Letters to the Editor, December 28, 2012
Seeking relief from the beef monopoly
I strongly agree with those who argue that that the government should open up the fresh beef market to competition ("Inquiry into monopoly's effect on beef prices", December 17).
The present arrangement affects all Hong Kong citizens and beef retailers.
Most families regularly eat beef at home and in restaurants and so rising prices have a huge effect on them.
At the moment there is only one importer of mainland beef in Hong Kong, Ng Fung Hong. It therefore has sole control of prices.
If it keeps increasing them to raise its profits, then Hong Kong consumers have to pay more for the product. The company can make all kinds of excuses for price hikes and there is nothing anyone can do.
All consumers are suffering as a result of this monopoly. The government should ensure there is competition in the market.
If this happened, prices would be adjusted downwards to more reasonable levels.
Retailers will also benefit because they currently have to pay high prices to Ng Fung Hong. As they must pass on that cost to the customer, fewer people are willing to buy their beef.
It is clear that the government must allow more companies to enter the market for beef sourced from the mainland.
This can ensure that prices are reasonable, and as a consequence the interests of citizens and retailers in Hong Kong are protected.
It would also be good news for restaurants that make many of their dishes with beef and who may have seen a drop in the number customers.
Henry Wong Cheuk-pang, Tsuen Wan
Life jackets rule during fireworks
When the Hong Kong Tourism Board announced the staging of the New Year's Eve fireworks display ("HK$12m New Year's fireworks all set to go", December 19), I wondered about potential hazards in what will be a crowded harbour on that night.
While tragedies at sea can only be prevented to a large extent through laws and regulations, I would urge pleasure-craft owners and skippers to introduce their own rule on Monday night.
They should stipulate that all passengers must wear life jackets the moment they board the vessel. Even a good swimmer may not be able to respond quickly enough because they may be injured or knocked unconscious during a collision.
The best life jackets are the inflatable type that are used by airlines.
They are light, thin and come with a small illuminating device and toggle. But older styles of life jackets can still save lives.
Philip S. K. Leung, Pok Fu Lam
Elephants are dying in the name of vanity
People want to own ivory because they see it as a status symbol.
It is a bit like some Chinese wanting to serve shark's fin soup at a banquet.
However, I think people who hold this view are mistaken. It does not prove their high-class status. If anything, it shows they lack confidence.
No one can justify depriving an animal of its right to live just to satisfy someone's desire to win greater admiration in society.
The practice of hunting elephants for their tusks must come to an end.
Anita Chan, Tseung Kwan O
New purpose for Wan Chai's old post office
As the lovely building that was once the Wan Chai post office is now undergoing renovation, might I suggest that it find a new tenant once the work is completed?
The Environmental Protection Department, which used the building for many years as an environmental resource centre, should be asked to find new premises.
Indeed, the sort of information it was dispensing can actually be downloaded from the internet quite easily today. So one must ask if it really needs physical space for this task nowadays.
This lovely heritage building would serve the Wan Chai community much better if it were to become a library-cum-community centre or a venue for music recitals.
Our government talks much about building community spirit and well-being, but actually does nothing about it.
Here is a priceless opportunity for our bureaucrats to turn an historic, charming and well-located building into an asset that truly benefits the community at large.
N. J. Sousa, Lantau
Learning from Taiwan's waste disposal policy
It has been reported in the press that a majority of the Hong Kong public supports the government's proposal to introduce waste charges, even if it has an adverse effect on tourism and creates hygiene problems.
It is comforting to realise that most citizens appreciate that there is a problem with the disposal of refuse in Hong Kong, with more than 9,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste being dumped in our landfills every day.
Hong Kong should follow the example set by Taiwan when it comes to waste disposal policies.
We seem to have been in denial, refusing to accept that we have a serious solid-waste disposal problem, which poses a threat to citizens, even though there is so much pressure on our landfills.
The Taiwanese government has for some time successfully implemented its solid-waste charging scheme.
The Hong Kong administration should spare no effort when it comes to implementing a levy on waste disposal.
With this fee, Hong Kong citizens will become more aware of the need to produce less refuse.
The quantity-based system is most effective as it links the charge directly to the quantity of waste that has been generated.
Those households that are reluctant to pay too much will surely exercise greater self-control and do their best not to produce large quantities of refuse.
We can learn again from Taiwan when it comes to bins. The old-style rubbish bin is a rare sight, having largely been replaced by recycling bins. Again, this has changed the behaviour of Taiwanese citizens who now have a very high level of eco-awareness. Families now sort out and separate waste at home before it is collected.
This policy in Taiwan has not stopped tourists from visiting the island. In fact, visitor figures are on the rise and forecast to keep increasing.
This shows that a waste tax policy would not adversely affect tourism in Hong Kong or put people off coming to the city.
Tsang Lam-lam, Tseung Kwan O
Aid those on losing end of wealth gap
Income disparity is a problem in a developed city like Hong Kong and there are a number of factors which affect this, such as inflation and the ageing population.
There have been structural changes to the economy. In the 1960s and 1970s there was a lot of industry, so people could easily find work in factories even if they had low qualifications. With the industrial era having passed, the situation has now changed.
Hong Kong is now emerging as a knowledge-based economy. This means that low-skilled individuals are now struggling to find jobs that were once plentiful.
Also, with the ageing population, there are many elderly people who, even if they are still working, struggle to support themselves.
With rising inflation, low-income people find it difficult to save any money, so their asset growth is zero.
The government has a responsibility to deal with these problems. It should adopt measures that try to keep inflation under control.
Officials also need to ensure that sufficient economic aid is made available to the low-income sections of society.
If necessary, it should increase the amount that is made available to recipients of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme.
It should also look at the possibility of raising other welfare payments.
Janet Chan, Lam Tin
West Kowloon hotel was clear about its plans
I refer to the letter by K.N. Wai, of Hong Kong Alternatives ("West Kowloon hotel's sudden change of plan", December 21).
The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority wishes to clarify that there has not been any "sudden change of plan" relating to the hotel and there was no discrepancy between the modified conceptual plan we exhibited during the public engagement exercise stage three and the proposed development plan we submitted to the Town Planning Board in December 2011.
The authority will adhere strictly to parameters (including height restrictions) laid down by government.
Height restrictions are stipulated in the proposed development plan, but details of individual facilities or buildings will not be known until detailed designs have been completed.
The proposed development plan underwent extensive public consultation when it was put up by the Town Planning Board for public inspection earlier this year.
The allegation of a sudden change of plan is therefore unsubstantiated.
Garmen Chan Ka-yiu, executive director, communications and marketing, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority