Letters to the Editor, December 30, 2012

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 6:03am

Change policy on sovereign immunity

I refer to the article by Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen ("International order", December 13).

Mr Yuen extols the role that Hong Kong plays as an international legal service centre.

In that context, I would urge him to look into the area of sovereign immunity. In the Congo case last year, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress ruled that the national policy on sovereign immunity applied to Hong Kong.

China adheres to an absolute doctrine of sovereign immunity which contrasts with the international trend of moving to a restrictive doctrine whereby immunity does not apply to contracts of a private or commercial nature even if entered into by a foreign government.

The absolute doctrine does not sit well with our aspiration to be the legal service centre of choice where international legal disputes are resolved.

May I ask the justice secretary to work with the central government to bring about an adjustment (or a local exception) to the relevant national law and policy so that Hong Kong will not be put at a comparative disadvantage in this regard?

Joseph Lam, Central


Society that is united will be stronger

Hong Kong is facing serious conflicts that it must deal with or they will only get worse.

Firstly, poor governance is leading to the SAR losing its edge. The community wonders if Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying can restore public trust after the scandals he has faced and bring together society to enable the smooth implementation of his long-term plans. He faces the arduous task of executing his policies effectively.

He is not helped by some lawmakers who have made it more difficult for him to implement policies, such as the Old Age Living Allowance, which faced filibusters. Some have regarded Leung as leading a lame-duck government.

Secondly, there is the external factor and concern over whether or not Hong Kong can remain competitive.

Although the city is still holding its own, we cannot ignore the challenges being thrown up by other Chinese cities, such as Shanghai, which are developing at a fast pace.

The mainland is making big legal and economic strides. Meanwhile, we are focused on the scandals of politicians, not on making Hong Kong better.

We cannot afford to stand still or even move backwards. The community should not allow political extremists to hold us back with their tactics.

It is high time the government and people from all walks of life worked together and put aside their various prejudices.

It is only by different sections of society co-operating in an effort to build a consensus that the government will be able to draw up a better blueprint for Hong Kong.

We should now concentrate our attention on how to give impetus to different policies and initiatives, such as developing regional markets, and reducing the volumes of waste generated in the city.

It is also important for citizens to be tolerant of different views.

When it comes to putting forward arguments people have to be willing to be flexible. Only in this way can we keep faith with our core values and become more competitive.

Annie Lo Yam-kwan, Kowloon City


Keep eating shark's fin dishes

I refer to the letter from Ran Elfassy, of Shark Rescue ("Festive feasts can avoid shark fin", December 16).

While it makes good business sense for an organisation that depends on donations to claim success at the end of a year , "spin" should not be mixed with fact. No evidence is presented that Shark Rescue has improved the health of one cubic metre of the ocean.

It has not succeeded in stopping one shark being legally taken in legal fisheries anywhere in the world.

Its claim that the European Union has "called for a definitive halt to shark finning" means that the same numbers of sharks are killed but both meat and fins are landed.

The Superior Court in Ontario, Canada, has ruled against the shark fin ban in Toronto, so Cathay Pacific's actions "to ban the transport of shark fin from all its flights" are under a cloud. Chinese people should take the opportunity during this festive season, as they always have, to eat and be proud of their traditional cuisine.

Charlie Lim, chairman, conservation and management committee, Marine Products Association


Just say no to animal-tested products

Tests on animals in laboratories are part of research for new medicines. But they are also, in some cases, undertaken when creating a new line of cosmetics.

The animals are sometimes used when it is thought a test could be harmful to humans.

Facied with trade and consumer protection laws, cosmetics firms must ensure any new products do not harm their customers, such as by damaging the skin or eyes, so tests on animals can ensure they are safe before the new product is put on the market for sale.

We are talking about a wide range of products, such as skin lotions, sunscreens and make-up. If, for example, a product when being tested causes, for example, ulceration on an animal, then changes can be made. However, there is now synthetic skin, which is said to be more accurate than testing on animals.

A number of organisations, such as People for the Ethic Treatment of Animals (Peta) are trying to prevent the cruel treatment of animals in these labs. On its website Peta lists firms which allow animal testing on their products.

With legislation to restrain animal testing still very limited, I believe the choice is up to consumers.

They have the ability to support the ethical brands and boycott those companies which do undertake tests on animals.

If demand for products from the latter group drops dramatically, these firms will presumably respond by not doing any tests on animals. Citizens can also ask the government to revise existing legislation.

We are now into the post-Christmas sales all over the city. It is time for shoppers to think about what kind of beauty products they are willing to buy. They should think about the cosmetics firms which have tested on animals and choose their purchases with care.

Law Tung-yin, Ma On Shan


Get more old diesel vehicles off our roads

More needs to be done to deal with Hong Kong's very serious air pollution problem. More policies must be adopted to help clean up our air.

We need to accelerate the phasing out of old diesel vehicles which are a cause of much of our roadside pollution, with their emissions adversely affecting people with respiratory problems.

I would also like to see traffic control measures such as toll charges. We can follow the examples set by cities such as London, with congestion charges, and Singapore [electronic road pricing]. Such a measure will encourage more people to leave their car at home and use public transport.

The government should be aiming for long-term air-improvement measures.

Konnie Chan, Kwai Chung


Government could buy cleaner buses

Jake van der Kamp says that the Transport Department's bus- fare-setting formula takes no account of bus purchases ("Let's not let losses turn our buses into loser cruisers", December 2).

This is bad news for those who, like me, believe that a positive way to clean up the polluted air is to replace inefficient buses. Hong Kong residents understand the problem of capital investment since many can afford regular property rental but purchase of the same property is beyond us.

Perhaps the answer is to use Hong Kong's huge cash surplus to buy new buses and lease them to the bus companies.

That way these firms could get away from the call on their capital while the value would remain in our asset inventory, passengers would not have to face drastic fare increases and everyone would get an efficient and less polluting bus fleet.

Philip Allington, Mid-Levels


Law banning idling engines has no teeth

I agree with those correspondents who have argued that the law banning idling engines is too weak. Drivers who violate the ban are only required to pay a fixed penalty of HK$320, while people who drop litter are liable to pay HK$1,500.

Both practices are environmentally unfriendly and there should not be such a big difference in the penalty they face.

The government needs to recognise that the law banning idling engines is defective and make appropriate improvements. It must also ensure there are more officials on the streets enforcing the ban.

Law Tsz-to, Tseung Kwan O