Stop the rot in Han Suyin's old haunt
News of writer Han Suyin's death brought back fading memories of her haunts in Mid-Levels that are no longer what they used to be.
The blue tile-roofed pavilion at the end of Po Shan Road, associated with the writer, was open to the public 20 years ago, but it is now enclosed as a private amenity of Realty Gardens. Would the relevant government department confirm whether it is a public or private amenity?
Houses are disappearing in the area. There are four development sites, at 24 and 26 Po Shan Road and 53 and 55 Conduit Road. They used to be single-family houses.
Departments and developers should consult the public about the development plans for these sites.
We must avoid the devastation that developers have wreaked on Conduit Road east of Castle Road. That section is now a concrete chasm with traffic jams.
West of Castle Road, there are two monster developments; Imperial Court, comprising a 43-storey tower, and two seven-storey blocks with loading area. The compound has no parking space for its two shuttle buses which habitually use private driveways in the neighbourhood and the University of Hong Kong campus to turn around. Often, five to six vehicles park illegally outside the compound, taking up a full lane of the two-lane winding road, creating hazardous situations.
The infamous tower at 39 Conduit Road, which once boasted the world's highest per- square-foot price, is also intrusive. It posts two attendants and a security guard on the pavement. A foldable stool, a floor-standing fan and an umbrella are placed on the street, which is public land.
Concerned government departments should review these compounds, and assure the public that they fully comply with regulations and contain no unauthorised encroachment on public land.
Castle Road steps between Conduit and Robinson roads is the only section that is consistently clean. The man who sweeps that section is remarkable. Despite constant complaints, Conduit Road west of the steps is very dirty. It is swept perhaps once a week, perfunctorily, although sweepers are sometimes seen pushing carts on the pavement, oblivious of debris along the way. Officials should look into this and post cleaning schedules and 24- hour contact phone numbers for public information.
Conduit Road will never be like what it was in Han Suyin's time, but we must arrest the deterioration.
Audrey Lam, Mid-Levels
Incentives to keep HK's trading edge
With greater integration between Hong Kong and the mainland, there could be more economic and social conflict and this could adversely affect the city.
The mainland market has advanced and has a more international perspective. With further development in this direction Hong Kong could find it loses its traditional role as an intermediary for trading and investment with the mainland.
Traders may find they no longer need Hong Kong as a conduit and it could lose its competitive edge. This could lead more unemployment.
The government must look now at ways of attracting and keeping foreign traders, such as offering a more attractive tax structure.
Irene Lam, Tai Wai
High time for law to protect gay rights
Citizens joined the Hong Kong Pride Parade on Saturday (with the theme "Dare to Love") to show their support for gay rights.
They urged the government to hold a public consultation on a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance.
Those who do not accept homosexuality are often guided by deep-seated and traditional beliefs.
Although homosexuals in society may be in a minority, it does not mean they should be discriminated against in the workforce or in their daily lives.
An ordinance outlawing such discrimination should be enacted and the Legislative Council should not stop a public consultation process on such a law ("Call for public debate on gay-bias law rejected", November 8).
Legislators have already endeavoured to create a fairer society by having laws, for example, to prevent discrimination against people based on race or disability. Adding to this with a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance will show that we are creating a more caring and compassionate city.
I hope that eventually the government and Hong Kong citizens will reach a consensus on this issue and agree that a public discussion should take place.
Charling Wong Hei-lam, Kowloon Bay
Obama's big battles loom on home front
I refer to the article by Andrew Hammond ("Obama's agenda abroad", November 10).
His prediction that US President Barack Obama will focus his efforts on foreign policy is unlikely to materialise. With a sharply polarised electorate and a hostile legislative branch, he is likely to spend more time defending his record and maintaining the legislative successes achieved in his first term.
While "Obamacare" has been ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court and a Democrat-controlled Senate can stop it from being repealed, it is possible that the American public will find out the true impact of the president's health care programme during his second term.
Whether the public health care option provided by his plan will go well with voters will depend on the reforms being successfully implemented.
In addition, the US economy is in a lacklustre state and is a long way from enjoying a full recovery. An inability to create more jobs and drive economic growth will cause greater stress for the Democratic Party in the next [mid-term] round of elections. The traditional strength of the nation's economy will be eroded if Obama fails to convince stakeholders to come to a bipartisan agreement.
I believe it is likely that, regarding foreign policy, relations will be stable between the superpower and emerging powers such as China and Russia. An important part of US foreign policy has involved the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Obama will probably not up the ante with hostile Arab countries and it is wiser to ensure that the postures made by the US are in line with sound diplomatic principles that will not shift the dynamics of global influence too much.
The president definitely has his work cut out in his second term.
Bryan Chow, Singapore
Public millions should not be wasted on golf
I refer to the report ("HK Open faces uncertain future, warns O'Grady", November 6).
Perhaps George O'Grady, golf's European Tour chief executive, rather than lamenting the reluctance of companies to sponsor such "iconic" events as the UBS Hong Kong Open, should question the policy of paying appearance money to a single individual that virtually exceeds the total prize money on offer.
For his and our edification consider the annual salaries of some world leaders:
- US President Barack Obama, aged 51, US$400,000;
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 58, US$283,000; and
- British Prime Minister David Cameron, 46, US$215,390.
There are significant others such as Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, aged 58, who earns US$513,245 a year. But he is surely worth every dollar.
Then there is Rory McIlroy, golfer, aged 23. He is getting an appearance fee of "around US$2 million" ("McIlroy signs up for HK Open", October 11).
This is donated freely by the golf-mad Hong Kong taxpayer.
Naturally we do not want to hasten the demise of the Hong Kong Open. However, the government should have firmly rejected the plea by its organisers for financial support [from the Mega Events Fund] and prioritised its budget spending to support events that have a genuine need.
If the open is downgraded, so be it. But I am sure that it will not be too long before an upturn in the economy will breathe new life into the competition.
Jim Francis, North Point
Direct subsidy schools offer the answer
A possible solution to the lack of places for students seeking "international-style education" could lie in the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) schools sector.
DSS schools have greater autonomy over curricula than aided or government schools and a number already offer international examinations.
The YMCA school in Tung Chung has for some years operated sections offering both local and international exams.
Diocesan Boys' School has introduced the International Baccalaureate.
My own school, Stewards Pooi Kei College, has begun to provide International General Certificate of Secondary Education options in mathematics and English.
If the Education Bureau can provide latitude in allowing DSS schools to expand further into international curricula and exams, the result could be "local schools with an international perspective".
Students, local and "nonlocal", could get the best of both worlds and their parents would pay very reasonable fees.
Tom Derbyshire, Ma On Shan