Letters to the Editor, August 23, 2012

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 1:27am


Bus terminus saga wake-up call for officials

Seven years ago, the government proposed a project involving the relocation of the Tsim Sha Tsui ferry pier bus terminus, which was to be replaced by a piazza.

A great deal of money was wasted and now the plan has been scrapped.

I am glad that officials finally realised that creating a new tourist attraction was not acceptable if it involved the destruction of a historically important bus terminus.

Conservation of this terminus is important because it is part of the collective memory of Hong Kong citizens, having been at that site since the 1920s.

It is also logistically vital, as many of the 45,000 passengers who use the Star Ferry every day then board buses at the terminus.

I appreciate that the government's original intention was to create a new tourist spot.

However, there are already many landmarks in Tsim Sha Tsui that draw visitors, such as the Avenue of Stars, the Space Museum, 1881 Heritage and K11.

These venues provide sufficient shopping and sightseeing options and I do not believe the planned piazza would have led to an increase in the number of tourists.

What happened with the terminus and pier shows the need for the government to listen to the views of the public when it puts forward such proposals.

The concern group Our Bus Terminal launched initiatives to raise public awareness about this issue.

Its campaign gained momentum and consequently many people lobbied against the redevelopment plan. I am glad officials finally took note of these dissenting voices.

Hong Kong has many collective memories that should be preserved.

The government must pay more attention to conservation issues and must listen to citizens' views when a plan to redevelop a historic site is proposed.

Christine Chan, Sha Tin

Nations can share islands' treasures

I have a solution to the disputed territories in the South China Sea - let the countries involved in the dispute have an equal share in ownership and whatever treasures lie in the sea beneath.

The various islands have changed hands for millennia. Who can work out what was "originally" under the ownership of one nation?

Sharing these places may actually lower the chance of war, as states would have to work together. But I suppose I am dreaming as nationalism raises its ugly head again.

Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po

Explain US decision on Diaoyus

I write regarding the long-drawn-out dispute between China and Japan over the genuine ownership of the Diaoyu Islands.

I believe the United States has a duty to tell the world based on what criteria and reasons, political or otherwise, the ownership or administration of the Diaoyu Islands was passed to Japan and not to China after the second world war.

Stephen T.H. Chan, Quarry Bay

Austerity plan only option for euro zone

With the deepening euro crisis, many contend that giving [more] aid to insolvent states would effectively avert large deficits. This is not true.

The euro-zone crisis is an aftermath of the European social welfare system, which emerged during the 1970s.

The sweetheart deals proposed by populists outpaced increases in taxes. As a result, states were run on risky, sizeable fiscal deficits.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is rightly tackling the fundamentals of the problem through proposing sweeping austerity measures. This, in essence, requires countries to implement structural reforms and fiscal consolidation.

However, pro-growth advocates criticise her measures as "inhumane" and "impossible". This is to turn a blind eye to German austerity measures in the 20th century, at a time when its economy shrank while other economies boomed.

Another compelling example is Estonia. The country suffered dire economic consequences after the 2008 financial crisis. It implemented sweeping reforms, which included cutting public sector wages and raising the retirement age, and is currently running a budget surplus.

I believe in no pain, no gain. Austerity measures steer economies from running corporatism to an approximation of well-functioning capitalism. Governments should stand firm and go for the politically savvy decision.

Samantha Datwani, Pok Fu Lam

Cold malls are putting off customers

While nearly 100 shopping malls have agreed to maintain temperatures at between 24 and 26 degrees Celsius, Friends of the Earth has found that the average temperatures of stores within shopping centres is much lower. In one shop in Yuen Long Plaza, it was as low as 19 degrees.

Mall managers must get stores to raise the temperature. When it is freezing, it annoys shoppers who often have to wear sweaters and jackets to deal with the chilly atmosphere and avoid catching a cold.

Tenants should realise that they can lose potential customers if temperatures in their shops are too cold and so they also lose any competitive advantage they might otherwise have.

It also makes financial sense to keep temperatures between 24 and 26 degrees, as wasted energy leads to high electricity bills.

Also, mall owners who get tenants to turn their air conditioner to warmer temperatures are helping to protect the environment and recognising the importance of corporate social responsibility.

In the drive against global warming, they need to act as role models to their tenants.

Health issues must also be considered. People who argue that very cold air conditioning provides ventilation and is in the interests of consumers are wrong.

Excessive air conditioning with very low temperatures can make people who are in malls for long periods ill. They can get symptoms like headaches, allergic rhinitis and runny noses.

The owners should launch incentive schemes and distribute leaflets to tenants to get across the message about the importance of protecting the environment.

We all need to play our part if we want to save the environment.

Wu Chun-hei, Sha Tin

Hong Kong now has fewer English signs

There were complaints from Hongkongers about the exclusive use of simplified characters in the outlets of DFS Galleria and some other stores.

Of course, the companies involved are within their rights to target whatever audience they think might use their goods and services.

However, it produces bad feelings among Hong Kong citizens. Nobody likes to feel marginalised and unimportant, especially in their home city.

When I came here decades ago, advertising posters in the MTR and elsewhere were virtually all bilingual (Chinese and English).

Now things are very different, with the vast majority of commercial messages and even some public signage written only in traditional Chinese characters - unreadable to a large number of people who visit or live in this city (in some cases for all their lives).

As far as I can see, this trend is only accelerating.

Of course, the railway and the advertisers involved are within their rights to target Hong Kong's ethnic majority, if they think that is the market for their goods and services.

However, it produces bad feelings among the city's minorities who feel marginalised in their home city.

I am glad the Chinese majority in Hong Kong is now waking up to this fact. It would be wonderful to find our city on a path to greater inclusiveness.

John Medeiros, North Point

Northeast Asia is clearly in pole position

I must disagree with Greg Torode's suggestion that Hong Kong pivot towards the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ("HK needs to embrace its role in region", August 20).

Northeast Asia is of greater importance and should be the primary focus for Hong Kong in its regional engagement. Northeast Asia influences Southeast Asia, not the other way round.

People in Southeast Asia are listening to K-pop and imitating Japanese fashion. They buy Lenovo computers, Samsung phones and Toyota cars. They follow the sporting achievements of Tseng Ya-ni, Kim Yu-na and Shinji Kagawa. Whether one looks at gross domestic product, stock markets or Olympic medals, Northeast Asia has a regional impact that dwarfs Southeast Asia. It will remain so for the foreseeable future.

This is not to say that Hong Kong should ignore Southeast Asia. Of course it should engage with Asean to facilitate trade and tourism. But it cannot be all things to all people. Let Singapore try to be the hub for Southeast Asia. Hong Kong is far better placed to be the hub for Greater China and the advanced economies of Northeast Asia.

Steven Pang, Sai Kung