Letters to the Editor, December 21, 2012
West Kowloon hotel's sudden change of plan
The advocacy group Hong Kong Alternatives is concerned about revised plans for a hotel at the West Kowloon Cultural District.
In the cultural hub authority's widely publicised architectural layouts as of September last year, the proposed hotel was meant to be no more than five storeys, which would mean it would be around 20 to 30 metres high.
However, the layout plan presented at the Town Planning Board meeting on September 28 this year clearly identified a much larger hotel of between 80 and 100 metres in height.
Hong Kong Alternatives, which wants to see the whole site become a cultural green park, would like an explanation for this discrepancy.
Environmentally, such a high structure would certainly pose a serious public health hazard by blocking air flow along the waterfront district of West Kowloon.
The relevant government departments must give an explanation as to how this decision to revise the original hotel plans was reached. Why was the proposed height of this building increased without any public consultation?
Surely this is a deviation from the land-use conditions which are clearly spelled out in the West Kowloon Cultural District master plan?
I would like to know who was involved in the decision-making process, as there is clearly a possibility of collusion.
K. N. Wai, Hong Kong Alternatives
British frigate has rightful place in Hong Kong
I am a former Royal Navy lieutenant and I note that the navy's Type 22 Frigate HMS Chatham F87 is for sale.
It was the escort for the Royal Yacht Britannia during the handover in Hong Kong in 1997.
I am suggesting that it be purchased by the Hong Kong government and kept as a floating museum at the Shau Kei Wan typhoon shelter next to the Museum of Coastal Defence in Lei Yue Mun.
Daniel Keeping, Causeway Bay
Learning from other nations' gun control
After the Dunblane shooting massacre of 16 primary schoolchildren in 1996, the British government ignored Lord Cullen's recommendations and banned handguns altogether.
Now only criminals and a few selected police carry them in Britain, and the public has a low level of protection as a result.
Hong Kong has very tight control over privately owned firearms, and the police are fully armed and highly trained and able to intervene swiftly to protect the public.
The United States is unlikely to change and will continue to suffer incidents unless it places armed and retired police/military security guards at all schools.
It should also restrict gun ownership to one only of each gun type (revolver, pistol, shotgun, small-bore rifle), restrict ammunition quantity and type and magazine capacity, and ban private ownership of assault weapons and fully automatic weapons for good.
Guy Shirra, Sai Kung
Smartphone use requires right balance
I refer to the letter by James Lee Kam-fai ("Ways to curb smartphone addiction", December 10).
With the rapid development of advanced technology nowadays, you see cellphone shops everywhere.
You might see as many as eight shops in one mall selling the same models.
Almost everyone on the street has a smartphone in their hand, including children and teenagers.
Sometimes you see a businessman with more than one. They have become a daily necessity for most of us, but the fact that they are an essential item can cause problems.
They can certainly make people's lives easier and more enjoyable as they provide entertainment functions such as music and games.
Also, through networking, you can keep in touch with your friends and they have a global positioning function to help people find a location easily.
But there is a risk of some young people becoming addicted, and this could cause health side effects, such as bad eyesight from reading small characters and having their eyes so close to the screen for long periods.
Overuse could also lead them to use too many smartphone applications, which distract them from their studies.
Teenagers and adults need to strike the right balance with their phones. Parents must teach their children to act responsibly and establish a sensible timetable for using their phones.
Young people need to be taught about the possible pitfalls and the health problems they could suffer if they become obsessed with using them.
People should ensure they do not become slaves to their smartphones.
Tsoi Po-yi, Tseung Kwan O
A test between private tutors and teachers
Many students preparing for the next Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination will be filling up the classrooms of the city's tutorial centres in the hope of getting some important tips in preparation for exams.
There is a growing trend of students attending these centres in Hong Kong.
I have heard some teenagers decry their schools and say they are going to these centres because their teachers are not helping them enough.
They argue that the private tutors will teach more efficiently by highlighting key points during a lesson and will go over a lot of past exam papers, which is useful for review.
However, I think the criticism against teachers is unfair. Learning is supposed to be a gradual process. Students who only focus on the key points of a subject will not fully understand it. On the other hand, acquiring sound knowledge of something will help you in the future. Purely exam-oriented studying will become meaningless.
I accept that tutorial colleges have some advantages. They are held in small groups which makes it easier to cater to the needs of different students. Also there are fewer time constraints than pupils experience in a school environment, where resources are limited.
Ultimately, it will be up to the students themselves - and their attitude to learning - whether or not they choose to go to a tutorial centre. Overall, I do think they can sharpen a pupil's competitive edge.
Ki Ki Chu Yuen-tung, Tsuen Wan
Be conscious of food waste at Christmas
Christmas, a time when family and friends gather to drink, eat and be merry, is also one of the festive seasons that generate an enormous quantity of food waste every year.
Hong Kong's kitchens already generate more than 3,000 tonnes of waste every day for our landfills.
In recent years, the amount of food waste from businesses has been increasing, and this is leading to our landfills reaching saturation point.
This disposal rate is not sustainable. Food is organic, so it decomposes easily. It creates waste water and greenhouses gases such as methane. This leads to serious environmental problems.
There is a lack of awareness in Hong Kong when it comes to food. Too often, at restaurants, people order more food than they are able to eat.
This is especially the case over the Christmas period when so many of us attend numerous parties and banquets. Kitchens become busier and the resulting waste is therefore enormous.
It is ironic that we dispose of unwanted meals by the truckload, while people in other parts of the world do not have enough food.
The government should do more to develop organic-waste treatment facilities, but better education is also important. People must be taught to recognise the value of food.
We can all do our bit, and all citizens can make a start this festive season by not ordering so much food when they visit a restaurant. In this way our kitchens will generate less waste.
Maggie Mok, Lam Tin
Rules on tap water requests are murky
Having had to fight for a glass of tap water in one of Discovery Bay's restaurants, I wondered if there was any legal obligation for restaurants to provide water on request, as there is in Britain.
Therefore, I sent a letter to the relevant government department.
My letter said, "In Britain, I believe there is a law compelling restaurants to serve tap water on request. Is there such a law in Hong Kong?"
I received a reply earlier this month which said that "based on the information provided" the inquiry was outside the "jurisdiction of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. We suggest you… seek legal advice on the subject matter."
It was a pretty simple question. Can we or can we not ask for and expect to get tap water in a restaurant?
I don't expect to have to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees in order to find the answer. And if the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department can't provide the answer, who can?
Chris Stubbs, Discovery Bay