Letters to the Editor, January 23, 2013

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 1:51am

Visionary in land-resource planning

Ian L. McHarg, who for over three decades was an influential advocate and practitioner of ecological planning, would have plenty to advise Hong Kong about, were he still alive.

This Scottish immigrant to the US was presented with the National Medal of Arts by president George H.W. Bush in 1990, and the Japan Prize in 2000, among numerous other accolades.

These awards were in recognition of his work in formulating a workable methodology, nicknamed the "layer-cake model". It combines socio- cultural values with vital natural parameters such as geology, physiography, climate, soils, hydrology, vegetation and wildlife, in comparative suitability equations to aid land-use planning.

The universal and timeless principles, as well as product samples they have generated, are convincingly and eloquently described in his classic work Design with Nature. This book deserves to be read and reread by all those responsible for making rational long-term land-use decisions for communities in any region.

How apt it is for Hong Kong at this time, as we ponder like never before how to develop and redevelop wisely the precious land resources still remaining: for housing, urgently; for all uses holistically.

Wong Chi-kui, Western district


Officials failing to curb illegal dumping

I write regarding housing policy in the New Territories. The sprawl of unplanned villages is just one of the factors despoiling land in this part of Hong Kong.

Anyone spending any time walking in the countryside of the New Territories will have seen plenty of evidence of dumping of industrial, construction and household waste. A quick tour of Tso Wo Road, where I live, would reveal numerous cases of illegal dumping. Some of it is done just 10 metres from the gates of our estate by the very contractors hired by the management and residents of the estate.

Clearly, attitudes towards robbing the beautiful countryside of its scenic beauty, which is an asset enjoyed by all of us, need to change.

As it stands, penalties, monitoring and clean-up of illegal dump sites are woefully inadequate.

The Environmental Protection Department has cleaned up one black spot three times in the past two years after my complaints. However, it has failed to confront the management of the estate where the polluters come from and has not posted a warning sign or attempted to erect any barrier to stop further dumping and the slope is already covered in rubbish again.

Furthermore, the government makes no attempt to clean up or notify owners to clean up dump sites on private land. This means that many illegal sites will continue to exist because the owners are unaware or unconcerned and not made responsible for dumping on their property.

This leaves the New Territories vulnerable to continued dumping as no one is to be held accountable for it.

Catherine LaJeunesse, Sai Kung


Billionaires exploit labour of others

Alex Lo got it right ("Freest economy costs more than it's worth", January 14).

Hong Kong is the freest place for billionaire capitalists to exploit the labour of others.

These billionaires don't produce anything. They skim profits from the wealth created by their workers.

And then we honour them for being "job creators".

William DuBay, Ap Lei Chau


Puzzled by loan guidelines for over-60s

I applied for a tax loan from HSBC where I have done business since first coming to Hong Kong in 1996.

My loan was approved, but only for a third of the amount requested. When I tried to learn why, I was told it was based on "things" in my application and "information gathered from the community". I asked what "things" and what "information," and was told "they" couldn't divulge that information.

Naturally being concerned about what was being said about me in the community (I certainly hadn't said anything bad about me on my application and I've never defaulted on an HSBC loan), I asked the HSBC representative to whom I was speaking for the name and phone number of her supervisor so that I could schedule a meeting to discuss the "things" and "information" that was preventing HSBC from loaning me the amount I requested, which was not a huge amount by any means.

The representative put me on hold and when she returned she told me that I had been approved only for a third of the amount requested because of my age.

She further explained that anyone over 60 may not be approved for a loan, or for any portion thereof, based - I am guessing - on the assumption that they will die before the loan is repaid.

I would be grateful if someone at HSBC would elaborate for the public the exact rules underlying this policy.

Are loans discounted 20 per cent per year of age older than 60 (I am 64), or is there some other financial wizardry at work within the secretive halls of HSBC? I would appreciate hearing from the relevant government department if age discrimination in a bank's financial practices is acceptable.

Craig Blurton, Pok Fu Lam


Tragedy gives India a chance to change

It was shocking to read about the gang rape and killing of a student in Delhi and the fears some women expressed about their safety at night, especially since India is a rapidly developing country and one of the BRICS nations.

There is concern that, often, the perpetrators in sexual assault cases are not punished. The case of the student in Delhi attracted international attention, not just to the tragedy but also to the issue of gender inequality in India.

Women in the country now have a great opportunity to highlight this problem and strive for greater legal protection and equal treatment.

Key to achieving these aims is tougher legislation. Also, it is important to take advantage of the outrage following the attack on the student and bring about significant changes in society through education.

The Indian government must genuinely embrace the beliefs of Mahatma Gandhi. He advocated raising the status of women and freeing them from male domination. He felt that only through equality could they be free of injustice.

Annie Lo Yam-kwan, Kowloon City


Cabbies now snubbing tunnel trips

There is a growing problem in Hong Kong with drivers of red taxis not being willing to cross the harbour.

I have been caught several times in Wan Chai, Tsing Yi and Mong Kok, not being able to get a taxi to take me to the other side.

Since when does a red taxi have the right to refuse to take someone across the harbour?

I have lived in Hong Kong for six years and I have noted that this problem has been getting worse in the last two years.

John Gye, Chai Wan