PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2012, 12:00am


Put fairness at heart of public policy

In Hong Kong, we have long been grappling with the issue of fairness, but to no significant improvement. The retail monopolies of big businesses and corporations are cases in point.

Sadly, the all-pervasive influence of unfairness is affecting our lives.

Our government is to blame for its regimented mentality in planning public policy.

With the long-standing vision that economic growth is the primary means of raising social capital, most public policies are geared towards the creation of social wealth, followed by redistribution of resources to the needy.

Such a mentality is not without problems.

From 2004 to 2008, while Hong Kong saw a steady increase in economic growth, the wealth gap continued to widen.

Further afield in the business world, while our government prides itself on the non-interventionist approach of the 'big market-small government' principle, we run the risk of becoming laissez-faire and favouring the business sector.

The crux is how we can maintain market competitiveness without sacrificing fairness.

In the face of a mounting public outcry, Premier Wen Jiabao last year prodded our government to make every effort to resolve major conflicts arising from economic and social development.

Under the free market economy, the government is duty-bound to assume a more decisive and leading role to curtail unfair practices and to maintain a level playing field.

The decision last year to levy extra stamp duties to temper with property prices was a step in the right direction, towards a fairer regime, and these government efforts should be applauded.

However, monopoly and other anti-competitive business practices remain our challenge.

Given the unfairness, some describe Hong Kong as a kind of fortress that is impressive on the outside but suffocating on the inside.

Neither propaganda in the form of slogans nor one-off relief measures, which people usually call 'sweeteners', will address the root cause.

Fairness is the cornerstone of any sustainable economy. If we are to maintain our competitive edge globally, we can't remain complacent - we need to take action and review our approaches to planning public policy.

Unless drastic changes are introduced by the new cabinet, we are bound to remain bogged down.

Yes, there is no such thing as a completely fair society but we can all join hands to make Hong Kong a fairer and better place to live.

Borromeo Li Ka-kit, Kwun Tong

Resist kuk's amnesty call for buildings

The call by Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat for an amnesty on illegal structures in the New Territories, in respect of buildings 'exempted' under the Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance (Cap. 121), is misguided, as it overlooks the principles of rule of law and equality under the law.

There is also no ground for amnesty, when the transgressions can be readily identified and rectified without an unacceptable cost to the community at large.

It's true that in the urban areas and new towns, illegal structures, officially known as 'unauthorised building works' are still far from being adequately dealt with. But one offence should not be used to justify another.

We should also not ignore the fact that the Building Authority has been diligently issuing thousands of enforcement orders in recent years and many building owners have willingly complied without any complaints of distress.

I think the government should stand firm on the matter of enforcement and further refine its policy regarding the breach of regulations by:

speeding up inspections of such works in urban areas and new towns, and issuing enforcement orders;

ending the present practice of endorsing the affected properties in the Land Registry, in lieu of immediate enforcement, for certain cases of unauthorised works, and prosecuting if an order is not complied with;

considering a suitably extended order of priority for enforcement on exempted buildings in the New Territories, to allow time to educate offending owners and to better synchronise with similar actions on urban unauthorised building works.

I hope Leung Chun-ying will not fall into the trap of a dubious argument for an amnesty and undermine his authority to rule even before taking office, as this is clearly not a case deserving preferential treatment on compassionate grounds.

John Wong, Pok Fu Lam

Graves a spooky blot on landscape

I refer to the letter 'Hill fires threaten graves, too' (April 13).

Grave-sweeping in the hills is not only a fire risk, but the graves themselves blight the countryside for others.

On parts of the MacLehose Trail (stage three, going down to Sai Sha Road) in Sai Kung, there are many graves along the hiking path; it is like hiking in a cemetery. It is so unnerving that I would not go on that part of the trail again, even though I am a keen hiker.

It is time the government banned any new graves in the countryside, and arranged to move existing graves to proper cemeteries. Only then can everyone enjoy Hong Kong country parks without trepidation.

M. Lee, Sai Kung

HK's ban on Afghans disgraceful

I sympathise with the Hong Kong Cricket Association and the Afghan cricket team on hearing of the Immigration Department's shameful and short-sighted view to ban Afghanistan from the sixes event ('HK shuts door to Afghan stars', April 13). Having been to Afghanistan and taken photographs there during the war in 2001, I know that encouraging Afghanistan to take part in world sporting and cultural events is just what we need to do to help it become a part of the world community again.

Graham Uden, Tai Hang

Foster organ donation on the mainland

The mainland authorities should develop a system for people to donate organs for transplant.

Recently, a mainland teenager sold his kidney to brokers in the illegal organ trade, in order to buy a smartphone and an iPad ('Charges in kidney sale', April 10).

Among the suspects charged by the authorities over the sale are a surgeon, a hospital contractor and brokers who looked for donors online and rented an operating room.

Illegal organ sales are not rare on the mainland and nearly 1.5 million people are waiting for suitable transplant organs.

However, surgeons perform just 10,000 transplants each year throughout the country.

Due to the scarcity of donor organs, some patients' relatives resort to paying high prices to buy the organs from people who are still alive. Many people have low incomes and decide to sell their body parts to needy patients to earn money.

In order to solve this problem, I think the mainland government should develop a system of organ donation.

If the government does so, it can help solve the problem of a lack of organs.

A donor scheme can promote the idea of organ donation and possibly minimise the market of illegal transplant surgery.

Many developed countries have developed well-founded organ donation systems.

I hope that the mainland can have such a system very soon.

Edward Yuen Man-yiu, Tseung Kwan O

Will Leung listen to The Lorax?

There is an animated movie out in the cinemas now, which was released for children in time for the Easter holidays.

It's called The Lorax and is based on the book of the same name by Dr Seuss.

In the movie, the sustainable way of harvesting the coveted tufts of truffula tree is rejected because it isn't fast enough.

So they cut down all the truffula trees.

The water becomes polluted and the animals flee the forest. The air becomes filthy and a man becomes rich selling bottled fresh air.

My boys aged only five and seven years get the message.

They know that we need to care for the environment as we need clean air to be healthy.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen didn't. Will Leung Chun-ying?

Dr Seuss concludes:

'Unless someone like you

cares a whole awful lot,

nothing is going to get better.

It's not.'

Rosanne Salazar, Clear Water Bay