Blitz replaced policy which was flexible
The reports about unauthorised roof top structures belonging to legislators raises questions about the excesses of government's 'blitzing' programmes for building structures.
During the 1970s, a clear and well-defined public policy was approved by the Executive Council to permit certain types of existing structures on private roofs to be retained, or similar structures to be built, on payment of a premium to the government.
The rooftop policy introduced by the then public works department took account of the planning, building and land disciplines applicable in the urban area. There seems to be no good reason why similar criteria should not be applied in the New Territories.
A strict criteria was that such a structure must be accessible from the flat below (and was sometimes referred to as 'penthouse policy').
The Development Bureau has in recent years withheld this information from the public and allowed the Buildings Department to carry out so-called blitz operations throughout the urban area. This has caused resentment against structures still existing in the New Territories.
The blitz operations are extreme.
It used to be the case that structures were removed which were dangerous to the public with minimum disruption being caused to the community.
The Buildings Department's actions are contrary to these requirements.
It has adopted a policy of widespread demolition. Many minor structures have existed for decades and have been inspected and tolerated by previous generations of experienced building surveyors.
Perhaps the Heung Yee Kuk can investigate why the 1970s Exco policy on rooftop structures has not been applied in the New Territories and hopefully bring a more enlightened attitude into the 'blitzing' process for structures generally.
Y. B. So, Mid-Levels
Important to increase birth rate
Many mainland women have been encouraged to come here to give birth because of the mainland's one-child policy.
I believe that by coming here they can increase the birth rate in the SAR. This could help with the problem of having an ageing population.
These children having Hong Kong identity cards could work here and make a productive contribution to society.
As consumers they would also be helping the economy.
The mainland mothers are also helping private hospitals to earn more.
I can understand why the government wants to introduce tighter controls and limit the number of mainland women allowed into Hong Kong, but when establishing future policies in this regard it must carefully weigh up all the pros and cons.
Stephanie Wong Ho-ka, Tuen Mun
Curb abuse of ambulance service
When the restriction on ambulances taking private patients to private hospitals was imposed, I wrote in these columns opposing the ban.
Subsequently, the Medical Association also called for the ban to be scrapped.
I am pleased therefore that the government has heeded these calls and has restored the previous policy of transporting patients to private hospitals upon request.
To the critics of this policy, I would point out once again that patients asking to be taken to private hospitals are, in the main, emergency cases and form a very small fraction of the number of ambulance calls, thus having no impact on the service.
The fact is that the heavy pressure on the ambulance service is caused by people suffering from minor ailments being transported to public hospitals, thus abusing the service.
This amounts to at least half of ambulance callers and is a problem to which the government must give serious attention.
Antonio Francisco Lopez, Hung Hom
High fares really hurting students
With inflation everything seems to have gone up except wages.
I am particularly concerned about rising bus fares. Even an increase of a few cents can make a big difference.
It adds to the pressure students face as higher fares can cause financial problems for their families. My bus trip to school only takes 10 minutes, yet it costs me HK$5.
What has the government done to help the poor in society? The gap between rich and poor is actually getting wider.
A. Tong, Shun Lee
Buffaloes in Mui Wo do no harm
I read the press reports about the attempted relocation of three water buffaloes and the killing of three others residing in Mui Wo. It was downright cruel for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to kill the buffaloes. Was it necessary?
These animals normally do not attack unless provoked.
They have existed side by side with south Lantau residents for years without incident, even with young children cycling by, or walking side by side with them.
My family members and I have lived in Mui Wo for a year. Our house overlooks a river and across a field where we have always delighted in watching the six water buffaloes grazing peacefully with their companion egrets. We too have strolled with them as they walked around the villages. I have enjoyed photographing them and sadly these photographs are probably all that will remain to remember these creatures by.
Who is responsible for the actions taken regarding the buffaloes in Mui Wo, which amount to a fiasco and can this person be held accountable for all these blunders?
Is the plan to totally destroy Hong Kong's fauna little by little so that developers can build more hideous skyscrapers on vacated land previously occupied by these creatures?
Ernesto Maurice Corpus, Lantau
Cage home dwellers need hostels
The shortage of public housing has long been a thorny issue in our society.
Families face a three-year waiting list before they can get a public housing flat. Single people also have a long wait and this is why many single elderly people live in cage homes.
It is difficult to imagine living in such a terrible environment, with poor hygiene, bad ventilation and no privacy. The most ridiculous thing is the rent per square foot of these cubicles which is even higher than a luxurious flat. This situation has been exacerbated by rising inflation.
Many of the cage home dwellers are on CSSA and cannot afford rent hikes. They may end up being forced to sleep on the street. The government has a responsibility to deal with this problem. It should build more public housing or restart the home ownership scheme to meet the demand for more affordable housing. The government might argue that a substantial increase in the supply of low-cost flats would interfere with the market and have an adverse impact on property prices.
In that case it should at least establish some non-profit-making hostels that provide beds and overall a better living environment for those single cage-home residents. This at least would release them from the dreadful conditions they must endure at present.
Chan Sik-lun, Tsz Wan Shan
Pointless warnings over visits
I recently returned from the Philippines were I have travelled extensively for the past 20 years.
During my travels I have always found the Philippine people to be extremely friendly and helpful. I have never experienced any kind of hostility of any description.
During my recent trip I was bombarded by texts from the Hong Kong Government warning me of the dangers of travelling in the Philippines.
This, I assume, was related to the bus hijacking in Manila last August.
Last year, while in Britain and not one mile from my house, a gunman called Raoul Moat, shot and badly wounded his ex-girlfriend, shot and killed her boyfriend, shot and blinded a traffic policeman. He then hid in a wood for over seven days with a loaded shotgun.
He eventually killed himself.
Why do I not get any warnings of the dangers of travelling in Britain when I am over there?
Anyone who thinks the Philippines is any more or less dangerous than before the bus hijacking incident is not firing on all four cylinders.
Paul Dodds, Lantau