Letters to the Editor, November 15, 2012

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 2:35am

All African elephants under threat

I refer to the letter from Charlie Lim, of the Marine Products Association ("Differentiating legal and illegal trade", November 3).

Once again, your correspondent's approach is inaccurate. While in his letters he often struggles to explain that the shark fin trade remains sustainable, he is mistaken when he writes about elephants.

He suggests that 90 per cent of the African elephant population is fine and only 10 per cent has problems. Mr Lim should take a more global approach to conservation. Yes, elephants are doing quite well in southern Africa, so far, but they are close to disaster elsewhere.

The decision by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to allow sales of so-called legal ivory has seriously backfired and elephant poaching has seldom been at such high levels. The elephant population is suffering. A low estimate of 25,000 elephants killed in Africa this year is widely accepted. Last month 1,209 elephant tusks were seized in Hong Kong. There is also no doubt that the ivory trade helps rebels in some countries to buy weapons, so the ivory trade also kills people.

When there are few elephants left in west, central and east Africa, the illegal trade will simply shift to southern Africa, fuelled by the booming Asian market for ivory.

This year the number of rhinos killed in South Africa alone will top 500. This indicates the kind of protection we can expect for endangered species in countries where wildlife is said to be well managed.

Only a total ban on ivory coupled with more education in Asia will improve the situation. Charlie Lim seems to want to go in the opposite direction.

As painful as it may be for him to accept, your editorial ("Make ivory the new shark's fin", October 24) stated important facts and, because it comes from an Asian newspaper, it is a reason for hope.

The ivory trade, like the shark fin trade, only helps a few businesspeople who still do not want to understand that nature is being abused to a point that is no longer sustainable, and that a living animal is worth much more in terms of income to local communities than a dead one.

Christian Pilard, Eco-Sys Action

Forcing people to shop harms HK's image

Claims of mainland tourists facing forced shopping in Hong Kong have resurfaced ("Visitors locked in stores 'til they buy", October 30).

When tourists are treated like this it has a negative impact on Hong Kong's international image. Potential visitors reading such stories might decide not to come here and this can hurt the tourism industry and local economy.

Obviously, the people who are behind this forced shopping, including the travel agencies, are motivated only by making a quick profit.

They feel that the longer they can keep tourists in the shop, the more products they will buy. People might feel so embarrassed about being locked in that they purchase something.

This enforced retailing would not be possible without the co-operation of these travel agencies, therefore the agencies and the retailers involved are both at fault.

It is up to the government to crack down on this abuse. There are already laws in place against this type of unethical behaviour. These laws must be enforced. In addition, the administration must ensure that those found guilty face tougher punishment in the courts, whether through higher fines or even imprisonment.

It is also important to raise tourists' levels of awareness. They need to be warned about such incidents and what action they can take to avoid becoming victims. For example, if they are locked inside a premises, they can call the police.

Emily Hung Wai-ching, Kowloon City

Free-to-air TV has become really boring

I am writing to condemn the demonstration on Sunday led by a major investor in Asia Television, Wong Ching, outside the Admiralty government offices over new licences for free television broadcasting.

Opponents of these licences say they could prove disastrous for the stations that already exist.

For too long TVB and ATV have dominated the Hong Kong market and it is time for change. BBC, CNN and CCTV are successful examples of stations that provide a variety of programmes and the all-round information that viewers need. Audiences want independent news programmes, entertainment and sport channels and 24-hour coverage.

The schedules of our free-to-air channels have become too commercial, narrow and inflexible. Every day the prime-time slots are occupied by local teledramas and entertainment shows.

There is scarcely room for more serious topics such as political talk shows and environment- and literature-related programmes. Viewers need more new channels.

Stations have to accept that, as with any other area of commerce, competition is normal and unavoidable.

Broadcasters like ATV should accept that and focus on programme development.

Anna Chu, Kwun Tong

Idling engine law is clearly not working

Taking a morning jog up the nice hiking trail behind Hong Kong International School on South Bay Close at 7.30am on Saturday, November 3, I came across buses with engines idling outside the school.

The temperature at the time was only about 21 degrees Celsius.

Passing by the school again 15 minutes later the buses were still there with their engines running.

When I returned from my run about an hour later at about 8.40am, I could smell the fumes from three dirty buses from some distance.

I asked the drivers to turn off their engines, as there were a number of children waiting outside (aged about six to eight) who were being exposed to the fumes. Not surprisingly, I was totally ignored.

I then approached the HKIS guard, who informed me that under idling engine legislation, they were allowed to keep engines running when there were children inside.

However, there were actually very few children on board. And why were the needs of the children outside being ignored?

What is worse?, Having a few passengers inside a bus without air-conditioning when the temperature is about 21 degrees or exposing about 40 children outside to polluting fumes?

It is quite clear that the idling engine law must be changed to educate people about the environment and stop suffocating Hong Kong.

Anders Ejendal, Repulse Bay

Very difficult task finding suitable school

I refer to the letter by Cynthia Sze ("Cost no bar to top education in English", November 9).

Your correspondent obviously has no experience of trying to find a local school (not English Schools Foundation) which will accept and cater to English-speaking students.

She claims children of expatriates "may benefit from the excellent education of local schools, if they can compete". My wife and I went through weeks of worry trying to find an English-medium school for our daughters, as there was no way we could afford ESF's fees.

One school claiming to be an English-medium school insisted the girls spoke Cantonese to be admitted; another had such dire English levels that the girls would have had to help the English teachers. Luckily we chanced upon HKMA David Li Kwok Po, a superb school from which they both graduated with Hong Kong A-levels.

The Education Bureau didn't seem interested in helping with school lists; we found the South China Morning Post's Good Schools Guide supplement to be the greatest help.

Jeff Mein Smith, Mong Kok

Means test stops funds being wasted

The means test for the proposed Old Age Living Allowance has proved to be controversial.

The allowance is important because the present level of aid, known as "fruit money", is not enough for the elderly.

However, I do think it is reasonable to have a means test, as the rapidly ageing population is going to place a great financial burden on the government.

The allowance is designed to help the elderly who are genuinely in need. If there is no means test the government will be forced to spend additional funds that could be put to better use.

Cally So Yuen-ting, Kwai Fong

Discarded iPads end up in landfills

Apple's new iPad Mini was launched in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Hongkongers' love of keeping up with new technology goes back to the days when mobile phones were large and difficult to carry.

We keep seeing new models of MP3 players, iPads and iPods. But I think the technical functions of these devices are similar to mobile phones. So why do Hong Kong people keep buying new models? This leads to a lot of waste as old models are thrown into landfills.

I hope people will ask themselves if they really need a new product as soon as it comes on the market.

Lin Wing-sum, Sha Tin