the impression that they have had trouble enrolling students.

However, head teachers should not take a self-conscious approach when dealing with this issue. They should co-operate and try to provide the best possible atmosphere for their students.

They should not be competing with each other and fighting to be regarded as an elite school.

I believe small-class teaching would only add to the financial burden imposed on the government and individual schools might have to spend more.The system may not be perfect. However, schools should abandon feelings of self-interest and work together to support the class-reduction scheme.

Grace Luk, Hung Hom