PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2011, 12:00am


Conservation policy must be coherent

The Antiquities Advisory Board chairman, Bernard Chan, acknowledges that there is no overall heritage policy ('Outcry over 'minor' deal to demolish historic villa', September 16).

The government pragmatically handles heritage conservation on an ad hoc basis, with the volume of public anger or criticism being a major factor in deciding the fate of such properties.

The developers' art, with government co-operation, is to keep redevelopment plans 'hush-hush'.

The Town Planning Board can be relied on to rubber stamp the government's position, and thus shield officials from challenge and public criticism.

Vivian Ko, commissioner for heritage, recognises that there is an increasing local interest in heritage conservation ('Grading of Yu Yuen explained', September 15).

This is not surprising considering the number of fine old buildings that have been demolished to allow for redevelopment, and many people now consider that the wrecking ball has swung too far too fast.

Over time, heritage protection rules in most countries have become more coherent as well as more stringent.

Hong Kong appears to be an exception, for, as Ms Ko explains, Yu Yuen's 2002 Grade 1 status was downgraded to Grade 2 in 2009.

Since December 2009, the Antiques Advisory Board has been reviewing the grading of 1,444 historic buildings in Hong Kong in accordance with six new criteria, and it is to be expected that the developer lobby will have been pushing for grading relaxations.

Therefore it would be appreciated by readers if the commissioner will advise, through these columns, of the results of the board's review - that is, how many Grade 1 were downgraded, how many Grade 2 were up-graded, and how many Grade 1 and 2 remained unchanged?

The Development Bureau urgently needs to develop a coherent heritage conservation policy so that we know where we stand.

Faux preservation retaining only facades, such as Wan Chai market and the now proposed Villa Blanca, is a desultory and meaningless fudge.

Roger Emmerton, Wan Chai

Tang not the right man for top job

Eugene Li is extremely confident that Henry Tang Ying-yen will become our next chief executive because of his 'excellent ties with the mainland' ('Class above the other front runners', September 23).

I do not share his confidence that such an appointment would be in the best interests of Hong Kong. There is no doubt that the 'humble' and 'unassuming' Mr Tang is a nice chap, but these are not the qualities required for a capable chief executive.

Mr Li also cites Henry Tang's 'extremely rich political background' as a reason that he is 'a class above the other front runners'. No one will dispute that Mr Tang has an extremely rich background: but not in politics.

The politics of leadership necessarily demands the engagement with people of all backgrounds. Being comfortable with cronies in country clubs is one thing, but engaging with cage-dwellers in Sham Shui Po, hawkers in Mong Kok, or noisy members of the League of Social Democrats is quite another.

The post of chief executive requires vigour, verve, vision and visibility. Mr Tang's track record in the public domain as chief secretary has demonstrated that he is short on all counts.

I am not a supporter of C. Y. Leung but I do consider that he is in a better position to handle such a strenuous job and, to date, he is the only person to have shown his mettle by declaring a definite interest in standing for this most demanding post; Mr Tang continues to prevaricate.

Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels

Poor people need extra subsidies

I refer to the report ('Hongkongers pessimistic on price of flats', September 22).

The problem of inflation in Hong Kong is getting worse. It is something that concerns people throughout the city and reached 7 per cent at one point.

People here feel under a great deal of pressure as some of the things they need for their daily lives become unaffordable. Many cannot afford to purchase a flat. Many university students are pessimistic about the future.

Some of my friends at school do not have enough money to purchase all the textbooks they need and some even skip lunch.

I do voluntary work with the elderly and some pensioners are having to economise. It is more difficult for those who cannot get financial help from their families.

The government has to do more to help the underprivileged. It could, for example, cut public housing rents and provide more electricity subsidies. Additional allowances should also be made available to poor people and the elderly.

When I read about the high rate of inflation, it makes me realise that we should appreciate what we have. As a student, I must have priorities when it comes to what I spend. I hope the government can introduce measures which bring down prices and implement policies which help people in need.

Chan Wing-lam, Tsuen Wan

Nuclear option is just not feasible

I refer to the report ('No need for nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad says', September 15) on comments by Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

I believe nations should work towards getting rid of nuclear weapons for the sake of future generations. The arms race started because once nations had nuclear weapons, other countries felt the need to develop them for national defence.

My main concern is the massive levels of destruction that can be caused by the detonation of such a bomb. And it is not just that so many lives are lost, but the destructive impact on the environment is long term. Radiation can make areas uninhabitable. The economic effect on a country will be devastating. While I appreciate it will not be easy for countries to give up nuclear arms, we must move in that direction. This is an issue which must be addressed by all countries that have a nuclear arsenal at a global conference.

Lau Wai-hin, Tsuen Wan

Beijing was motivated by oil supplies

Paul Letters' article ('Beijing plays by international rules, but on its own terms', September 20) pointed towards the fact that 'China's decision not to veto the UN Security Council approval for action against Muammar Gaddafi's Libya surprised many'.

Perhaps we should not be so surprised though - not least because of the vast reserves of oil in Libya, the contracts for which will presumably be up for grabs now that the Gaddafi regime appears to have bitten the dust.

Earlier this year, Chinese state media poured scorn on the West's intervention, with some mainland papers even suggesting that the West had directly instigated the uprisings across the Middle East.

The embarrassment for the mainland government is palpable, and the suddenness of China's volte-face over the Security Council resolution thus smacks more of a calculated need to cultivate any new regime for its crude oil reserves, rather than a genuine respect for the humanitarian situation of the Libyan people.

The fact is that money, or rather oil, talks, and with China being caught off-guard by the turn of events, we should not be surprised to see the mainland government ditching its 'non-interventionist' policies for a more pragmatic solution to the problem of its energy needs.

James Lewis, Sai Kung

Protesters at factory went too far

I refer to the report ('Arrests made in factory protest', September 19).

Protesters were detained after claiming a solar panel factory in Zhejiang province had caused pollution in a river which had caused fish to die.

I disagree with the protesters' tactics and also with the factory for allowing waste to enter the river.

Manufacturers should recognise the importance of corporate social responsibility and try and keep the levels of pollution they generate to a minimum.

However, the protesters also have responsibilities and their actions got out of hand.

Eight vehicles were overturned during protests and people were hurt.

Protests are acceptable but those involved should always adopt moderate tactics.

In the first instance, they should have considered writing a letter of complaint to the relevant government department.

The authorities should monitor factories and ensure they are abiding by the relevant rules.

Manufacturers and nearby villages should always try to co-operate with each other.

Wan Ho-yan, Tsuen Wan