Letters to the Editor, November 20, 2012
Appalling lack of respect for marine life
Unfortunately the recent case of people at Lung Mei destroying sea life is not an isolated one.
At Pui O beach the weekend before last, a group of visitors was seen gathering a large number of hermit crabs, putting them into a bucket and playing with them for a while before dumping the crabs in a pile far from the sea. If they had not been returned to the sea by some children who saw what happened, they would certainly have died.
Many people were also gathering clams to eat, which seems perfectly reasonable. Again, though, certain other groups of visitors were digging up clams, putting them into buckets and then throwing them away when they left the beach, again, much too far from the sea to survive.
I have seen the same behaviour on Cheung Chau. On one occasion, when I confronted a man who had collected live clams in a bottle only to throw them into a bin later, he replied that it was not important as they were only shells.
It is a shame that so many people in Hong Kong display such little regard for animal life and nature, and that the children they bring along with them on these seaside trips will presumably grow up with the same attitude.
A. Cable, Cheung Chau
Judges cannot be completely impartial
I refer to Pierce Lam's letter ("Impartiality must be the legal standard", November 10).
He attacks Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary for claiming to be liberal by quoting US Supreme Court justice John Roberts, who said that his peers do not make judgments "in terms of a particular liberal or conservative agenda".
First, Mr Roberts is not a higher authority than Mr Bokhary. Secondly, what the standard is for US judges may not be the right one for Hong Kong judges. Thirdly, Mr Roberts may not be correct in imposing such a standard on his peers.
Even if US justices do not make judgments based on a liberal or conservative agenda, the public still judges them along liberal or conservative lines.
When advocating impartiality, Mr Lam argues that a "judge who allows political sympathy or ideological inclination to affect bench decisions would be in breach of the oath of office".
According to Karl Popper, we all look at the world with prejudice and partiality, because of our different upbringings and education, and we form our opinions and make decisions with such partiality and prejudice.
That is why in disputes between the Hong Kong government and citizens, judgments are often full of political sympathies or ideological inclinations.
But this does not matter as long as the judge makes judicial decisions according to the laws, which do not prohibit political sympathy or ideological inclination.
Mr Lam also compares the referral system between Britain and the European Union and that between the Hong Kong SAR and China.
He maintains that the UK Supreme Court must "interpret domestic law so far as possible consistently with EU laws" and that, in terms of Hong Kong judges being willing to make a referral to Beijing, the relationship between the SAR and China is much closer "than that of the UK and the EU".
But, under EU law, regulations and certain directives apply directly to member states and as such override domestic laws. The case differs in Hong Kong, where the laws of China do not apply and China is responsible only for the SAR's foreign affairs and defence which are the main areas of referral.
S.W. Lau, Central
Excessive response to Gaza militants
Israel's hardline government should appreciate that it is damaging the country's international reputation through what it is doing in Gaza.
This is the usual overkill kind of retaliation for Palestinian extremists' rocket attacks which generally hit thinly populated areas of northern Israel. These extremists do not have the weapons to cause serious damage. But in Israel's retaliation, many Palestinians, including children, have been killed by the nation's sophisticated bombs.
I admit that the extremist elements in Gaza make foolish pronouncements, for example, that they will not rest until Israel is destroyed. But what does not make the news is that on the Israeli side, there are also extremists who have nothing but contempt for the lives of Palestinians.
What is actually happening on the ground is often distorted by the media.
Frank G. Sterle Jnr, White Rock, British Columbia, Canada
Curb tycoons and help small businesses
George Chen in his Mr Shangkong column ("Family, faith and hard work keep Hong Kong dream alive", November 12) is glib in his opinion that all one needs to succeed economically in Hong Kong is "self-confidence".
His view is rose-tinted and at least 20 years out of date.
The business playing field is now so slanted in favour of established conglomerates owned by a few property development tycoons that any new enterprise needs a stepladder just to get started. And as rents continually escalate, the bottom rung of that ladder gets more difficult to reach, as rent has a heavy knock-on effect on other business costs.
The start-up capital now needed here is far removed from most "self-confident" individuals with bright ideas. Chen says he does not like the blame game and prefers solutions, but the Lands Department has become lazy.
One of the main factors that contributed to Hong Kong's renowned entrepreneurial drive was the original subdivision of land lots into narrow frontage sites which facilitated a multitude of retailers and small businesses and a truly competitive property market. These narrow frontages have gone in the name of progress, amalgamated into whole block sites.
This simplifies the department's work, and only the major developers possess the financial muscle to handle such large projects.
The secretive manner in which the government tenders land to this dominant small group strengthens public perception that it protects a developer cartel.
If there is one decision Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's new administration could take to give Hong Kong back its mojo, it would be to again offer land in small frontage lots. Diversity is the key to successful development.
The overbearing nature of conglomerates has stifled our creative economic progress, and it is vital that their overreaching influence is restrained and dismantled.
Frank Lee, Mid-Levels
Leung has inherited tough legacy
We must acknowledge some of the achievements of the two previous chief executives in Hong Kong.
They helped ease some of the medical, financial and other problems the SAR faced and were able to do this under "one country, two systems". But when it came to inflation and people's livelihoods, they failed completely.
The first chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, when he took office, appreciated the extent of the housing crisis and tried his best to deal with it.
Unfortunately, pro-China housing developers and other business people with vested interests got the upper hand and foiled his plans.
The same was true for Mr Tung's successor Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
I hope the present Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying can learn from his predecessors' experiences.
The central government has indirectly made him responsible for improving the living standards of Hong Kong citizens.
I hope that through co-operation with the mainland, Hongkongers can look forward to a better future.
Mr Leung will have to use his leadership skills to deal with groups and political parties that have conflicting interests.
Obviously, such a herculean task is unlikely to succeed unless he takes a more high-handed approach towards the more unruly politicians.
Peter Wei, Kwun Tong
Legco could fine-tune law at later date
The plan to introduce the Old Age Living Allowance which would give HK$2,200 a month to about 400,000 elderly poor faces delays.
Some lawmakers are unhappy with the means test which would restrict the numbers of eligible applicants.
This means delays for elderly people who might have been able to start receiving the money this month.
I support the government's proposal.
It is right to stand firm on the means test so that only those elderly people who really need the HK$2,200 a month will actually get it. This means there will not be, in the long term, an excessive drain on the treasury's resources.
I believe that the lawmakers who have stood out against the means test should allow the law to be passed now.
They can then call on the government to fine-tune the legislation and raise the assets sum so that more applicants will be eligible in future.
They should appreciate that the administration is trying to strike a balance between the needs of the elderly who are struggling financially and the potential financial burden the government could face.
Marco Or, Ma On Shan