PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 February, 2012, 12:00am


Mansion must be preserved

I wish to take issue with those who argue that Ho Tung Gardens is not worth saving.

This singular and handsome mansion, with its Chinese tiled turrets and elegant arched openings and balconies, is on view to any who walk around Mount Kellett Road near the Matilda International Hospital.

Unfortunately, it's not a view that can be seen from Peak Road.

Your report ('Mansion demolition fears mount', January 28) says that 'the mansion's status as a grade one historic building does not protect it against development'. The law should be changed so that it does offer this protection. The owner cites private development rights and wants to keep the gardens but replace the house with 10 cottages, of which one would be kept for herself.

She has refused the government's land swap offered because it would be less private and require chopping down trees. I believe 10 cottages on that site could never be private. Moreover, losing a few trees cannot be compared to losing an iconic mansion, the first built by a Chinese on The Peak.

As for the rights of private development, most of us are in favour of such rights, but within limits. Should the Duke of Wellington be allowed to demolish Apsley House at Hyde Park corner in London or the Duke of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace?

Ho Tung Gardens may not rank architecturally with those, but, for Hong Kong, it is one of the few remaining grand family mansions.

In the US and Britain, the owners of important houses are not offered land swaps when their properties are listed.

It is considered a privilege to live in such a place, but the owner must accept the financial burden of continuing to maintain its upkeep.

The great Hong Kong families are increasingly playing a leading role in the preservation and development of the SAR's cultural life and heritage - their sponsorship of the Asia Society's renovation of the former explosives magazine at the Old Victoria Barracks being a recent example. Ho Tung Gardens is worthy of similar treatment.

Victoria Firth, The Peak

Seeking clarification on doors

I could not agree more with Doug Miller's viewpoint ('Platform doors are pointless', January 25).

It is not uncommon to note that, with the set-up of the part-height screen doors on the open-air platform, the MTR Corporation still employs platform assistants to advise passengers not to step over the yellow lines.

I have asked the MTR the reason for the part-height screen doors. Why does it still deploy additional manpower to police the open-air platform and why is it still dependent on the obsolete yellow line divider, despite the screen door installation? Are the doors not strong enough to guard passenger safety?

Sadly, the MTR's response sets no record straight and is evasive. The doors are still in the dry-run stage. Many passengers will see the part-height screen system as a white elephant.

Would the new CEO of the MTR Corp care to look for the plausible causes of the manpower mismanagement and the possible design fault problems?

Herbert Fong, Kowloon Bay

MTR's safety measure important

Many readers will hold the same view as Doug Miller ('Platform doors are pointless', January 25).

However, while I accept that installation of these doors can be inconvenient for passengers, they are a much-needed safety precaution at the MTR's open-air train stations. I do not think the argument of cost is valid, as life is too valuable a commodity. The prevention of a death, whether it is an accident or attempted suicide, should be the number one priority.

Also, such a loss of life can have many consequences, emotional and monetary. And if there is an incident on the tracks at an MTR station, there are economic costs such as temporary suspension of services. There may, in some cases, even be legal implications for the corporation.

I think that, if these platform screen doors eliminate such problems and lives are saved, this is money well spent.

In modern societies, there is a greater awareness of safety issues which must always be examined and improved by our leaders.

That is why lawmakers have felt that the yellow safety lines on MTR platforms were not good enough. The installation of these screen doors at stations will take time, but it will prove to be worth the expenditure.

G. S. Chak, Hung Hom

Disturbing lack of tolerance

I refer to Alex Lo's article about the increasing tensions in Hong Kong involving people from the mainland ('No need for shouting at your own people', January 21).

It is time that Hong Kong people and the government started examining their own attitudes (and policies) towards racism.

To continue to be a world-class city that reaps the benefits of tourism and international finance, we must examine the undercurrents that have bubbled to the surface of late.

When looking at issues such as overcrowding in hospitals and giving out benefits, many locals forget simple things like acceptance, empathy, courtesy and generosity. The anger expressed against Filipinos and mainlanders is nothing short of protectionism, racism and provincialism. If similar things happened to Chinese in Australia, North America or Europe, we, Chinese, would claim nothing short of racism.

Without the influx of investment and the purchasing power of tourists, Hong Kong's economy would certainly have been in a dismal state in the last few years. We cannot take the good, and just simply ignore the bad.

This is a time for the chief executive candidates to show leadership, advocating what kind of Hong Kong we have to build, instead of adopting a populist approach and saying nothing. It is time that some sensible individuals led Hong Kong to a more open and global approach.

Paul Chan Pui-yan, North Point

Reprimand mainland academic

It seems that Peking University academic Kong Quingdong realised he had gone too far after reports of his [alleged] comments on Hong Kong citizens ('Professor denies 'dogs' jibe at Hongkongers', January 22).

After he had goofed and realised that his comments would be bound to anger a lot of people, including officials, he tried to blame the media for what had happened.

As an academic, he should appreciate that many people feel he has insulted them and hurt their feelings.

He should be reprimanded for these comments in the hope that he does not say anything like that in future.

A. L. Nanik, Tsim Sha Tsui