ID card checks not thorough
Jeremy Newton's letter about somebody having used his vote during the district council elections ('Someone else voted in my place', December 9) just confirms my own observations over many years that many officials charged with checking a person's identity fall down on the job.
This applies equally in government offices or those of lawyers, clinics or banks.
The frontline staff are beholden only to the number on the identity card and nothing else. So long as they get that ID number written down, they feel they have no responsibility to actually look at the photograph on a card and compare it with the person presenting the card as well as double-checking their name.
Herein lies the problem because, with an eight- or nine-digit card number, it is fairly common for people to make mistakes with the recording of numbers.
If they combined this task with asking the person to state his or her name clearly, and also comparing the photographs, there would be far fewer identification mistakes. Failing to check the photograph in fact defeats the whole object of having an identity card, but tell that to the office managers and all you get is a blank stare.
The only times I have actually witnessed officers comparing the photographs on ID cards are at Immigration Department entry and departure points.
P. A. Crush, Sha Tin
How to crack down on vote-rigging
The fiasco of the district council elections continues to grow as further cases of alleged vote- rigging appear with phoney voters registered at demolished buildings being bussed to voting centres, no doubt in return for free rice or other rewards.
It appears the investigations are just scratching the surface. The milk is tainted and the government should reject all election results and start afresh.
There is a solution. When Hong Kong residents arrive at or depart from immigration, they insert their smart identity cards into a reader unit, the gate opens and then a thumb print opens the second gate.
The same system could be adapted for use at central voting centres.
Any non-registered voter would be spotted immediately by the computer/ID cross reference and a voting slip issued if the registered ID card passes muster. A closed-circuit television with on-screen timer can identify the voter using the ID card for cross reference. Hong Kong has the taxpayers' abundant money to do this and ensure a fair vote takes place.
At the very minimum, the voter's ID card should be scanned and the hand scanners used by the Immigration Department employed before anyone gets a voter slip.
All first-world countries have legislation on the publishing of political party funding donations so that the public can see who and from where the puppeteers are controlling our political parties' policies. Hong Kong should have similar laws.
James Middleton, Pat Heung
Subdivided flats pose health risk
It seems ridiculous to read about people who are still living in crowded and unhygienic cubicles. And yet it is clear that this problem is still with us.
Subdivided flats are a consequence of inadequate housing strategies in Hong Kong. There are now more subdivided flats as there are not enough public housing units for disadvantaged families or single people. They have sprung up in tenement buildings and abandoned factories. They appear, ironically, at the moment, to be the only solution to Hong Kong's housing problems.
The government has been slow to respond to the problem. The tragic blaze in Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, on November 30, made more people sit up and take notice of the problem.
I am also concerned about the fact that there are triad activities in these buildings.
It is more difficult for the authorities to curb illegal activities in these kinds of apartments.
Also, with no cleaners, hygiene standards are poor in kitchens and toilets. Conditions can deteriorate rapidly, which means that tenants may face health risks.
The overall quality of life in this form of accommodation is poor.
There is a lot of noise, and tenants will have trouble sleeping and become ill-tempered.
People forced to live in these places are entitled to fair treatment. Poor citizens should not have to endure such conditions.
Some of the initiatives introduced by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in his final policy address must have seemed like a belated present, but something needs to be done immediately.
Timothy Gan Ho-yin, Tuen Mun
HK's housing crisis must be solved
Following last month's tragic blaze in Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, the Buildings Department announced a six-month crackdown on subdivided flats in busy market streets.
I am concerned that this action may prove to be too harsh for the affected tenants. These flats have been with us for years and officials say the problems they create will be difficult to solve. However, if tenants are asked to leave over the next six months, they may find they have nowhere to go.
The government's aim is to make these streets safer and improve the quality of life of apartment tenants, but it is unlikely their lives will get better if the actions taken by officials result in them being forced out of their homes.
What the government must first do is provide more public rental housing and curb property speculation.
If, through its actions, property prices go down, the problem of subdivided flats can be solved.
Nobody would willingly live in that kind of accommodation if they could afford a better apartment.
The housing problem is going to be difficult to solve in Hong Kong and the administration faces many challenges, but I hope it will deal with them as soon as possible.
Chung Ming-ho, Sha Tin
Revive useful mutual aid committees
Some of your readers may remember the setting up of mutual aid committees, in buildings throughout the urban area.
They were simple, informal organisations and looked after the cleanliness and safety of buildings.
There seems no reason why the movement should not be restarted or revived.
The first task would be to clear the staircases and unlock the roof doors, or at least to keep the key, with the district administration taking the lead as it did many years ago.
David Akers-Jones, Tsim Sha Tsui