Letters to the Editor, October 1, 2012
KMB places emphasis on safe driving
We would like to thank Paul Surtees for expressing his safety concerns ("Bus passengers deserve safer and comfortable trips", September 13). Safety is KMB's top priority so we naturally agree with your correspondent's views and have in place a number of measures to enforce and enhance safety standards.
When recruiting new bus drivers, besides carrying out driving record checks we conduct an aptitude test with each applicant to ensure he or she has the appropriate mindset. The training programme for our new drivers, which includes operating the bus, defensive driving and route and bus-type training, places great emphasis on safe driving.
With the introduction of a state-of-the-art driving simulator to recreate local traffic environments, road conditions and other drivers' behaviour, the performance and response to different situations of our bus drivers are further enhanced.
We always aim for the best, but occasionally we do notice undesirable driving behaviour that requires further training. To prevent similar traffic accidents recurring, tailor-made safety enhancement training courses are given to bus drivers who are involved in liable traffic accidents.
A 90-minute training programme has also been developed to boost existing bus drivers' defensive skills and awareness, which includes smooth and steady brake and accelerator use.
To underpin a customer-oriented attitude and a safe driving culture, 52 seminars and more than 300 workshops have been conducted in recent years for frontline staff. A database of "Driving tips in special attention areas", the first of its kind in Hong Kong, is available on our staff website to help bus drivers operate our vehicles more smoothly and safely.
We believe that a stringent safety governance framework is the key to ensuring the highest levels of safety performance. KMB obtained OHSAS 18001 certification (the ISO standard for safety) in August, in furtherance of our aim to set world-class standards in safety. We will continue to avail ourselves of every opportunity to make further improvements.
As a company that is committed to offering the safest and best bus services to the public, we welcome Mr Surtees' comments.
Gary Wong, head of safety and service quality department, KMB
Children left without a voice in society
I read with interest the proposals for the new government of the SAR from the Catholic Church of Hong Kong.
It was a comprehensive piece that covered many of the issues concerning basic human rights. It emphasised the importance of family life and said that Hong Kong has seen a continuous decline in the living standards of the family, especially in terms of living conditions and of the rich-poor gap.
I cannot help noticing, however, that the word "child" does not appear in the policy proposals except as a member of the family unit or as a victim of adults.
As your correspondent Karen Razack points out ("Body would help children and parents", September 21) in the same edition [as the Catholic Church advertisement], services to children are poorly co-ordinated and they have no one to speak for them. Ms Razack suggests that a children's commissioner would help our society pay attention to children as people, even though they do not have a vote and are not represented except as part of the family.
Many of us who work for children's rights do feel that this is an area that is neglected both by the proposals from the Catholic Church and by our legislators. We do feel that children should have someone dedicated to speak on their behalf as they too are citizens of Hong Kong.
Anne Marden, Shek O
Minimum wage rise is fair proposal
People in Hong Kong are hard-working and many visitors form the mistaken impression that we must all lead decent lives with no worries about what to eat or where to live.
However, this is not the case. Some citizens earn meagre wages. Many depend on food banks from charities and have barely enough to pay for a tiny subdivided unit or a cage home.
The minimum wage law was introduced to protect these low-paid workers. Because of it, some people do earn more and there are proposals to raise the hourly rate from HK$28 to HK$30 to offset the effects of inflation.
Given that this is the first review since the law came into force, I think this recommendation from the Minimum Wage Commission is fair. There have been calls for a bigger increase, but we must be aware that the economic environment in Europe and the US is still bleak and could have an impact on Hong Kong's economy.
Opponents of a rise say it will hurt employers and push up food prices. However, firms' main financial concerns relate to rising rents.
The government should not just focus on wage levels. It must consider the effect of rising house prices on citizens.
Officials must take steps to curb steep property price increases.
W.H. Chan, Kwun Tong
Co-ordination crucial for new developments
The government is actively engaging the public over the need to develop the rural area of the northeast New Territories. However, it is difficult to understand the plan when the big picture is not clear.
The 2012-13 budget talked about development above the existing West Rail depot in Kam Tin and Kam Sheung Road station, providing up to 8,700 flats. The Our Future Railway study is talking about development in the northwest New Territories and along the Tuen Mun to Tsuen Wan link.
The MTR Corporation also has a development over the Siu Ho Wan depot and there is further expansion in south Lantau and Tung Chung as well as the long-awaited Kai Tak development.
The government is currently reviewing the proposal for additional reclamation outside Victoria Harbour and exploring placing major pieces of infrastructure within rock caverns to free up land for development.
All of these studies would appear to be drawn up and presented in isolation.
One assumes the government has a clear plan and is co-ordinating all these studies to ensure they are based on consistent assumptions and taking account of their interaction.
It would be helpful if the administration could let the rest of us in on the plan before asking us to provide feedback on the limited part of the picture being presented.
Tymon Mellor, Tai Po
Lam setting dangerous precedent
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that plain-clothes customs officers in Hong Kong would gather intelligence regarding parallel trading and pass it to "the relevant authorities in Hong Kong and Shenzhen for their respective law enforcement work".
In effect, law enforcement personnel here will gather intelligence for mainland authorities to presumably prosecute people who violated no Hong Kong laws. Surely, this sets a dangerous precedent, breaches the Basic Law and is an infringement of civil liberties.
I am concerned that this may be the beginning of a process whereby more intelligence is transferred to the mainland. This threatens everyone's freedom. For instance, if mainlanders post comments on the internet while in Hong Kong, which are seen as subversive by Beijing, would evidence be gathered for prosecution on the mainland? And might this also apply to local activists?
The problem of parallel imports into the mainland, and the nuisance it creates for local residents, is a result of different tax rules in Hong Kong and across the border.
The introduction of a sales tax would cut into these traders' profits and reduce their numbers.
Even if a sales tax is not imposed, the government should at least have tighter controls on the number and frequency of mainlanders visiting Hong Kong. Besides, I question the notion that causing a nuisance is not punishable under law. If not, laws can be amended.
I find that there are lots of solutions to the problem. Among these policy options, passing intelligence to mainland authorities appears to be the least relevant and raises suspicions of being politically motivated.
Leung Ka-kit, Yau Tsim Mong
Turning blind eye to breach of idling law
Standing on my balcony at The Merton in Kennedy Town early last month, I was able observe a police motorcyclist book a motorist for a traffic offence.
Parked next to the offending motorist was a public light bus, empty apart from the driver, which had been there for some 45 minutes, engine running.
The noise from the engine was so irritating that eventually I was forced to close my balcony door.
Once the policeman had served the unfortunate motorist with his summons, I was hoping to see the law take action against the bus driver. Unsurprisingly he did not; he just rode away, completely ignoring the offending vehicle. Why?
Hardly a day goes by without me witnessing a motorist abusing the idling engine law. It's about time we got serious about the law.
Howard Cowley, Kennedy Town