PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 February, 2011, 12:00am

Bad faith rife in shark fin campaigns

Some critics of Chinese people eating shark's fin soup have emphasised they are motivated by a desire to improve the sustainability of shark fisheries.

They deny showing disrespect for a Chinese cultural practice that is thousands of years old.

Blanket opposition to Chinese people continuing to eat shark fin, regardless of whether it comes from sustainable or unsustainable fisheries, does not provide an incentive for sustainable shark fishing.

If the reward for investing in sustainable fishing is that the same market will exist for meat but with no market for shark fin, why bother making the investment?

Shark conservation campaigns are full of anti-Chinese sentiments and derogatory comments about the traditional use of shark fin. These campaigns started in Western nations, where it was convenient to portray Chinese people as a clearly defined enemy. The campaigns largely ignore the facts that all dedicated shark fisheries seek shark meat as the primary product and that the major markets for that meat are in Western countries.

I was an industry representative at the meeting in Rome in July last year that reviewed global shark fisheries. It was organised by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites). I assure readers that experts from around the world are committed to improving the sustainability of global shark fisheries and are co-operating to do so.

Banning the eating of shark's fin soup is not one of the strategies for improving the sustainability of shark fisheries. Cites has been raising concerns about the status of sharks since the early 1990s and has done a great deal more, in a more culturally sensitive way, than some organisations. There are many challenges in improving international shark fisheries, but progress is being made.

Charlie Lim, chairman, conservation and management committee, Marine Products Association (Hong Kong)

Labels obscure information

I was prompted to write by the article ('Label law killed few foods, but hit prices', February 21).

I understand that it is important for consumers to have accurate information about the nutritional content of foods.

While I do not disagree with the concept of the government's food labelling initiative, I do take exception to the way it is often applied.

When I buy imported products, I expect to be able to read the original label, as it often has useful information not included in the Hong Kong government label. On some products, so much information has been covered up with extraneous labelling that it is hard to find any information at all. Why are the words 'Sugar Free' covered up on imported peanut butter? This is not a false health claim - it is a statement about the contents and helps consumers make purchasing decisions.

The back of a carton of imported soya milk is completely covered with a large picture label, obliterating useful information. The government's labelling process often leaves consumers with less information, not more.

How about a little common sense? For products with labels that already contain the required information about energy, carbohydrates, protein, total fat, trans fats, saturated fat, sugar and sodium, why not just leave them as they are and not add extra expense and confusion by covering them with labels that duplicate the original information?

When I'm shopping for food, I find most of the additional labels irritating and fail to see how they add any value, especially considering the added cost of applying them.

Yet again, bureaucracy is making life more difficult and complicated for Hong Kong people, not easier.

Linda Laddin, Central

Reminder from Christchurch

The tragedy that has torn Christchurch apart is heart- wrenching. However, it should remind us that Hong Kong is not immune to seismic activity and that many buildings here were constructed on reclaimed land.

Christchurch has shown that buildings in a country with world-class building codes for earthquake-proof structures can fall. One wonders how Hong Kong's skyscrapers would cope. The measures our government has in place must be made public.

Mark Peaker, The Peak

Mainland not like Egypt

When commenting on the momentous events in Egypt, pro-democracy commentators are claiming the last laugh too soon.

Some European sources aptly describe the post-Mubarak regime as a Hosni Mubarak regime without him. The ruling military junta making arrangements for a democratically elected government consists largely of Mubarak's lieutenants, who have shelved the constitution and replaced the cabinet with a caretaker cabinet comprising members of their choice.

Sceptical citizens vow to hold protest rallies weekly, and some civil service sectors went on strike.

Mubarak's authoritarian regime was one of several favoured by the United States (to the extent that the US was its largest supplier of arms), which prevented 'undesirable' factions such as the Muslim Brotherhood from coming to power. Mob rule prevailed only because the military, restrained behind the scenes by the US government, would not intervene.

What has happened in Egypt cannot be compared with the situation in China. The central government, which is not favoured by the US, had to put down the widespread street riots in 1989 that evolved from the peaceful student movement.

As reported by Lau Nai-keung ('Beijing critics shouldn't overstep the boundaries', January 7), quoting a poll by Pew, mainland Chinese are happier with the status quo and more supportive of their government than Western people are of theirs.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan

Help the poor first, Mr Tsang

From a personal perspective, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah's budget was pretty good news.

I stand to benefit from several giveaways and relief on things such as rates and electricity.

The reality, though, is that the money I am 'getting back' will make very little difference to my life.

In fact, I can't help feeling that with such a huge cash surplus, it should be our city's poorer people whose lot we should be aiming to improve.

My girlfriend, who grew up in a public housing estate in the city, is incensed that almost 14 years after the handover, Hong Kong still has people living in cages and tens of thousands of old folk in dire need of proper care.

In my opinion, we cannot claim to be Asia's world city if we continue to ignore the plight of our society's less fortunate members.

I would like to ask Mr Tsang to now begin work on his 2012 budget with the aim of rectifying this situation.

Jason Ali, Sheung Wan

Budget showed sound prudence

It is clear from reading press reports that many citizens are unhappy with Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah's budget. They feel that they have not benefited from it or that what they did get was insufficient.

I think Mr Tsang spared no effort to come up with the best budget he could. Before delivering his speech on Wednesday, he used all the channels possible to gauge the views of the public.

It was clear he wanted to do the best he could for those in need.

Some academics argue that with the increase the government's reserves there should be more measures aimed at relieving the effects of inflation.

While many people did hope for these relief measures, it is also important for the government to save money that can be used for the long-term development of Hong Kong.

The administration has to take a prudent approach. Enough money has to be saved for the future.

We cannot expect one budget to help everyone. However, I do believe policies have been announced that will help the underprivileged.

Winnie Chan Ka-wai, Tsuen Wan

Long-term view was missing

The main aim of this year's budget was to try to deal with the serious problem of inflation that is affecting Hong Kong.

When inflation is high, it obviously leads to increased prices, which adversely affect the living standards of most Hongkongers.

I am not convinced that the measures announced in the budget will deal with this problem.

Some people will benefit from some of the budget initiatives, but there was little in the way of long-term policies.

Andy Sze, Tsuen Wan

Laos tale made for the movies

I will not be at all surprised if Jamey Keaten's Associated Press story ('Laotian forest gives up medallion that tells tale of a love lost to war', February 15) winds up with a Pulitzer Prize, followed by a Hollywood film.

There is a precedent for this. Khmer leader Pol Pot's carnage in Cambodia first appeared in on-the-spot reports in The New York Times by Sydney Schanberg, assisted by his Cambodian translator Dith Pran.

Schanberg's coverage won him a Pulitzer Prize.

This was followed by the film The Killing Fields, which won three Academy Awards.

Vernon Ram, Lamma