Letters to the editor, October 13, 2012

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 3:53am

Paying for folly of misplaced tourism policy

It was not so long ago that government officials, including those involved in the tourism industry, were congratulating themselves over the arrival of rich mainlanders wanting to spend money. However, now there is a tendency to distinguish between those money-spending mainlanders - whose numbers seem to be decreasing, as they seek to lavish their money in other, more interesting destinations, such as Europe - and the parallel traders of Sheung Shui, who buy merchandise at low prices in Hong Kong and resell it for profits on the mainland.

Central to this discussion is James Tien Pei-chun, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board. In a recent article, Mr Tien made clear he views the activity of these parallel traders as despicable. But why? Is he not in support of local businesses (small retailers) or the small and medium-sized enterprises, which the Liberal Party purports to do?

Surely there is a need for officials in Shenzhen to clamp down on these traders by implementing stricter enforcement or even arresting culprits, or do they view these traders as associated with daily livelihood issues?

But on the Hong Kong side, is there a message being sent by our city's leaders and political representatives that says welcome if you are heading to Tsim Sha Tsui or Causeway Bay to spend money, but woe to those who frequent parts of the New Territories? Has the Tourism Board been running on auto-pilot since the tourist "numbers" are there to justify its huge budget? Surely we are facing a dilemma with this deluge, self-created for certain through bad policymaking, but is it also a sign of misplaced values?

James Wang, Ma On Shan

Officials must show up and share bad air

I refer to your article, "Emission cuts on target, but air quality gets worse" (October 11). I would like to address roadside pollution because that is what people breathe.

Our officials say they would like to do something to improve roadside air quality. I would like to see them demonstrate their commitment. I propose the commissioner for transport and the director of environmental protection establish a desk on Hennessy Road near any bus stop. The desk should be 100 per cent open to roadside air, the same air that ordinary people breathe. The officials can spend some time at the desk on a random basis, maybe a couple of hours at a time, and there should be no pre- announcement so that transport operators will be unable to plan for the visit.

With this simple commitment, there will be no need to spend money on reports and scientific measurements or waste time on endless talk and pass the blame to Guangdong factories. Our officials would finally share ordinary people's concerns and be in a position to do something about it.

Edmund Kwok, Mid-Levels

Act now on turmoil among our Nepalis

Recent days have been marred by the heartbreaking tragedy off Lamma Island, and the endless debate over Hong Kong's relationship with the mainland has been disheartening.

But during all these discussions, an unfortunate tragedy occurred which is of the utmost importance to Hong Kong's social fabric. We have seen a seemingly endless stream of violent crimes committed by and to our community of Nepali people.

During the so-called golden week holiday, we saw a 15-year-old "non-ethnic Chinese" boy arrested in connection with a murder last month on a basketball court in Yuen Long. Police have arrested eight Nepalis in connection with the case, and three have been charged with murder. The others were released on bail. The murder took place on September 23 in Nam Pin Wai, when a 19-year-old man was stabbed in the neck during a gang fight.

The Nepali community is one of our largest ethnic groups, and, unlike others in Hong Kong, this is their home, with little or no opportunity to return to the beautiful but impoverished kingdom of Nepal. We have seen far too much social violence in this community, and with this latest tragedy, Hong Kong must wake up to the fact that one of our largest minority groups is in turmoil and needs attention.

As we have seen in Western society, failure to take proactive steps early will lead to greater problems in the long term. The administration must start by approaching older members of the Nepali community now. At present, job opportunities are available in the security and hospitality sectors, but this must expand to allow young Nepalis to truly be a part of the great Hong Kong society.

Stephen Anderson, Macau

Local shoppers suffer again in story of greed

The Sha Tin branch of the Commercial Press will be shut down from October 24, and a new one in New Town Plaza, 30 per cent smaller than the existing one, will open in December. So during the next two months, the only general interest bookshop in Sha Tin Central will be the tiny Popular, in Home Square.

This is just the latest move in Sha Tin, which has a history as one of the earliest new towns. Like Tuen Mun, the core of the district is a shopping mall. Residents can buy what they need, and go to movies and restaurants, all at reasonable prices.

But now Sun Hung Kai, the developer, no longer cares about serving Hongkongers, but mainlanders who spend thousands in a single visit. All the reasonably priced shops have been replaced by international luxury brands such as Armani, Alfred Dunhill and agnes b, which locals don't need.

Maybe the anger started to build when seven screens of the UA cinema were demolished in 2006. From 10 screens in the 1990s, there are now just two. These two and the Ma On Shan Cinema are the only ones in this part of the New Territories. Why was there such a media frenzy when UA shut down its Times Square cinema, but not those in Sha Tin?

When Commercial Press closes in the next few weeks, luxury fashion brand stores (what else?) are tipped to open in that space.

New Town Plaza has targeted mainlanders. The developer has ignored the needs of the locals. We love reading books and buying books. The Hong Kong government encourages Hongkongers to read more and learn more. This trend by New Town Plaza is just hitting the government on its head - giving up knowledge and welcoming luxuries.

I'd like to see the media do a story on the effect that such developments in towns like Sha Tin has on the local residents there, both now and what the future looks like. Mainlanders are really disturbing locals' lives.

Thomas Cheung Chak-wang, Tai Wai

Unparalleled flop of border baggage limit

The MTR's rule restricting hand-carried goods to 32kg per passenger doesn't seem to be working.

The idea was to crack down on parallel goods couriers coming from the mainland to resell goods there. Electronic scales were placed at Sheung Shui, Fanling, Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau stations, and staff were empowered to weigh baggage.

Yet many couriers simply separated their luggage and parallel goods into smaller packs or made more trips. Some non-parallel-goods couriers have been prevented from going onto the platform. The spirit of the rule is violated.

Rico Lee, Tseung Kwan O

Busy parents to blame for teen sex surge

There are reasons that teenagers have premature sex. The main one is that parents are too busy to take care of their children. The need for both a family's parents to work is common in Hong Kong. Often they ask relatives or domestic helpers to look after their children.

It is normal for teenagers who do not get enough care during childhood to need love when they become older - especially for girls - so they look for it by going out on dates before they are mature enough. Untaught by busy parents about sex, when teenage boys and girls are starving for love and care they naturally have sex - and they do it without contraception. The resulting teenage pregnancy causes a myriad of problems.

It is really essential for parents to give more attention and consideration to their children, as well as to teach them the correct way to approach sex to preclude the possibility of their children giving them grandchildren prematurely.

Agnes Chan Tsz-ling, Yau Tong

Emergency ferry drill help hard to find

As I look at the ferry involved in the Lamma tragedy every morning on my way to work, I wonder what would happen if the ferry I was on sank.

I have seen the emergency exit signs above the windows and wondered if I would have to break the glass, whether it comes out, or the arrow pointing down means simply "go downstairs". So I asked a crew member. He just shrugged.

I asked someone near the customer service desk onshore. Same response. On my way home from work, I asked two employees, who directed me to the customer service desk. The woman there took my name and phone number, and told me someone would call me.

I am still waiting.

Jennifer Halley, Lamma