PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 December, 2011, 12:00am


Rich-poor gap a serious social issue

I refer to the report, 'Dangerous flats here to stay' (December 2).

There are many subdivided apartments in Hong Kong, and they have been the subject of a great deal of debate following the fatal fire in Mong Kok in November.

It is well known that these subdivided flats are fire traps because of overcrowding. In such a densely populated living environment, if a fire breaks out it can be difficult for residents to escape. But in spite of the risks, many people continue to move into them.

They are forced to do this because of the cost of buying or renting private flats. Some people may not qualify for public housing and they have no choice but to opt for subdivided flats in spite of the poor living environment.

This serious social issue highlights the extreme disparity between the rich and the poor in Hong Kong. Some citizens enjoy luxurious accommodation in affluent neighbourhoods while others have to endure these tiny sectioned-off apartments. This is very unreasonable and unfair. The rich-poor gap should not be as wide as it is.

Until the government is able to formulate a better housing policy, the situation will not improve.

People have been calling for an increase in public housing and some way of offering an alternative for those who do not qualify for public flats. They have also urged tighter controls on the high prices of private property. If the administration does not face these social problems, they will only get worse and this will have serious consequences.

The government must act swiftly.

Ira Li Hoi-ching, Tsuen Wan

An urgent call for crowd control

There is a disaster just waiting to happen with crowds arriving at Macau. The problems I witnessed there were the worst I have seen in more than four decades of travelling around Asia.

On December 1, I was with a group of tourists waiting to take a boat to Macau. I estimate that in the immigration hall at the Macau ferry terminal in Sheung Wan, about 1,000 people were jammed together.

There were no orderly queues and large numbers of people came in from either side to add to the crush. We spent more than an hour as part of this vast crowd which slowly shuffled (or sometimes was pushed) forward.

On reaching the main ferry terminal in Macau, again there was a large crush of humanity at immigration (I estimated around 1,500) without any orderly queues.

At one stage people started calling out. I could envisage what might have happened if some people had fallen and there had been a stampede. Children in the crowd were obviously distressed and some were pushed to safety by their parents. We had some elderly people in our group and the tour organiser arranged for them to be rescued and helped out through the crowd. A senior immigration officer was kind enough to offer assistance.

I spoke to another senior immigration officer about the situation when we returned to Hong Kong in the evening when there were no delays. He apologised that we had been kept waiting an hour in Hong Kong and Macau immigration halls.

I explained that the wait was really irrelevant. What was important was the danger posed to people who were in this crush and the fact that there was a complete lack of crowd control by officers. There were no dividing barriers to funnel the crowds, something that you see at immigration points around the world.

Our holiday in Hong Kong was superb. But back home we continue to worry about the possibility of a disaster facing those people travelling from Hong Kong to Macau and back. Can the authorities do something about this problem?

Bob Wurth, Battery Hill, Queensland, Australia

Give cyclists a break on the ferry

I am against the Star Ferry's proposal to charge cyclists HK$20 for each bike they bring on board on the Wan Chai-Tsim Sha Tsui route, the only cross-harbour route that carries bicycles.

I agree with the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance that there should be no charge.

Cyclists are effectively part of what I would call 'green' traffic and therefore are surely promoting government policy. They can help to reduce air pollution.

If they stop using their bikes because of the new ferry charge, it will be bad for society.

Also, the rule that no more than 10 bikes can be accommodated on each ferry is too restrictive.

L. Wong, Kowloon Tong

Look closer to home for airport name

There has been some debate about what to call Hong Kong International Airport if a decision is made to rename it.

In my opinion, the person it is named after should be closely related to Hong Kong.

It should be someone people immediately associate with the city when they hear the name. Therefore I share the view of Jeffry Kuperus regarding Mao Zedong ('Mao would not be right choice', December 13).

Your correspondent expressed opposition to such a proposal because of the number of people who died while he led the country. However, I do not see this as the sole reason to object to such an idea.

If you asked people about Mao, most of them would associate him with the establishment of the People's Republic of China. There is no real link between Mao and Hong Kong.

It should be someone who has close ties with the city.

Well-known public figures like Lee Lai-shan and Bruce Lee would be the most likely candidates.

The former is best remembered for winning Hong Kong's first Olympic gold medal. The latter, as Mr Kuperus pointed out, is a true Hong Kong icon.

However, it is not normally the practice to name buildings and other facilities after someone who is still alive unless they made a substantial donation towards its construction.

Therefore, if we do rename the airport, it should be titled after Bruce Lee.

Apollo Sze, Cheung Sha Wan

Setting a bad example for our youth

The Independent Commission Against Corruption continues to investigate allegations of vote-rigging in last month's district council elections.

Any act of vote-rigging is totally unacceptable. Corrupt elections can only harm the prosperity of Hong Kong.

There is always a risk that people who win thanks to vote-rigging will put their personal interests ahead of the needs of their constituents.

People who have acted dishonestly in the past and got away with it will continue with these practices. They will hide their wrongdoing and could do untold damage.

Candidates elected as district councillors are there to serve Hong Kong citizens, not themselves. They should be helping residents in their districts with their problems and complaints, and making improvements to the district.

People who are convicted of vote-rigging set a bad example to all citizens. But I am particularly concerned about the effect this would have on vulnerable youngsters.

If teenagers see that adults in positions of responsibility and trust have acted dishonestly, what effect will that have on their values?

We should not forget that they are the future pillars of society.

A corrupt electoral process damages society. All that Hong Kong people want is to see fair elections.

Leung Ka-kei, Kwai Chung

Factoring in world's complexities

I was pleased to see the correction made to the article ('Reluctant superpower?' December 6).

The article had wrongly attributed me as saying 'Politically, Washington is still the moral leader in a world dominated by free-market economies and democracies, while the Communist Party of China is still struggling for survival due to its lack of legitimacy'.

I have in fact argued the opposite over the past decade while writing as both a China economist and author on China's relations with the Middle East. Indeed, my book, published in 2009, was titled How a rising Middle East is turning away from the West and rediscovering China, underscoring the changing balance of power.

Talk of a single country being a 'moral leader' is simply incorrect.

The world is instead an increasingly complex place, as are the choices between appropriate economic and political systems.

Ben Simpfendorfer, managing director, Silk Road Associates