Cross-border car scheme could work
I refer to the trial scheme of one-off quotas for Guangdong/Hong Kong cross-boundary private cars.
It might be a good opportunity for citizens in Hong Kong and the Guangdong residents to facilitate cross-border economic exchanges.
Self-drive tours have been in operation for many years in many countries, including Japan and the United States.
The scheme could help to stimulate the retail, hotel and tourism sectors as it will make travel easier for those Hong Kong and mainland citizens who are given the one-off permits.
Of course, there may be problems given the differences between the SAR and the mainland province, with regard, for example, to traffic regulations, driving habits and road use.
However, the Transport Department has made it clear that mainland motorists coming here under the scheme must observe local laws and regulations.
Those who contravene these rules will face prosecution.
I think we need to be patient and gauge the effectiveness of the first stage. Then we can decide if it is worthwhile to continue with the scheme.
Also, how is it possible to criticise mainland drivers and praise Hong Kong motorists?
We should not have preconceptions. If all Hong Kong drivers are so good then how is it we still have road traffic accidents every day?
We should take advantage of the opportunities provided by the scheme.
It is high time we put aside any prejudices we may have and seek to promote co-operation between Hong Kong and Guangdong.
Annie Lo Yam-kwan, Kowloon City
What crash statistics really mean
I refer to the report ('Mainland cars are no menace, crash data says', February 16).
The data presented takes no account of the frequency or extent of use of mainland, as opposed to local, vehicles.
Just taking raw figures of registered vehicles is nonsense. Presumably, mainland vehicles spend most of their time on the mainland, not on Hong Kong's roads at all.
Are they not just infrequent, brief visitors? If, for example, the annual average number of road hours or kilometres travelled in Hong Kong by mainland vehicles were, as it might well be, one-tenth or one-twentieth of the averages for local vehicles, the Transport and Housing Secretary Evan Cheng's statistics would be demonstrating double or even quadruple the rate of infringement.
The statistics released are convenient to the government's case but completely without merit.
Malcolm I'Anson, Wan Chai
Spirit of great architect is still alive
Your report ('A house that doubt built', February 15) chronicled the demolition of one of the last remnants of Beijing's urban heritage, the courtyard house of architect historian Liang Sicheng. This final act is heartbreaking and highly symbolic.
Liang Sicheng devoted his life to record and preserve Chinese historic buildings and structures. When, from 1949 onwards, the new government began to destroy the old city of Beijing, a world treasure, Liang confronted the authorities at every step.
For this he was abused, slandered and even tortured, losing all the battles at the end.
Little of China's rich architectural past has survived; timber constructions are near extinct, while the ancient capital has forever disappeared.
But the spirit of Liang Sicheng is still alive. His works continue to be published and his drawings reproduced with due acknowledgment at last.
Significantly, a book describing the vicissitudes of Beijing's transformation and Liang's role in trying to defend the city has become a best-seller on the mainland. Written by journalist Wang Jun, it is now in its ninth printing, and has been translated into English under the title Beijing Record.
Liang suffered bitterly during the Japanese invasion, but pleaded with the Americans not to bomb Nara, where the oldest timber structure in Japan still stands.
His words at that time are pertinent today: 'Architecture is the epitome of society and the symbol of the people. But it does not belong to one people, for it is the crystallisation of the entire human race.'
Juan Morales, Causeway Bay
Extend rules for schools to charities
The government has announced several measures to tighten the financial management of schools which operate under the direct subsidy scheme ('High-risk investment ban on subsidy scheme schools', February 18).
I think these measures could be extended to other organisations in the SAR.
Many charities hold their flag days on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Most Hongkongers are happy to give money because they appreciate the importance of helping people in need. Also, they can now give a donation by using their Octopus card.
But concerns have been expressed about how this money is spent, because not all charities are forthcoming when it comes to producing financial statements.
They do not have to pay for people to collect on their behalf as generally young people volunteer to help during the flag days. Also, a registered charity does not have to pay taxes.
Therefore, the public has a right to know the financial status of all these registered charities and they must take full responsibility for all their financial dealings and transactions.
In this regard, the government has an important role to play. It must introduce legislation which ensures that charities are properly supervised.
There should be rules governing these organisations, and charities that contravene the regulations should be penalised.
If tough measures are thought to be appropriate for direct subsidy schools to curb unwise investments, there is no reason why such controls should not be extended.
Ella Ng, Tai Po
Budget initiative helps poor
I refer to the letter by Heidi Chan Hoi-ting ('Electricity subsidy a waste of cash', February 21), who raises the vague issues surrounding climate change instead of looking at the reality of poverty in Hong Kong.
When you are receiving just under HK$3,000 in Comprehensive Social Security Assistance per month, there are luxuries you cannot afford - enjoying yum cha on a special occasion, using a public swimming pool, or attending an outpatient clinic regularly if you have a chronic condition.
You also have to take care with your use of electricity even when it is very cold or hot. On my estate, there are many elderly and handicapped residents who earn a bit extra by collecting paper and cardboard for recycling. The HK$1,800 electricity bill subsidy will be a real help for them.
We should not battle climate change at the expense of the poorest in our society.
Pang Chi-ming, Fanling
Bill subsidy definitely not eco-friendly
The announcement by the financial secretary that each residential electricity account would be given a subsidy of HK$1,800 works against efforts to combat climate change and get people to save energy.
In effect, it is just a short-term policy, as it can only help residents pay the next few bills.
It would have been far better to have used the money to sponsor people who switched to eco-friendly energy initiatives.
This would have helped Hong Kong reduce its carbon footprint.
Yoyo Lau Wai-shan, Sha Tin
Means test is there for a reason
The changes to the eligibility limits of transport subsidies will benefit low-income families.
With wages being outstripped by inflation, many poor people are finding that life is becoming harder. These subsidies can help reduce their financial burden.
However, I do not agree with those who argue that the government should get rid of the asset means test. Without it, some people who do not need it might still get the subsidy. Although an asset test may put off people who would be eligible, it stops others abusing the system.
What the government can do is increase manpower to speed up processing of the asset means test.
Stephanie Fong, Tai Wai