Lamma Island


PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 June, 2011, 12:00am


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The answer to illegal structures

There is something unsatisfactory about the new-found zeal with which the government intends to compel owners of buildings with illegal structures to dismantle them ('Amnesty for illegal structures ruled out', June 23). For years there has been nothing secret about these structures: they have gone up in abundance and in full public view.

Yet the government has done nothing. It seems only to have been pushed into action now by whoever it was who drew attention to the lawmakers and government officials who have extended their properties. By its inaction, which surely encouraged many owners of such structures to proceed with them, the government can hardly be considered a guiltless party.

I wonder, therefore, if the government can accept that dismantling the structures might not be the only solution.

Anything that is unsafe must come down, and the government must focus their attention on this. However, where structures are demonstrably safe, couldn't the government allow them to stay, on condition that the owners made a suitable one-off payment? Using the figure that I have seen of 400,000 illegal structures, HK$10,000 each would give the government an income of HK$4 billion. This would be more if larger structures were charged at a higher rate. In future, these owners could be charged a higher level of government rates.

There is also an environmental issue. Allowing existing structures to stay would save the thousands of tonnes of construction waste that would be generated by dismantling all of them. We are constantly told that Hong Kong's landfills are rapidly filling.

A final point concerns property companies. There have been cases in which large property companies have ignored the law, and apparently got away with it. There was a recent case about Hopewell Holdings building on public land in Wan Chai.

Going back a few years, I recall a case in which Li Ka-shing, who had apparently received permission to build a relatively low-rise block on Garden Road - where the ParknShop is - allegedly built something much higher with impunity. Then there is Victoria Gardens in Pok Fu Lam, which the late Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum allegedly put up without permission. Whatever the truth about these cases, will large property developers be required to dismantle illegal structures?

What I have put here is a compromise that would make a virtue out of necessity.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says that the government cannot condone past wrongs.

But wasn't this what they were doing when the structures went up in the first place and the government failed to oppose them?

Richard Booker, Lantau Island

Nothing wrong with our schools

A well-known piece of folklore attributes the success of the Chinese philosopher Mencius to his mother, who moved her family three times to settle in a place that was suitable for her son's education. Parents like Ruel Trinidad ('Worse off than ESF parents', June 21) who loathe Hong Kong's local schools should consider migration to where they find the 'right' kind of public education for their children.

But no matter where they go outside native-English-speaking countries, I think they will face the same reality that local schools don't 'cater to their linguistic nor cultural disposition'.

These parents were born too late for the vanished British empire's free rides.

They must nonetheless recognise the fact that our very competitive local schools consistently turn out students who top international scholastic surveys.

Cynthia Sze, Quarry Bay

HK can't rely on other delta airports

Imagine if our last governor had listened to Beijing and decided not to build a new airport, instead depending upon airports in the delta region, as suggested by staunch loyalist Lau Nai-keung. What would have happened to our tourism, economic growth and thousands of jobs it has created in developing Hong Kong as an aviation hub?

Lau says Hong Kong does not need an expensive third runway ('Collaboration with airports in delta region the way to go', June 10). I strongly beg to differ with Lau, a Beijing supporter - generally without logic and ignoring public opinion and needs.

His views are unsuitable and vague. As a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development, he may mislead Hong Kong's chief executive and planners.

A third runway, terminal and allied infrastructure are badly needed within the next decade. If plans remain up in the air and there is no action, we may lose our position as an aviation hub.

The consultation paper in this case is misleading, beyond the understanding of the man on the street, and a waste of valuable time and money.

A third runway is a must. We have saturated runways at present, with about 1,000 landings and take-offs daily. The air controllers are already overworked with the congestion.

I have travelled recently to Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Australia, the United States and Europe, and our airport is still the best 13 years on.

A.L. Nanik, Tsim Sha Tsui

Why can't we use Octopus in taxis?

As Hong Kong's taxis gear up to accept credit cards ('No cash? Pay taxi fares by flashing the plastic', June 24), we learn that, sadly, the Hong Kong Taxi and Public Light Bus Association has 'ceased talks on a deal with Octopus'. Yet most of us would much rather use our Octopus card than a credit card to pay taxi fares.

Presumably Octopus knows this and is asking a high fee.

And the taxi drivers' representatives know that we will go on taking taxis anyway, so are holding out for a lower fee.

What pressure was brought by the government to bring together these two monopoly parties and encourage them to act in the public interest?

Or are Hong Kong people yet again denied a truly free market place and the protection of their government from untrammelled commercial power?

Martin Turner, North Point

Practical steps to stop fire tragedies

I write in response to Selina Lau's letter ('Put an end to tenement fire tragedies', June 23).

There is no doubt that insufficient public housing puts the lives of the poor at risk. But there are other reasons for tragedies that can be addressed.

The fire safety systems in the tenement buildings are poor.

Some fire extinguishers can no longer be used because of long-term disuse. Escape routes are at times blocked by rubbish and abandoned furniture.

Most importantly, some people have a low sense of fire safety and knowledge of how to deal with fire. Sometimes they are too scared, and even become confused when there is a fire.

Raising awareness of fire prevention and ways to handle fire is concrete and practical.

Pocari Hui, Ho Man Tin

Lamma's value in education

I agree with Jo Wilson's view that the government needs to realise the true education value of Lamma Island ('Ill-conceived plans to pour more concrete threaten beautiful Lamma', June 22).

I have two outdoor education companies that have used Lamma for over 10 years to bring children and adults to enjoy Hong Kong's wonderful outdoors, as well as appreciate the unique culture and nature of the island.

Many schools have joined our programmes, which include mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, orienteering, survival skills, and historical site visits. There are many trails, natural coves and local villages to explore.

I raised my son on Lamma until nine years old and I can't imagine a better place in Hong Kong for a young boy to run freely in a natural setting.

Ryan Blair, Mid-Levels

Rethink rape charge for under-14s

If Hong Kong changes its laws to make it possible for children under the age of 14 to be charged with rape ('Shake-up for juvenile law after sex case', June 24), that would imply that they are able to distinguish what is right and wrong when it comes to sex.

Would that include consensual sex? By that logic, the age of consent should be below 14.

Rape is a form of assault. Why not just charge under-14s with assault and causing bodily harm? And if they have attacked other children, perhaps child abuse could be applicable as well.

Andreas Renn, Sai Kung