Letters to the Editor, February 12, 2013
Avoid moving in sectarian direction
Religion is probably not the first thing that comes to mind for most people when thinking of Hong Kong. But for the three of us, as leaders in our respective religious communities, religion defines Hong Kong.
From our perspective, Hong Kong is not only "Asia's world city", it is also a beacon of inter-religious co-operation. An atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect among faith communities has been carefully and consistently cultivated here for many years.
We each seek to shape our respective faith communities into spaces that are tolerant, accepting and supportive of the right of belief and practice of the others. It is this spirit of openness that is a very special aspect of life in Hong Kong.
We readily acknowledge that there are real, and sometimes painful, religious, cultural and political differences among us. But in the face of these challenges, we continue to affirm and act on our determination that Hong Kong will remain a city open to the rich variety of religious expression.
In this regard, we deeply appreciate the sincere efforts of local institutions of higher learning that have supplied a platform for the promotion of peaceful coexistence through interfaith dialogue.
Such efforts provide students and others with opportunities for public forums in which religious responses to the critical issues of our world may be discussed openly and respectfully. In sponsoring such discussions, it is incumbent upon the host institutions to ensure that those taking part are concerned primarily with interfaith understanding and co-operation, and do not use these public venues to promote narrow and divisive agendas under a banner of academic tolerance.
We mention this because we feel certain recent university-sponsored dialogue events have moved in a sectarian direction.
When Hong Kong's universities give their imprimatur to a conference or a panel discussion, this lends sanction and endorsement not only to the participants, but also to the co-sponsors of the events.
We remain committed to free speech in an open society. But what is at stake here is not only the tenor of our interfaith conversations, but the unspoken assumption that our engagement with each other will be transparent and free of any hint of duplicity.
Such an ethos, we believe, is in the interests of all the people of Hong Kong to safeguard and cherish.
In a world that at times seems riven by religious conflict, Hong Kong remains an oasis of religious co-operation. We hope this will remain unchanged.
Chief Imam Muhammad Arshad (Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre), Rev Dr John LeMond (Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre), Rabbi Asher C. Oser (Ohel Leah Synagogue)
Give hospitals confiscated milk powder
While I am all for limiting the amount of baby milk formula travellers are allowed to take across the border, I wonder what will happen to the cans that will be confiscated when people break the rules (as I'm sure they will).
I'm sure they won't find their way back on to the shelves in Hong Kong. But if they are impounded, the formula won't reach Hong Kong mothers any more than it would have had it been taken to the mainland.
Perhaps it could be donated to hospitals. It would be nice to think the government had thought this through to a suitable conclusion.
Wendy Allen, Stanley
Third runway has obvious advantage
The transport minister has said we need to start thinking about a fourth runway at the airport ("Fourth runway study plans anger greens", January 29).
I can see the advantage of having more runways. They would increase the airport's handling capacity so more planes could fly here.
During busy periods, planes have to circle until given clearance to land. This can be frustrating for passengers who face these delays.
With more aircraft, we would presumably attract larger numbers of tourists and this would benefit our economy.
Singapore has a smaller population than Hong Kong and yet it already plans to convert a military runway into a third airport runway. While there may be logistical problems which are more complex than those faced by Singapore, because of our terrain, a third runway is possible with further reclamation.
However, when considering additional runways, we have to consider the environmental impact, especially on endangered species such as the Chinese white dolphin. Their habitat could be threatened by any expansion of Chek Lap Kok.
I wish that someone could come up with a strategy that ensured expansion without putting that habitat at risk, but I doubt if such a plan is feasible.
This is a controversial issue and while I think a fourth runway may not be possible, we do need to build a third runway as soon as possible.
Katie Lee, Ma On Shan
Data justifying expansion inadequate
The Director of Audit or the relevant Legco committees should take a hard look at the waste of taxpayers' money by the Airport Authority.
It is burning money as though it is going out of fashion yet at the same time making up excuses for why Hong Kong needs a third runway, giving out inadequate data about pollution and the financial benefits for the city. I have written to these columns on this issue over the years but the last chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen did nothing. I hope the present chief executive will be more responsive.
F. Wong, Mong Kok
Swimmers will avoid artificial beach at Tai Po
I appeal to the government to halt its proposal to build an artificial beach at Lung Mei in Tai Po ("Month's reprieve for beach campaign", February 2).
Opponents of the project argue that it will have an adverse effect on marine ecosystems. It could lead to a deterioration of water quality and destroy important habitats.
The water quality has already been designated as poor by the Environmental Protection Department, which would put it on a par with Hong Kong's worst beaches. So how can officials hope to persuade people to go and swim in turbid water?
The government must recognise the need to strike the right balance between development and protecting ecosystems. Therefore, it should scrap the project.
Isaac Guan, Sheung Shui
Government could halt brain drain
There is a lack of resources to promote the six new economic "pillars" - education, health care, testing and certification, environmental industries, innovation and technology and cultural and creative industries.
It is obvious that the government would rather allocate most of its resources to the traditional industries which, it is generally accepted, can earn a lot of money and bring the fastest economic development in the shortest time.
However, I think it is time for the government to try harder to assist with the development of the six new sectors and help Hong Kong's economy progress.
For instance, the innovation and technology industry has matured in the United States, Japan and Korea and is recognised internationally.
It has helped bring greater economic growth to these countries.
I think that in Hong Kong we have suitably qualified people who can help this industry progress.
What is required is to find a way to persuade these talented people to stay in Hong Kong and prevent the brain drain that we are experiencing at the moment.
The government must make more funds available so that this sector is able to develop and people are persuaded to stay instead of going abroad.
Cherry Yau Wing-yan, Sha Tin
Beijing cannot risk scrapping one-child rule
Population growth has been brought under control in China since the one-child policy was introduced.
However, critics of the policy argue that it is having a detrimental effect on the country and they have called on it to be scrapped.
They argue that it damages the image of China and that it is causing labour shortages.
Some people have lobbied for the central government to agree to relax the policy.
I appreciate that China has a problem with its shrinking labour force. However, I still think that Beijing should stick with the one-child policy.
If it was relaxed, I fear we could see a baby boom in the nation, with all its related problems.
There would be a rapid rise in population and no one would be in a position to accurately estimate the rate of increase.
The central government would then have to come up with policies to deal with the problems that arose from overpopulation, such as food shortages.
It is unlikely the country would have the resources to cope and there could be outbreaks of serious social unrest.
I would not be in favour of a relaxation of the policy.
Clare Leung, Shun Lee