PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 January, 2011, 12:00am

Why do we keep on tormenting real refugees?

I refer to the report ('Refugees denied the right to work', January 7).

My father, Bill Collard, director of immigration from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, always insisted that Chinese illegal immigrants at the time were generally not refugees but economic migrants, and he was very clear and uncompromising about this.

He waged a long and eventually successful campaign to have such illegals returned to the mainland provided they had not already settled in Hong Kong. He would have entirely agreed with the current director's position as implied in the report that it is important not to encourage 'more people with questionable claims to take a chance on coming to Hong Kong'.

Nonetheless, 'hard-nosed' though he undoubtedly was about economic migrants taking advantage of a tolerant society, he was acutely aware that genuine refugees needed to be treated differently. He would have been appalled at our present government's lack of common humanity in dealing with those whose claims of persecution and even torture have been validated.

The director of immigration and his superiors are highly paid civil servants responsible for making decisions in the best interests of the community and they have powers of discretion to make exceptions to general policy when appropriate. If this were not required, a computer could just as well determine who stays and who works, and at a fraction of the cost.

Were true refugees returned to their place of origin it is highly possible they would be killed. Given that they have nowhere else to go, forcing them to exist on pitifully meagre welfare allowances, without the right to work year after year, is inhumane. It is also contrary to the spirit of international agreements on the matter, to which the Hong Kong government is a signatory.

Hong Kong rightly aspires to 'world city' status, but our government seems to be losing sight of the fact that this also implies some responsibility.

It is necessarily difficult for illegal immigrants to obtain refugee status and very few do it. When these very few establish they were, and would still be, persecuted and tortured in their home country, and we allow them to stay on that basis, do we really need to continue to torment them in this petty, hypocritical manner?

Tim Collard, Sai Kung

Children at risk need protecting

The number of cases of child neglect in Hong Kong has risen and the government must act to protect children who are at risk.

Many employees face punishing work schedules that leave them exhausted.

This can mean working couples are unable to spend quality time with their children. In some cases they may leave their children at home alone.

If their working hours could be reduced, they would be able to spend more time with their children. While we always look to Hong Kong's financial development, we must not lose sight of the needs of parents in the workplace. The administration should work with non-governmental organisations so that parents can be taught how to create a friendly and playful environment for their children.

Those adults who are found guilty of neglect, of failing to give children sufficient food and care and leaving them unattended should face heavier penalties. This will have a deterrent effect.

Eliza Sun, Tsuen Wan

Flying service a credit to city

The No 2 engine of a Government Flying Service Super Puma Mk II helicopter suddenly failed last month. The helicopter was taking water from Shing Mun Reservoir (to douse a hill fire) when it was forced to make an emergency landing.

It is a twin-engine helicopter. Should one engine fail it should be able to fly to the nearest safe landing spot.

However, the floats were deployed and the helicopter landed in the reservoir.

Perhaps the good engine was not producing enough thrust for the helicopter to fly to the nearest safe landing spot. It is good that the helicopter was not conducting a search-and-rescue mission or it could have faced an extremely sticky situation.

The GFS does an excellent job, conducting search-and-rescue missions, law enforcement, and other important operations all year round.

I took my daughter for a visit to its headquarters at Hong Kong International Airport several years ago.

The entire fleet of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft were so beautifully maintained they looked as if they were brand new. When I took my wife to look at the new Super Puma helicopters shortly after they arrived, I got the feeling that the GFS pilots, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft were a force to be reckoned with.

I am pleased to learn that two of the Super Puma helicopters are back in service, serving the Hong Kong community.

Eugene Li, Deep Water Bay

Chill shows we must go green

I agree with the sentiments expressed by Anders Ejendal ('Air con at full blast in winter', January 11).

Why is it that bus companies and the MTR Corporation cannot seem to adjust the fan speed and/or temperatures of their bus and train carriages, when the outside temperature does not get any higher than the mid-teens, as has been the case in the past few days?

It is equally mind-boggling why some shopping malls see fit to continue to blast their customers with cold air during the winter months.

Besides the obvious discomfort, the indiscriminate use of air conditioners during winter is also environmentally unfriendly.

Also, if the Hong Kong government is serious about promoting a greener lifestyle, it should update the building codes and require all new buildings to have double-glazed windows.

This simple act means better noise and temperature insulation, and savings on energy bills.

Jerome Yau, Happy Valley

Time to switch to energy saving

I could not agree more with Kwong Shu-chung that our government could save more electricity in public areas ('We all have vital role to play', January 6).

Some years back when I visited Germany, I saw that the escalators to train stations were all stationary until the foot-level sensors detected approaching users.

Train doors were not automatic. They had to be pulled open by alighting commuters. For years these energy-saving measures have been common in German society.

Hong Kong is small and busy. Having these kinds of escalators may not be suitable in places like Tsim Sha Tsui and Central. But they would be feasible where street-level escalators connected to footbridges, or on less busy MTR lines such as Tung Chung and Ma On Shan.

This will raise commuters' awareness of the importance of saving energy. It might encourage them to save energy at home.

Pang Chi-ming, Fanling

Questionable announcements

Until I read Stephen Vines' piece ('A resolution to do nothing', January 1), I didn't know that the never-ending advice our government broadcasts is termed Announcements of Public Interest.

I found my way to the website of the Information Services Department and a page listing more than 300 television announcements.

Surely, this is a field in which Hong Kong leads the world. Where else is the ordinary TV-viewer cautioned about slope maintenance and dengue fever?

What do these APIs say about our society, politics, and bureaucracy? How do we compare to the nanny state Singapore?

Given your article regarding the Ombudsman's investigation of the government's grievously outdated and lax air-quality standards ('Watchdog wants answers on lack of action to improve air', January 4), the Information Services Department might want to start working on an API that demonstrates how wearing a respirator outdoors can be smart and stylish.

Dick Groves, Wan Chai

Free-trade plan still ongoing

I refer to the report ('Taiwan's Ma fails to turn free-trade vows into reality', January 12).

The signing of a free-trade agreement requires a long process of consultation and negotiation between countries. Taiwan signed an Economic Co-operation Framework with the mainland in June, and also tried hard to seal FTAs with other countries. It is too early to say if the plan has failed.

As President Ma Ying-jeou said on January 5, Taiwan and Singapore plan to hold consultations this year on an economic co-operation agreement. Talks between the US and Taiwan on their Trade and Investment Framework Agreement will also take place soon.

We appreciate the concern over the signing of FTAs between Taiwan and other countries.

Our efforts are continuing and we still regard the outlook as promising.

Ni Jia-jiun, press secretary, Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Centre

Chicken and egg

Jean Hui Ka-chun asks why the Tseung Kwan O landfill was put so close to a residential area ('Reduce waste with recycling', January 11).

Surely the question should be, 'So why was a residential area put so close to the Tseung Kwan O landfill?'

I believe that the landfill was there first; indeed if there were no landfill there would be no Tseung Kwan O.

Jeremy M. Barr, Kowloon City