PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 April, 2012, 12:00am


Heritage goes beyond architecture

It has been very encouraging to see such a lively exchange of ideas regarding Hong Kong's heritage preservation efforts and the government's revitalisation policy.

Although no heritage expert, I lived abroad for several years and oversaw the development of a restaurant and bar in a Wan Chai heritage building, so I feel compelled to offer my own observations.

Frankly, when it comes to heritage preservation, Hong Kong still lags behind other cities, such as London, New York and Singapore.

The 2007 saga surrounding the demolition of Queen's Pier served as a wake-up call to the Hong Kong community, and I'm glad to see the government taking a much more active role in preserving heritage architecture.

But preservation goes beyond simply protecting a building's physical structure.

It extends to retaining its function, respecting its historical value and appreciating its impact on local culture.

Many in the private and public sectors have a narrow view of heritage conservation, seeing it only in terms of preserving the architecture.

I hope the government will look beyond the scientific and engineering aspects of architectural preservation and consider the larger concept.

This involves adapting heritage buildings, honouring their role in the community and ensuring they continue to play a significant role in shaping our local culture.

Alan Lo, chairman, Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design

Universities can help curb racism

I was shocked and saddened to read about two students from China being beaten and robbed on a train in Sydney, Australia ('Rudd acts after students assaulted', April 25).

This is a cowardly attack, and the act of one of the attackers - stuffing a tampon into the mouth of one victim - was barbaric.

This cannot be taken as an isolated case, and former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd deserves credit for having taken up this ugly matter with police.

In Australia, Indians, Chinese and other Asians have been victims of racial intolerance that sometimes turns violent. The cowards who commit these crimes cannot imagine what the parents of the victims have to go through, what it is like for them to get a long-distance call to be told their son or daughter is in hospital after having been severely beaten.

Asian students go to Australia to further their studies and improve their job prospects. But the universities they attend also benefit financially.

These Australian educational institutions must work with the government and the police and tackle this ugly problem of racism.

They must try to ensure the well-being and safety of their overseas students.

Ranjit Bhawnani, Tsim Sha Tsui

Racehorse got worthy send-off

Sacred Kingdom, the former world champion sprinter, appeared at the Sha Tin racecourse for a farewell parade last Saturday.

It was the eight-year-old's final appearance at the track he had graced so many times.

He won 17 races (six group ones) and was horse of the year in Hong Kong in 2010.

I was extremely impressed by the farewell ceremony, which took place halfway through the meeting.

The owner of Sacred Kingdom presented a beautifully framed horseshoe to Jockey Club chairman Brian Stevenson.

The club's chief executive, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, and executive director of racing, Bill Nader, were also there.

During the presentation ceremony, the horse's owner made a speech that I found very moving.

I feel very proud that each year our racehorses in Hong Kong keep getting better.

In my opinion, the Hong Kong Jockey Club has the finest clubhouse in Asia.

I hope Sacred Kingdom has a happy retirement in Australia, as it is richly deserved.

Eugene Li, Deep Water Bay

What about the fancy villa houses?

The issue of illegal structures and village houses is in the headlines, and the guidance material on the subject issued by the Buildings Department makes for interesting reading.

What seems to be missing, however, is any mention of any action to be taken on what are termed 'villa houses' in the New Territories.

Take a walk around areas such as Silverstrand in Clear Water Bay and you see villa houses festooned in illegal structures, including complete additional floors. These homes are far larger and owned by far wealthier people than village houses.

Has the department overlooked this class of building, and, if so, I wonder how the villagers will feel about this situation?

Bob Rogers, Sai Kung

Government should back small classes

I refer to Tiffany Lee's letter ('No need to have smaller classes', April 24).

She believes smaller classes will increase the workload of teachers.

The purpose of education is to enable pupils to acquire knowledge and be able to look at a subject from every angle.

In Britain's education system, students have this opportunity to look at material in depth, and this is because the schools have smaller classes.

Ms Lee highlighted some of the problems that she associated with smaller classes, but I do think such classes are feasible in Hong Kong.

The government could provide subsidies so that schools could employ more teachers.

It should equip schools with whatever they need to successfully implement the new set-up.

For the sake of Hong Kong's future, the administration should adopt a small-class system as soon as possible.

Samantha Li, Kwun Tong

Suite is often the cheaper way to go

I refer to the report ('Tsang stayed in US$6,900 presidential suite', April 25).

I don't often side with officials on such issues, but this time I agree with the Hong Kong government's explanation, as I have had several years' experience in the hotel industry, some of which was on a VIP desk.

Conference rooms are usually rented on an hourly basis. The charges can add up very quickly.

So, over the years, I had many guests who would first ask the price of renting a conference room, then change their mind and rent a suite because it was cheaper.

I also worked in a hotel while the US vice-president spoke at a meeting there. A suite in a very private location in the hotel was reserved.

Often hotels call them hospitality suites and include them in the price of the meeting venue. Then that raises other issues.

So, to avoid the inference that the group was paying for the government's suite, it was paid for separately by the government.

Further investigation may well confirm the chief executive office's statement that it was cheaper to rent a suite.

It is my experience that it probably was.

Samuel Pyeatte, Siloam Springs, Arkansas, US

Changes in Burma bring fresh hope

I was surprised when Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest by the military-backed government in 2010 and then told a few months ago that she could take part in a parliamentary by-election.

These actions have shown that the Burmese government is willing to implement reforms and get support from Western countries.

I find it positive that Suu Kyi will be allowed to take her seat in parliament this time, given that in 1990, when her party won the national election, the army refused to accept the result.

Instead, it remained in power and put Suu Kyi under house arrest.

The government had its recent change of heart because it wanted Western nations to lift the sanctions they had imposed on the country.

However, in spite of these positive changes, we should not be over-optimistic.

Her National League for Democracy won 43 out of 44 seats in the by-elections, but the government, supported by the military, still enjoys a massive majority in parliament.

I do hope that we will see Burma emerge as a genuine democracy in the future.

Chow Chin-hei, Tung Chung