Time to lift freeze on ESF subvention
I could not agree more with those who have been urging the government to end the freeze on its subvention to the English Schools Foundation.
If Hong Kong is to become an educational hub, support for ESF pupils must be demonstrated by the administration. If we are to maintain our superiority in terms of languages over other places in the region, an affordable English-language education must be available for children.
I believe many senior officials agree with me, and yet they want the subvention freeze to remain in place. They tell disappointed ESF parents that this is not an appropriate time to review this policy.
They turn a deaf ear to those who argue that if this policy is not reversed and additional funds are not made available for English-language education, serious doubts must be raised about Hong Kong's ability to become an educational hub.
The government needs a change of mindset and to do away with its hoarding mentality. It cannot sit on a record surplus, talk about an education hub and continue to freeze the ESF subvention.
If this is not the time to shift policy, when will that time arrive?
Parents and officials should be working together on this matter. There should be mutual support, psychological support for children from parents and financial backing from the government.
With this strong bond and the right education policies, Hong Kong will be able to maintain its competitive edge.
Justin Ma, Kwun Tong
Another toy for rich urbanites
I refer to the report on the proposal to build a residential development known as Baroque on Lamma ('Bid for luxury project on Lamma revived', March 14).
My family recently moved to Shanghai, but for nine years we lived in Sai Kung and loved it there. We were fascinated by the beautiful flora and fauna in Hong Kong. There is nothing like it in Shanghai, and we miss it.
However, we noticed how developers would take over many charming places in different parts of Sai Kung and build luxury residential units. They were designed for well-heeled citizens, who used them as weekend retreats.
Quite a few house hunts showed us places in Sai Kung Country Park abandoned by people who got bored with the serenity far away from glitzy Hong Kong or simply got fed up with the long ride to and from town.
Southern Lamma is still one of the rare untouched parts of Hong Kong.
It would be wrong to create another playground of 700 units for those who are only seeking another toy, a toy they will discard when they get bored again.
They can change their minds and go back to urban Hong Kong, but the damage done to nature will be irreversible.
Arnika Heise, Shanghai
Baroque could be Sea Ranch 2
As I read in horror about the revival of Baroque on Lamma ('Bid for luxury project on Lamma revived', March 14), I was haunted by memories of a similar development. I refer, of course, to Sea Ranch on Lantau.
Just like Baroque on Lamma, Sea Ranch was sold to Hongkongers as an exclusive waterfront paradise.
It promised luxury living, high-end leisure facilities and fast, frequent ferries. Yet it failed on all fronts.
It has few residents, crumbling buildings and no shops. The clubhouse and sports facilities closed years ago. There is an infrequent ferry service.
The website of Time Out likens it to 'Discovery Bay after a direct hit from a neutron bomb'.
Do we want south Lamma, which is lauded for its beauty, tranquillity and environmental diversity, to be the second of Hong Kong's coastal regions to be likened to a nuclear bombsite?
The government should learn from past mistakes. It will look rather inept if it sanctions the destruction of one of our last wildernesses to create another Sea Ranch.
Jason Chan, Mid-Levels
Dogs a danger to the public
I am a student in Hong Kong. I was running in Yue Kok in Tai Po on March 20 when I was bitten by two black dogs.
These dogs charged at me even though I had done nothing to provoke them.
I would like to know why such large canines are not required by law to be muzzled or at least on a leash at all times.
These dog attacks have been occurring on a regular basis and pose a danger to the general public.
Hong Kong citizens are entitled to keep dogs as pets or as guard dogs, but as owners they have the responsibility to ensure that their animals do not pose a threat to other Hongkongers.
Therefore, something needs to be done to curb this problem and ensure the safety of everyone.
Toh Zheng Han, Tai Po
Build a culture of saving energy
Restaurants, shopping malls and offices are often seen as the major culprits when it comes to overuse of electricity. They can take only some of the blame.
Hong Kong's households are also responsible for needless waste.
There is no culture of energy saving, and this applies to all citizens.
As one restaurant owner put it, 'Hongkongers would rather have the immediate comfort of the first minute and then bear with the cold later' ('Cold habits die hard', March 11).
Students have the same attitude in school. Instead of giving themselves time to cool down when they get to class, they want the air conditioner switched on straight away. As a result, many come down with colds and other ailments.
The government should enforce a law restricting the temperature in shopping malls, restaurants and other public places to 25.5 degrees Celsius.
Also, officers should carry out patrols to ensure the legislation is obeyed.
Kan Man-ki, Kwai Chung
Grass roots not being ignored
As chair of the New People's Party, I write to register our astonishment at the headline ('Regina Ip eschews grass-roots vote', March 21).
In the interview conducted on February 10, I said the party had no plan to field candidates for district elections in areas dominated by grass-roots households, because of limited resources (direct quote: 'We are not planning to send anyone to run in constituencies dominated by public housing estates'), which is far from equivalent to 'eschewing grass-roots votes'. No political party in its right mind would 'eschew' any type of voters' votes. Certainly not the New People's Party.
As regards the report ('Celebrity chef Yan adds spice to Regina Ip's new party', March 23), it says that 'Ip said it is the rich and successful that her party is targeting, describing the party as centre-right and unapologetic about its elitist image. She confirmed it was uninterested in the working-class vote or in contesting public housing constituencies'.
I wish to clarify for the record that I never said nor confirmed during the interview that the party 'was uninterested in the working-class vote or in contesting public housing constituencies'. Nor did I say it is the rich and successful that the party is targeting. The reporter, it seems, simply quoted from the March 21 article.
All I said in the first interview was that as a newly established political party, the New People's Party did not have enough resources to field candidates for district elections in areas dominated by public housing estates. The party aims at implementing structural change in education, innovation and restructuring of the economy, which would ultimately benefit the entire community, including the grass roots. It remains the party's objective in pushing structural policies to benefit all.
Regina Ip, chair, New People's Party
Incinerator beats landfills
The government intends to build an incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau to take pressure off our landfills.
I accept that landfills do not offer a solution to the growing problem of waste disposal in Hong Kong. It is very costly and a waste of valuable resources to use areas of land for dumping refuse.
An incinerator will not solve our waste problems, and it will cause some air pollution with the burning of rubbish, but it is a better option than a landfill.
I think the situation can only improve with more public education. We all have to take responsibility. Volumes of waste will be reduced when we generate less of it. There is room for improvement from citizens and the government.
Chan Ki-sum, Kwun Tong
Rural folk face lower costs
I refer to Jake van der Kamp's column ('Tell us where we are going wrong - generalities just won't work', March 19).
He said that income disparity in Hong Kong between the rich and the poor was not as wide as that between mainland rural household incomes and those of urban households. This is like comparing apples and oranges.
However poor rural mainlanders may be, they enjoy the benefit of living in areas where they pay negligible rent and the cost of food, transport and entertainment is low.
Hong Kong's poor, however, find their disposable income is eaten up by speculative rents, extortionate food prices and exorbitant transport charges. Nothing is left for entertainment.
These factors, when added to the graph in Jake's column, would show that life for poor, elderly and retired people in Hong Kong is unbearable.
Rural people on the mainland are a much happier lot.
Lal Daswani, Tsim Sha Tsui