Letters to the Editor, January 30, 2013

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 4:32am

Local families should be at front of queue

Because of Sheung Shui's proximity to Shenzhen, Hong Kong-born children living on the mainland tend to be sent to schools in North District. Local parents, however, face difficulties trying to get their children enrolled at a nearby primary school ("Struggle for 1,400 primary places", January 26).

I believe the government must adopt a system where admissions priority is given to local families.

These parents should have the right to send their children to a school in their district, unless they wish to apply to one in another part of Hong Kong.

Families which choose to live across the border or are unable to move here must understand that their children might have to attend a school outside North District if they are to continue their studies in Hong Kong.

Even if the government set up a priority allocation system, mainland families could still send their children to study here, but as I say, they would just have to go further afield to where there might be vacancies, for example, Tai Po District. The schools are good there and it is not much farther to travel.

It is unfair to families in North District for their children to have to attend schools a long way from home, just because this district is next to the border.

Stella Tse, Tai Wai


Present global practices are not sustainable

Charlie Lim, of the Marine Products Association ("The opponents of shark fin trade showed skewed logic", January 21), makes some good points in his letter rebutting my standpoint on shark fin fishing ("Time to stop defending the indefensible", January 11).

He says nature has sustained us and with rational management of those resources, will go on doing so, which is true. But the facts of shark fishing are incontrovertible and are not sustainable.

We are fishing out of the sea millions more sharks than can be replaced by nature.

We (the Europeans in this case) overfished, so there is no cod in huge swathes of the northern ocean; we poached rhinos till they are almost extinct; and we extracted all the oil so now we want shale gas.

The problem isn't what we did 2,000 years ago (in reference to Mr Lim's quote from that time), but what we do now.

We haven't quite killed the planet, but does Mr Lim think we can go on consuming at the rate we are for another 2,000 years? I doubt even another 200 years.

To compare shark fins to rice is absurd, as is the economic logic of the argument about pricing. As scarcity goes up so do prices, but as long as there is a willingness to pay those prices, the demand remains and the trade continues. A large tuna is so valuable because there are so few left, but we keep catching them and people keep buying them. We don't seem to care about tomorrow.

Mankind is a voracious user of resources and there are enough sharks left in the sea today to make catching them possible, so we do.

I am for modern solutions and am not harking back to yesteryear or some nirvana, but does anybody seriously think mankind has the self-control to stop overfishing sharks before they are near extinct?

Laurence Mead, Lamma


Limited voice for small-scale fisheries

T.M. Mason ("Young people learning from our mistakes", January 22), in reply to my letter ("Shark fin trade helps poor fishermen", January 15) believes that any "educated person" should support the banning of shark fin.

His rationale is that newspapers, current affairs programmes and Google are full of campaign material outlining the potential benefits of a ban, so it must be true. Such material does not mention the cost of a ban to poor coastal fishermen around the world.

Google contains many expert references to small-scale mixed fisheries. US professor [of anthropology at the University of Colorado] James R. McGoodwin says that 95 per cent of the world's fisheries are small scale, supporting the livelihoods of 200 million people.

Their catch is primarily for human consumption, and they provide over 50 per cent of seafood eaten by people. In contrast, 30 per cent of the catch of large-scale fisheries goes to fish meal, to feed domestic animals.

Most small-scale fishermen live in isolated coastal communities, pursue a "way of life" rather than a job, spend far less energy per fish caught than large-scale fisheries, but for many reasons have a limited voice in politics.

Small-scale fisheries attract the poorest, least educated and least esteemed, who get treated with contempt by "non-fishing" interests.

I have interacted with small scale fishing industries all my working life and have done so with pride.

Violet Chong, Sheung Wan


Build more care homes in new estates

The ground floors of new public housing blocks should be set aside for care homes for the elderly.

With more care-home places available, those elderly people on the waiting list for government-subsidised housing would have another choice to consider. These homes would be a better option for old folk who felt they needed the help of staff in a home rather than living alone in a public estate apartment.

The ground floor of a public estate would also be a good location, because elderly residents would have easy access to nearby facilities such as parks, gardens and markets. They would also be able to feel part of the community in which they lived, able to mix with people from different age groups, instead of living in an isolated facility in a rural area.

It would also be easier for relatives to visit them.

Cherry Yau Wing-yan, Sha Tin


Abandoned elderly need subsidies

It is estimated that nearly 200 million elderly on the mainland are abandoned by their children.

This is a depressing statistic, given that so many of these old folk can no longer work and have no source of income. Without help from their children, it will be difficult for them to make ends meet.

Sons and daughters should respect their parents and recognise they have a duty to look after them.

It is also important for the central government to recognise this is a serious social problem.

Where necessary, it needs to provide subsidies to those old folk who have been left alone to fend for themselves.

Wong Ka-man, Tsuen Wan


Provide cheap housing in near future

The widening wealth gap which creates income inequality is a serious issue in Hong Kong.

There are stark contrasts when it comes to rich and poor. You have people on low incomes, having to pay high rents for cage homes.

They do not have the skills or educational level to get better jobs. On the other hand, you have citizens living in large houses and flats in upmarket neighbourhoods. They earn a high income and have the skills and knowledge that enable them to keep earning more.

While the chief executive in his policy address promised that more homes would be built, that will take time and something has to be done about the rich-poor gap now.

Officials should be trying to find a way to make cheap and decent housing available as soon as possible.

Chan Pui-wai, Yau Yat Chuen