ESF - English Schools Foundation

Letters to the Editor, November 22, 2012

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 February, 2013, 3:12pm

Crash raises concerns over safe practices

The fatal three-vehicle accident at Shau Kei Wan must be investigated to determine its cause and how such crashes can be prevented in future ("Bus crash puts focus on health of drivers", November 20).

What would have happened if one of the buses had crashed into a crowd of people waiting at a bus stop or on a busy pavement?

If the driver of one of the buses had passed a physical in July, how is it that he collapsed just before the crash? The government must set up an independent committee to look into this and we need to review the hours that bus drivers work.

Road conditions in Hong Kong are always busy and we have to determine what is a safe period of time for a single shift. For example, can a shift of, say, 10 or 11 hours be considered safe? Because the drivers are on low wages, many work overtime so they can make enough to provide for their families. We have to look at the potential risk to the public from overtime.

What needs to be examined is how much rest time is given to the drivers. More buses will be allocated to popular routes. But what happens if there are fewer vehicles on less busy routes and drivers, to meet timetable commitments, do not get enough rest time?

Any probe must determine if this is happening and if it is a regular occurrence.

Tommy Hui, North Point

Urban trees not getting the care they need

The landscape industry in Hong Kong has seen a rapid expansion over the last decade. This is a result of the public's desire for a greener and safer environment.

While landscaping is not a new industry, the concept of greening is a recent innovation. It covers projects such as roof and vertical greening of buildings in urban areas.

The landscaping sector has a bright future, but it faces some difficulties. Low-skilled gardeners must be physically fit and willing to work long hours outside and so most young people are reluctant to take such jobs. There are not many properly trained, skilled gardeners in the city.

No botany and horticultural science degree courses are available at any of Hong Kong's universities. This means that arborists and horticulturalists don't have the opportunity to train at tertiary level.

In the past, some landscape and plantation designs have been flawed. This has led to street trees not having enough space for root system development. This results in high maintenance costs for these high-risk trees.

Some of the trees are also not pruned correctly, with, for example, topping (removing the tops of trees), lion tailing (thinning branches from the inside) and other types of excessive pruning.

Young trees in nurseries are usually topped for convenience during transportation and this will directly affect tree form and tree vigour.

The Development Bureau has overall policy responsibility for landscape and tree management.

In the private sector, the practices of gardeners in different nurseries vary, as does the quality. The government needs to formalise and regulate horticultural practices in Hong Kong's landscape industry.

Oric Chan, Tung Chung

Tsim Sha Tsui pavements in poor state

I have lived in Tsim Sha Tsui for the past 36 years and over this period I have seen the deterioration of some roads and pavements.

The worst affected are Peking, Hankow and Lock roads.

Has the minister responsible for roadworks in Hong Kong ever taken a walk in this area? I have had three falls and recently would have had a fourth if I had not been caught by a passer-by. There are places at all the roads I mentioned where contractors have not levelled the paving stones when laying them.

People feel so embarrassed when they trip on these uneven stones and fall. They just want to get up and leave and seldom complain to the relevant government department. In the US, a pedestrian who tripped because of shoddy roadworks would sue.

Every day in Tsim Sha Tsui, there is digging going on somewhere. Often it appears to be quickly filled up with little supervision and then gets dug up again.

Has anybody wondered why you see so many people looking down as they walk along the pavement? Also, the roads are full of heavy buses and trucks and I have noticed potholes all along Lock Road.

Officials must ensure that paving work is done properly and poses no threat to pedestrians.

Vandana Belani, Tsim Sha Tsui 

Cancel beef distribution monopoly

The government should abolish the monopoly of Ng Fung Hong, the sole distributor of mainland cattle.

The company was given this monopoly when food supplies were not stable and the government wanted to ensure the supplier had sufficient funds to purchase goods.

However, the situation has changed. Hong Kong has no food supply problems any more and so there is no need for this monopoly to remain in force.

In order to encourage competition in the beef market, the government should issue more licences.

This could make it more difficult for Ng Fung Hong to keep raising beef prices.

Chow Yik-ming, Sha Tin

Fair showed strengths of ESF set-up

After attending a fair at the English Schools Foundation's Sha Tin Junior School and Sha Tin College on Saturday, I came away realising that it is little wonder that many in Hong Kong would like their children to attend ESF institutions.

I have reached a firm conclusion that these schools are unique and have a lot to offer. The ethos of the fair was a demonstration of the capabilities of its students and the learning environment of the ESF school system per se.

The high school students in attendance demonstrated that while they are mature of mind and independent by nature, they are capable of decorum, helpfulness and respect for those around them.

I came away happy and proud to have my son involved with this institution.

Many in Hong Kong like to pontificate about the ESF. However, the fact remains that ESF schools are places of whole school achievement and learning.

Above all, they are enjoyable places in which to study. Isn't there something we can all learn from this?

Justin Hayward, Tai Po

Rocket-launch sites justifiable targets in Gaza

I refer to the letter by Frank G. Sterle Jnr ("Excessive response to Gaza militants", November 20).

When he says the extremists in Gaza "do not have the weapons to cause serious damage", a look at TV and newspaper reports would confirm how damaging these weapons can be.

Just look at the smoke emanating from buildings that have been hit, and often it is not just homes that are damaged.

Once there is an alert of a rocket attack, Israeli citizens have only 15 seconds to get to shelters. Your correspondent should consider how short a time 15 seconds is if you have children, the elderly or people in wheelchairs in your care. Luckily, Israel can stop most of the rockets.

In Gaza, weapons including rockets are hidden in people's homes, schools, hospitals, mosques, even under football fields.

Israel has no other solution than to target those places where the weapons are located. It knows it cannot count on the word of the Palestinians, given that in the past it has been broken.

The Jewish people believe in le haim, "to live", in contrast to those Arabs who would prefer martyrdom.

Sabine Wolf-Gilbert, Clear Water Bay

Not all firms can afford wage hike

The Confederation of Trade Unions has recommended that 6 per cent would be an appropriate salary rise for the coming year and it says that it expects inflation to run at about 4 per cent.

The confederation argues that this suggested hike would enable workers to match the increase in inflation with a bit extra. If you take that into account, then the suggested real salary hike would be 2 per cent.

I do not think 6 per cent across the board would be fair in Hong Kong as different enterprises face varying economic conditions.

In the last few years, there has been economic growth in the SAR. I have no doubt that workers in the city should be allowed to share the fruits of this growth and I think large companies could afford the 6 per cent hike.

However, some small and medium-sized enterprises might find they could not afford to pay employees an additional 6 per cent. The confederation should accept that increases will vary from company to company, depending on the profit levels for the financial year.

Companies should try to arrive at an amount that they consider to be fair. It is important to strike the right balance and consider the needs of employees and the sustainability of the employers.

Angel Cheung Kin-yi, Sha Tin