Letters to the Editor, October 29, 2012

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 1:49am

PLA can give up some sites for housing

Your Focus article ("The tide turns for Xi", October 24) presented an interesting background sketch of our leader-in-waiting, Xi Jinping . Of particular note, was his Fujian campaign slogan of "returning green mountains and rivers to our people".

I write this as Hong Kong faces a dilemma over the acquisition of land to house its growing population.

Before June 1997, the British Army garrison occupied some 39 sites throughout Hong Kong. Under a Beijing-London agreement, 25 sites were redeveloped and 14 handed over to the People's Liberation Army.

In June 2009, at a Legislative Council meeting, several questions were asked of the secretary for security regarding the possible public use of the PLA sites. There were no informative replies apart from reference made to sections 13 and 14 of the Basic Law.

It is maintained that the 6,000-odd, lightly-armoured PLA presence in Hong Kong is for "defence" - from whom, is not clear - but the idea of an invasion force occupying China, via Hong Kong, does not make much sense.

Unless, of course, the PLA troops' presence is to counter any sort of local insurgency - in which case, failing the best efforts of the Hong Kong Police Force, sufficient reinforcements can be easily drawn from barracks north of the border.

A high profile PLA headquarters in Hong Kong is clearly accepted, if only from the point of view of "face", and the former HMS Tamar site fits that need. Other lower profile sites, usually former married quarters, already house the essential intelligence gathering and special operations teams. Given that, the remainder of the PLA's extensive areas of land could then be free and used for the public good.

Our chief executive suggests a solution to the housing problem can be made with a "quick phone call", or two. A call to the Central Military Commission, and another to Mr Xi, might liberate some well-needed space for the Hong Kong people.

Graham Warburton, Mid-Levels


Needy old folk are really struggling

Over the last 20 years a lot of factories have moved from Hong Kong to the mainland to take advantage of China's open door policy.

As a consequence, many workers here in the manufacturing sector lost their jobs.

Many former factory workers are now elderly and may have health problems.

Everything in this city is so expensive that they have trouble paying for the basic necessities. The government must give them more in the way of financial help.

The situation is made worse by what I would call developer hegemony and the government should bring in legislation to curb that power.

More public housing estates must be built and those tenants on higher wages should pay higher rents.

That additional money can be used to help the poor.

Elaine Ip Lam, Tsuen Wan


Officials must stand firm on arts hub

The debate over raising the city's supply of residential space has shifted from the planned Kai Tak sports hub to the arts hub in West Kowloon.

I wonder why some people in the government are suddenly so concerned about a housing shortage when in fact Hong Kong has one of the lowest birth rates in the world including babies delivered from mainland mothers.

Of course our developers would rather see more flats sold to investors than sports and arts venues placed in prime areas that would benefit real Hong Kong people.

If the government gives into those requests, it is a clear indication that money rules Hong Kong and the well-being of its citizens is not taken seriously.

Hans Wergin, Cheung Chau


Regular checks of mature trees are essential

I am glad that a thorough study will be undertaken of trees with high pedestrian and vehicle flow following the death of a man in Tai Po earlier this month, when a 100-year-old banyan fell on a truck.

I am concerned about the performance of the Tree Management Office. Not everyone in Hong Kong is aware of the threat posed by some old trees. People walking past one of these trees will find it difficult to tell if it is infected with fungi or pests. So who is left to file a complaint on a potentially hazardous tree located on the so-called "unallocated sites"?

It would be in the public interest if all mature trees in areas where there are a lot of pedestrians and cars were assessed on a regular basis. When it comes to tree management the government could do more to ensure public safety.

Leung Ka-yan, Ma On Shan


City's drivers puzzled by roundabouts

David Lai ("A roundabout solution to traffic woes", October 23) makes the very reasonable suggestion that more roundabouts might improve traffic flow in Hong Kong.

Surely any proficient driver would support this idea. There is, unfortunately, just one problem; the vast majority of drivers here appear oblivious to the point of roundabouts or how to efficiently negotiate them.

Consequently even mild traffic volumes (for example, at weekends between the University of Science and Technology and Silverstrand on Clear Water Bay Road) reduce speeds approaching the roundabout to almost walking pace.

Problems include erroneous signalling at all junctures, almost universal avoidance of the inside lane when turning right, stopping unnecessarily on entry or stopping necessarily due to the lack of intent signalled by others.

Most remarkably, the above faults are also commonly exhibited by "professional" drivers or under the noses of traffic police.

I have raised this issue with the Transport Department which has grudgingly recognised some points. The overall problem however appears to be drivers' lack of appreciation of the main objective of roundabouts, namely to keep traffic moving.

This is perhaps not surprising given that such strategic guidance, and also the tactics required, are essentially lacking from the department's advice and (from my own experience) from Hong Kong driving schools.

Perhaps the above bodies could address this fundamental point, increase driver awareness and begin to solve the problem. Some action by our well-staffed traffic police might also help.

Kevin Lee, Tiu Keng Leng


Neutral Japan would be militarised

Your leader ("Japan should rethink US ties", October 23) accurately describes the strains in the US-Japan alliance.

It is inexplicable, especially for outsiders, that Japan does not more honestly address its history and build a more constructive partnership with its Asian neighbours, especially China.

Such a reconciliation might help to lessen Japan's strategic reliance on the US.

Indeed, you state that Japan's ultimate objective should be the removal of US forces and neutrality. This would certainly suit China, whose interests your newspaper presumably represents.

There is a term from the cold war - "Finlandisation" - which describes a non-aligned smaller country within the potential sphere of a hegemon.

However, I believe Japanese would resist Finlandisation.

It understands that the "chill" with China runs very deep and it will fear historic revenge.

I was in downtown Shanghai on September 18, and I believe there is genuine Chinese grass-roots rage.

But, correctly or not, many Japanese also view the recent Diaoyu protests as a calculated instrument of Beijing's foreign policy which fosters enduring and implacable resentment against them.

Therefore, a neutral Japan would be a heavily militarised one. In addition, Japan without the US alliance and its associated pacifist constitution would surely seek the insurance of nuclear weapons.

One could expect a response from Korea and possibly Taiwan in turn.

These nations have advanced nuclear capabilities that they could convert to weapons very quickly - much faster than North Korea or Iran.

Julian Snelder, Deep Water Bay


Discussion is better than confrontation

Many Japanese companies operating on the mainland were affected by the anti-Japanese rallies and some businesses closed their shutters.

During the protests windows of firms were smashed and Japanese-made cars overturned.

I was shocked when I saw what was happening. These demonstrators who are angry about the dispute over Diaoyu Islands wreaked havoc, but who were they hurting?

By their actions they were undermining their own country's economy and people's livelihood.

I hope that from now on, no matter how angry people feel, they should think twice before doing anything rash.

It would be better if people wrote their views and actually came up with constructive suggestions about how the dispute can be resolved.

Iris Ma, Sau Mau Ping