Rezoning will destroy areas' biggest appeal
I was appalled to read about the proposed rezoning of Wan Chai and Causeway Bay from mixed use to single-use commercial and residential zones ('Rezoning plans threaten to mute street colour', February 7).
Single-use zoning is a lifeless idea from the 1960s. At the time, planners in the United States and Europe thought they were cleaning up cities and making them more efficient. It was a terrible idea then, and it is still a terrible idea.
It resulted in sterile urban centres that became abandoned and dangerous at night, monotonous residential suburbs and weaker communities, as gathering places such as pubs, corner shops and cafes were removed from people's neighbourhoods.
It did not even succeed in reducing traffic congestion but generated more pressure on the roads, as people had to drive longer distances between home, work and shopping.
I am amazed Hong Kong is following such policies without much apparent critical reflection.
Simply put, this rezoning policy will eventually kill off everything that makes Causeway Bay and Wan Chai such interesting, diverse and dynamic districts.
When those areas are redeveloped into office towers and shopping malls, they will be like Admiralty - uniformly glitzy but also dull and uninspiring.
Are the alleged improvements to noise, traffic congestion and safety really worth the destruction of so much urban vibrancy? Aren't there less disruptive solutions?
There is an urgent need for a public debate on the true costs and benefits of our zoning policies.
Carine Lai, Mong Kok
Idling tour bus a nuisance
A nice, peaceful afternoon was yet again rudely interrupted by a tour bus parked right outside my apartment with its engine left idling.
The only person inside the bus was the driver, who had stopped at the kerb to read his newspaper, completely oblivious to the disturbance he was causing to nearby residents.
As I glared down in disgust at the bus from my balcony, a dog-walker approached the driver and asked him to turn off the engine.
To add to my disgust, the driver got defensive, and within seconds a heated argument erupted between him and the dog-walker.
What was the driver thinking? That he had to have the air conditioner on when the outside temperature was a pleasant 20 degrees Celsius?
Did he think that he wasn't doing anything wrong by leaving his engine running, thus creating a nuisance to those around him, not to mention polluting the air?
Is he not aware of the alarming roadside air pollution levels we have been suffering lately?
I hope the ban on engine idling gets enacted and properly enforced as soon as possible, so that this kind of selfish behaviour can be stamped out for the benefit of everyone.
Andrew Nunn, Stanley
Fins a side issue in shark fishing
Claire Garner from the Hong Kong Shark Foundation claims that sharks are fished primarily to sell their fins and not their meat ('Shark's fin campaign is about sustainable fishing, not culture', January 22).
The distinction is important. If sharks are fished mainly for their meat, the fins are a by-product.
Whether or not Chinese people continue to eat shark's fin soup may have no bearing on the number of sharks killed.
My family has been involved in the dried seafood industry for decades, and we support the goal of achieving sustainable fisheries. However, statistics for shark fisheries from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation are about meat (not fin) fisheries.
Most legal shark fishing today requires the landing of whole carcasses, with the meat and fins intact.
The value of a shark to a fisherman is normally about 70 per cent for the meat and 30 per cent for the fins.
The fins are only 1.7 per cent of a shark's body weight (5 per cent if the head and guts are removed), according to the US National Marine Fisheries Service.
When the fins are dried and processed, they represent about 0.2 per cent of a shark's fresh body weight. The fins have a high value, but there is not much of them.
In contrast, the boneless meat is both abundant and in demand, especially in Europe.
Ricky Leung, Western district
Safety a priority at MTR stations
The MTR Corporation would like to thank Wouter van Marle for his comments on our train operations ('MTR must give us time to get off', January 24). Safety is of paramount importance to the MTR Corp, and a comprehensive set of safety standards - which have to be strictly adhered to in our daily operations - is in place.
On the East Rail Line, station staff are deployed throughout train service hours at each platform to ensure platform duties are properly carried out before activating the 'Stand clear of train door' public announcement and door chimes to alert passengers that the train doors are closing.
We also hold regular safety promotion programmes to remind passengers not to attempt to board or alight from trains when the warning chimes sound or the doors are closing, to prevent accidents.
After we read about your correspondent's experience, we checked our train service records for the evening peak period on January 19.
We noted that all the doors of the trains that called at Tai Po Market station had closed normally, with no cases of 'passenger nipping' being reported.
Nonetheless, we have reminded station staff and train captains about the importance of ensuring the safe operation of train doors when performing their platform duties.
Jason Chan, media relations manager, MTR Corporation
Police did great job at crash site
The next time you sit seething at the delays caused by yet another road accident, spare a thought for the excellent work being done by the Hong Kong Police Force - truly Asia's finest.
Like most law-abiding citizens, I have only had casual dealings with them, but I had occasion to truly reflect on their fine work when I was involved in a car accident at night on the eve of the Lunar New Year.
Within minutes the police arrived and took charge of the situation. They were not only very professional, they were considerate, courteous and amazingly efficient. After taking photographs, measurements on the road and contact details, they arranged for tow trucks to take our vehicles off the road so normal traffic could resume.
And unlike the usual bureaucratic ways of some other officials, the officer-in-charge displayed great flexibility, taking down our statements off-road to prevent further congestion.
So the next time you sit there fuming at another delay caused by an accident, consider yourself lucky that we have the Hong Kong police to look after us.
Joseph Tan, Wan Chai
Parents can be overprotective
The behavioural problems that some Hong Kong children have are linked to the way they have been brought up by their parents.
In many families there is only one child, and often the parents have been overprotective.
The children are given substantial sums of money, foreign domestic helpers are hired to look after them, and they are often sent abroad to study.
They grow up emotionally immature, and it hampers their all-round development.
We need more independent young people as the future pillars of society, and Hong Kong's parents should reflect on this.
Mandy Sze Yuen-fai, Tuen Mun
Teach children independence
I think the problem of pampered children is serious in Hong Kong.
Too many of them rely on their parents and maids to do everything for them. This is a problem that is avoidable.
Children should be taught to do things for themselves and not get the maid to do everything. For example, they could prepare their daily lunchbox.
Parents could even consider not hiring a maid and get their children to do some of the housework instead. It will be good for them, and they will grow up to become more independent.
Parents need to act now to ensure their children are not spoiled, or this is a problem that can only get worse.
Li Hin-wai, Sha Tin
Even though I am more a cat lover, I lost my composure when I read about the killing of domesticated sled dogs in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada ('Police probe slaughter of 100 huskies after Winter Olympics', February 2).
There is much rightful outrage at this most recent viciously cruel act, which will hopefully result in a suitable punishment for those responsible. However, it is clear that such acts will happen again.
It seems to be part of our fundamental mindset to place animals in a lower category of life than humanity.
Of course, pet owners know how rewarding an experience it is to stroke your dog or cat. It can lower people's blood pressure.
However, such strong ties between man and animal are not as prevalent as they should be.
In fact, the opposite is the case, and it seems we shall continue to read about mass culls. Sometimes I feel ashamed to be a member of the often inhumane human race.
Frank G. Sterle, Jr, White Rock, British Columbia, Canada