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Letters to the Editor, November 11, 2012

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 November, 2012, 2:51am


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Wetland is no place for apartments

On the evening of Saturday, November 3, along with hundreds of other Hong Kong residents, I enjoyed a magnificent sunset from Nam Sang Wai in the New Territories.

Surrounded by cyclists, bird-watchers, model plane enthusiasts, tourists, bush walkers, and joined by flocks of endangered migratory birds, we watched as the sun slowly disappeared behind the hills to the west.

Rudely intruding upon this magnificent scene was the offensive cynicism of the sign for development application A/YL-NSW/218. Application A/YL-NSW/218 proposes a "comprehensive development with wetland enhancement (including house, flat, wetland enhancement area, nature reserve, visitors' centre, social welfare facility, shop and services) as well as filling of land, excavation of land and pond filling".

Previous versions of this application - first lodged in 1994 - included an 18-hole golf course, also in the name of wetland enhancement.

How can our government credibly allow this charade to continue?

Nam Sang Wai is one of the last remaining freely accessible wetland areas in Hong Kong. Let's clearly and simply call this application what it is: property development.

You don't enhance a wetland with apartments and homes. You don't address the "degrading (of the area at present) due to lack of management" with shops and services. You don't ensure protection of the "baseline ecological value of the site (which) has been clearly identified", with a social welfare facility and a new bridge to Yuen Long town.

You protect this all too rare resources by, first, recognising the inherent - and I believe offensive - conflict in the current practice of public-private partnerships where the "public" is any asset of environmental significance and the "private" is a property developer, and, second, through our wealthy government taking sole responsibility for protecting our diminishing natural heritage. We should not be forced to entrust stewardship of our environment to the vigilance of individual citizens and action groups.

This is an instance where the government should exercise eminent domain now, and provide the protection that this site needs, as is, ironically, so persuasively set forth in the text of the development application itself.

Matthew McGrath, Yuen Long


Don't forget how China has helped city

Comments made about Hongkongers by Lu Ping, former director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, have led to heated debate.

He found it offensive that some Hong Kong citizens refuse to recognise that they are Chinese.

He said China would not be bothered losing those who do not want to acknowledge their nationality ("Love China or leave it, says Lu Ping", November 1).

There has been tension between Hongkongers and mainlanders, because the latter group is seen as adversely affecting the quality of life in the city.

Lu Ping is wrong to call those who want Hong Kong to be independent "sheer morons".

However, we should not forget what China has done for Hong Kong. Without support from the mainland, Hong Kong would not have such a strong economy.

It is better to accept this and try to solve the problems that have arisen.

Yannis Mak Ka-yan, Tai Wai


Consultation on gay rights makes sense

I found it pathetic that the motion calling for public consultation on a law ensuring equal rights for people of all sexual orientations was voted down ("Call for public debate on gay-bias law rejected", November 8).

While most legislators believe that such a law can protect people of different sexual orientations some conservative ones argue that passing it would lead to reverse discrimination, which I think is totally unjustified.

In fact, the motion before Legco on Wednesday merely appealed to the government to launch a public consultation on the enactment of the law to eliminate sexual orientation discrimination. It is partisan to jump to a conclusion that it will challenge our traditional views of marriage or trigger controversy over same-sex marriage, as was claimed by legislators voting against the motion.

Religious groups think that such a law would strangle our freedom of speech and education, but surely public consultation would lead to more open and rational discussion on topics relating to sexual orientation?

We should not ignore the fact that, while research done by Community Business, a non-profit organisation, has found that most employees surveyed say they accept lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual people (LGBT) as colleagues, most LGBT people polled, about 80 per cent, responded that they still face workplace discrimination.

Despite being a cosmopolitan and multicultural city, Hong Kong is still found to be conservative and oblivious to the importance of this issue, and this is illustrated by the rejection of the motion in Legco on Wednesday.

As legislator Leung Kwok-hung said in the debate, LGBT citizens still have a long way to go.

They need to be self-reliant and continue to fight for their rights in society.

Curtis Ho Seung-kwok, Tsuen Wan


Simple way to ease traffic congestion

As one who has been an annual visitor to Hong Kong since 1992 and spent many wasted hours sitting in traffic jams, I have always wondered why the authorities have not taken a very simple step which would improve traffic flow considerably.

In Britain and also in many other countries traffic lights are movement-sensitive.

They change just as soon as traffic has ceased to flow in any one direction, thereby substantially cutting down on the length of time drivers spend sitting at a red light.

Having so much time and money quite needlessly wasted in this way adds considerably to the stress of trying to get around, not to mention the amount of pollution generated, which is so injurious to health.

Surely it would be a relatively simple matter to install traffic sensors at each junction, the cost of which would soon be recouped by improved utilisation of the road network?

In the highly developed economy which is Hong Kong it seems hardly conceivable that such a simple solution was not implemented many years ago.

David Price, Pattaya, Thailand


Give parents free market in education

Why shouldn't all schools in Hong Kong receive the same level of per-pupil funding?

If Hong Kong parents want their children to attend local Singaporean, Canadian, Korean or other national-curriculum not-for-profit schools, what's the problem? We all live here. We all pay the same taxes. Shouldn't we all have the benefit of choice for our kids? Why not have a free market in education?

Non-local-curriculum, publicly subsidised charter schools are government-supported in cities and countries all over the world. Why not here, too?

What do we have to lose by giving Hong Kong taxpayers real choice in their children's education?

Jay Shaw, Wan Chai 


Treat social media with great care

I refer to the report ("Sexual predators exploit Facebook", October 30) about a teenager in Indonesia who became the victim of someone she came into contact with online.

She was "locked in a small room…drugged and raped repeatedly" by this person. According to the report "her tragic story … has repeated itself as sexual predators" exploit Indonesian youngsters' obsession with social media.

While these are extreme cases, they illustrate the dangers of the internet.

Young people should be vigilant when they go online and should protect their personal information at all times.

They should avoid accepting an invitation from an "online" friend who they do not know.

Leanna Chim Shuk-yee, Tsuen Wan


Cross-harbour swim can raise awareness

I was glad that the cross-harbour swim was successfully held last month for the second successive year, after a break of 33 years because of declining water quality.

It was also good to learn that almost twice as many people took part this year.

The race highlighted the importance of keeping fit. Hong Kong is such a busy city that many people do not exercise. The harbour race will hopefully have raised people's awareness of sport and the need for regular exercise.

It was encouraging to read that contestants as young as 12 joined the swim and I hope more Hongkongers will seek a healthier lifestyle through sport.

Kristy Pau, Tsuen Wan