Letters to the Editor, November 4, 2012

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 November, 2012, 3:36am

Subdivided flats should not be banned

It is estimated that there are now 64,900 people living in subdivided flats, cubicles, bed spaces or cocklofts.

I believe that it would be better for residents if the government did not try to shut down subdivided flats.

I see these subdivided flats as being economically efficient. In Hong Kong there are wide disparities in income.

We will always have rich and poor and some people do not have enough money to live in a normal flat.

Their only available option is a subdivided flat.

I accept that bed spaces and cubicles do not provide a healthy environment. But with the subdivided flats people at least have a roof over their heads. If they did not exist the occupants who have nowhere else to go.

In the subsidised housing sector in June there were 199,000 people on the public rental housing waiting list ("Home plans to focus on the poorly housed", October 16). This number would indicate that Hong Kong's supply of public housing cannot meet the demand.

Some people argue that subdivided flats should be shut down because of the substandard conditions, including poor hygiene.

However, I think it would be better to bring in legislation which forces landlords to make improvements rather than shutting them down.

Kellia Wan, Tseung Kwan O


Plight of old folk a human rights issue

There is a clear gap in the protection of elderly people in Hong Kong, with many senior citizens living in poverty in a city of plenty.

However, discussions on the Old Age Living Allowance rarely invoke human rights standards and principles.

The rights to social security and to an adequate standard of living are enshrined in the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, (ICESCR), to which Hong Kong is bound, among other human rights instruments.

It is therefore a matter of state obligation, as the primary duty-bearer for the fulfilment of social and economic rights, to guarantee these rights, without discrimination.

Regional and international organisations have also sought to give further guidance as to the role of governments in providing social security. Some eminent examples include the International Labour Organisation, which has created the ILO-UN Social Protection Floor Initiative and the Asian Development Bank, which recently produced a report on old-age social pensions in Asia.

Article 2(1) of the ICESCR stipulates that governments must dedicate the "maximum of available resources" for the progressive realisation of the rights enshrined in the covenant.

There are concerns about how such a measure, whether it is to be a means-tested or universal scheme, would be funded.

However, the question to ask is not how the government is allocating its budget for social spending, but what it is doing to generate resources and expand its fiscal space.

It is no coincidence that Hong Kong, which can boast one of the lowest tax rates in the world, is also one of the most unequal cities in the developed world.

Redistributive policies are failing, with disastrous repercussions for the most vulnerable and marginalised groups.

The proposed allowance has raised questions in Hong Kong as to the role and responsibility of government in alleviating poverty and providing social protection.

From a human rights perspective, this role, and its corresponding duties, are clear.

Unfortunately, the poverty of the elderly is not often treated as a human rights issue.

By the same token, old people living in poverty are often treated as objects of policy interventions, rather than subjects of rights.

Victoria Wisniewski Otero, Tai Hang


Remembering dear friends lost in battle

In November 2011, someone at the Cenotaph asked me why I attend the [Remembrance Sunday] memorial service every year. I replied that in the second world war I, along with three other soldiers, was posted from 249 to 221 Field Company to make it up to strength. Our division set sail for the Middle East.

We fought with the distinguished British Eighth Army in the deserts of North Africa and later in Italy. Of the four of us a shell came over with Freddie's number on it. He died of wounds. Dougie had his right leg blown off, and Tom went "shell happy" (now known as post-traumatic stress disorder) when we were being badly stonked. I was the only one of us four who more or less got away with it apart from being "walking wounded" three times and having a few pieces of shrapnel left in my midriff as souvenirs.

Obviously, I could give more examples.

I assured this person I would continue to attend the memorial service every November as long as I was physically able, although there are not too many of us second world war veterans left now.

I hope to see many Hong Kong people at the Cenotaph on Sunday, November 11. People should try to arrive well before the "Two Minutes Silence" starts at 11am.

I also urge your readers not to forget to buy a poppy again this year.

Dan Waters, Mid-Levels


Strict building codes for new nuclear plants

China's ambitions to become a world leader in nuclear energy were put on hold following the Fukushima disaster in Japan, but expansion plans have now been revived ("Beijing's nuclear plan back on track", October 25).

I have some concerns about the government's construction projects.

Parts of the country are prone to earthquakes and I recall how so many buildings collapsed during the 2008 Sichuan quake.

Construction projects in China have a bad reputation and I would be very worried about what might happen if the new nuclear plants were shoddily built.

The collapse in an earthquake of a fully functional nuclear plant would have implications not just for people living near it.

I understand the desire for China's leaders to deal with the energy crisis, but contractors must not cut corners. China's leaders must ensure that strict safety codes are drawn up and adhered to at all times.

Shirley Yu Shuk-yi, Tai Wai


Appalling treatment of Rohingya

For the past two years I have been reading reports about the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

When they try to leave Myanmar in the hope of finding a better life in Thailand they have sometimes been sent back out to sea and many drowned. I have also read of their persecution in Myanmar.

Their plight in the capital of Rakhine state is worse than apartheid.

Countries with human rights violations get sanctions from the West and the UN but no one cares about the Rohingya Muslims.

Western countries are more interested in making business deals with Myanmar.

Why don't they raise the issue of the Rohingya people while discussing these deals? Do they feel Rohingya have fewer rights than other human beings?

Murtaza Gujar, Central


Contradicting basic tenets of Buddhism

I refer to the letter from Stuart Brookes ("Suicides are acts of desperation", October 28) suggesting that the acts of self-immolation by Tibetan monks are acts of desperation.

Whatever the reason, it is most unfortunate that the Dali Lama condones these acts by the very fact his Holiness steadfastly refuses to condemn them.

Such acts of extreme violence may well be described as acts of desperation rather than acts of protest, as the Dali Lama claims, but they are in absolute contradiction to the very basics of all true Buddhist teachings.

William Hurst, Lamma


Ban on idling engines a toothless tiger

Many drivers appear to be ignoring the ban on idling engines.

I think the law has proved ineffective because when it was being drafted so many exemptions were introduced.

For example, taxis at ranks have exemptions, as do private school buses. You see them stationary for long periods of time with their engines running.

This ban on idling engines is a toothless tiger and is proving to be ineffective.

I have yet to see the police or traffic wardens enforce the ban. Whenever I am walking in the street I see cars with their engines running.

The government should appoint people to patrol the streets and enforce the law. If it is possible to make the law actually work, then the air quality in Hong Kong will improve.

Chris Lau Sze-yui, Tai Wai