PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am

Stage set for theatre's tragic demise

It has been widely reported that the Sunbeam Theatre in North Point will finally face demolition after hosting its last Chinese opera performance on February 19.

The theatre is the city's only remaining privately owned traditional opera house and is famous for classical and traditional productions of Chinese drama and opera.

In respect of private property ownership, the government has previously exercised different mechanisms to protect heritage.

But under the existing Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, there is no chance for privately owned composite buildings like the Sunbeam Theatre to gain assessment.

Furthermore, due to the limited alternatives under the existing statutory framework for engaging privately owned buildings like the Sunbeam Theatre, many places that have intrinsic cultural value have been badly damaged or demolished.

The theatre is a privately owned building with historical, political, social and economic links to one of our most traditional and popular local art forms.

The number of cultural spaces like the Sunbeam Theatre with such historical significance is limited in Hong Kong and they have struggled to survive for many years in the face of economic development.

The Sunbeam Theatre's predicament is typical of the traditional local arts trying to establish an identity.

In view of the tight fiscal policy and the divergent social opinions on conservation spending, the government cannot afford simply to buy out the private sector to protect those historical buildings or sites that are under threat. It has to have a more long-term solution, and an effective financial plan concerning conservation.

It is about time the Hong Kong government seriously considered looking at the conservation experience of other places and borrowing from programmes like Macau's public-private partnerships scheme or Britain's National Trust.

Kin-man Tsin, North Point

An answer to waste is in the bag

I am glad to hear that the government is trying to introduce strong new policies rather than just incineration and the plastic bag levy to cut the waste going into our landfills.

Our landfills will be at capacity this decade so there is a very short time for all Hong Kong people to act. Charging for the amount of waste is the most reasonable and effective approach to the problem and should apply to the domestic, industrial and commercial sectors.

Using prepaid bags is the best of the options offered by the government. This kind of system would not only reduce the amount of waste but also encourage sorting and recycling.

But more facilities are needed to help cut waste and expand recycling, and these are things the government should consider providing. In existing residential areas, sorting waste can be difficult because there are no communal facilities or places to do so on individual floors. I hope the government will liaise closely with the public and make sensible plans so that Hong Kong can succeed in its fight against waste.

Anthea Ng, Ap Lei Chau

Parents' legal residence key to abode case

As a citizen of Hong Kong, I am alarmed at how divided our society has become over the issue of the influx of mainlanders. In particular, the number of 'mainland babies' born in Hong Kong is putting great strain on our social welfare and health care systems.

The issue of the interpretation of Article 24 of the Basic Law is again a topic of debate, and the implications of the Chong Fung-yuen case are being revisited. The issues are grave and urgent, yet the obvious solutions are unsatisfactory. An interpretation from the National People's Congress Standing Committee would lead to a political backlash; amending the Basic Law would trigger a risky and lengthy political process with many hurdles that may or may not be overcome.

Yet there may be a way to work around it. Chong's parents were legally in Hong Kong at the time of his birth, and the decision did make this fact clear. With that in mind, apparently babies born to mothers who are overstaying or otherwise illegally residing in Hong Kong might not be entitled to a right of abode, or at least not so many rights, after all.

Article 24 stipulates that 'the above-mentioned residents shall have the right of abode in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and shall be qualified to obtain, in accordance with the laws of the Region, permanent identity cards which state their right of abode'. This seems to at least open up the possibility of having the Immigration Department refuse to issue Hong Kong identity cards to Chinese citizens born in Hong Kong if their parents entered or stayed in Hong Kong illegally.

It also seems to open up many possibilities for further administrative restrictions on the benefits conferred on them. This is a potentially useful plug to discourage mainland mothers to stay or enter Hong Kong illegally, thus mitigating the social problems caused by the Chong decision, and it may be a possible solution for the Hong Kong government to consider.

Sidney Fong, Wan Chai

Remember that it's rude to point

James Williams hits the nail squarely on the head when he talks about the culture clash between mainland visitors and Hong Kong residents ('Don't condemn mainland visitors for knowing little about our unique culture', February 4).

It is unreasonable for mainland professor Kong Qingdong to expect folks to change only a few years after the handover, considering that Hong Kong has never been a Chinese city; it is a fusion entity with its own way of life. Forced change will naturally breed resentment.

And rudeness is a matter of perspective. When my wife and I visited Guangzhou over the Lunar New Year, we found the citizens to be much more civil than many people here. Hongkongers should not be so quick to point their fingers at their mainland neighbours. Instead of finding fault, folks ought to admit that no one is perfect. The Year of the Dragon is supposed to be auspicious, not acrimonious.

Randall van der Woning, Tai Po

Boundless potential at empty prison

The Chi Ma Wan prison is a glaring example of the government's lack of future planning.

I walked around the site last week. It is empty and the private guards I spoke to said the prisoners left for the Lo Wu Correctional Institution two years ago. If there had been any planning, it would have been decided what Chi Ma Wan could be used for before funds were spent on a new prison.

The site could be used for Outward Bound classes. Schools could send children there on weekends and long holidays, and get them off the streets.

It has electricity, water, accommodation, a kitchen and a nice beach, with plenty of fresh air and plenty of hills to climb.

John Fleming, Sheung Shui


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