Ease rules to breathe new life into parks
Why is Hong Kong so different from other cities when it comes to managing public places meant for relaxation?
Is it because its citizens are so obsessed with "lifeless" things or is space at such a premium that public parks and playgrounds are guarded like mausoleums? Dennis Li is right to point out the flaws in this outdated policy ("Lighten up on draconian park rules", February 7).
Neighbourhood promenades and community parks should be places where people, young children in particular, "do things that they otherwise cannot do in their cramped apartments".
Parks in Hong Kong are not a happy sight - no pets, no cycling, no rollerblading.
My recent visit to a few in the Mid-Levels and Happy Valley areas on a fine Sunday afternoon reminded me of a lifeless city half-asleep. I only saw a few older couples dozing off on park benches, newspapers falling from their hands.
The usual scenes one would associate with a park - teens goofing off; toddlers running around playing hide-and-seek; laughter; couples with coffee in hand, walking their dogs and having animated conversations - were nowhere to be found. What are neighbourhood parks for? I can't help but wonder.
The government must shed some of the antiquated rules. Officials must muster the courage to designate a few parks and promenades as being "pet-and cycling-friendly" (for example, pets must be on a leash; impose restrictions on the size of bikes).
Hong Kong will remain a laughing stock to its Western counterparts if such foolish hypocrisy is allowed to live on.
Philip S. K. Leung, Pok Fu Lam
Suu Kyi has let down ethnic minorities
The Burmese war machine has reduced vast mountainous areas of Kachin to pulp through the ferocious and sustained use of heavy artillery and aerial bombardment.
The army swallows up more than 40 per cent of the country's gross domestic product and is one of the biggest armies in Southeast Asia. However, it has failed to achieve a decisive victory against the Kachins and the conflict has dragged on because of incompetence, corruption and low morale in Burma's military.
The Kachin fighters have once again demonstrated not only their vaunted fighting skills but also unity among the whole tribe.
How can a lightly armed force numbering fewer than 10,000 hold a well-equipped army for so long?
The biggest tragedy is the nearly 100,000 war refugees.
These hapless people are raped and abused by the Burmese army and denied aid from local and foreign non-governmental organisations.
I am deeply disappointed by the role of Burma's icon for human rights and democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi.
She has refused to speak out against all the atrocities, claiming she wanted to be neutral.
By failing to take a stand, she allies herself, by default, to the country's ruling party with regard to the conflict in Kachin.
I find it unbelievable that a person of her integrity and conviction would allow herself to be a willing tool of the military-backed government.
Suu Kyi has lost any credibility she might have had with Burma's ethnic minorities by her steadfast resistance to speak out against the atrocities.
K. S. Lam, Hong Lok Yuen
Pope's legacy is no feather in Vatican's cap
Paul Kokoski's praise for Pope Benedict XVI is misplaced ("Pope a humble champion of the poor", February 14).
In many regards, Benedict's regime was an unmitigated disaster.
A case in point is the ongoing string of sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church.
With its stringent anti-birth-control mindset and medieval policy against women priests - let alone cardinals - the pope and the Vatican as an institution have become totally irrelevant for modern society.
In most Western countries, churches are empty and many are closing down because of priest shortages. Hopefully, a new pope will bring a whiff of fresh air.
However, given that most of the electors were appointed by Benedict and his predecessor, that is very unlikely to happen.
Kristiaan Helsen, Sai Kung
Policy speech left out many student issues
As a student, the segment of the recent policy address that I was most interested in was about education.
The chief executive outlined detailed plans to improve kindergarten education and provide additional financial support to students with special needs. However, I felt he paid little attention in his speech to the general student population of Hong Kong.
Most of these students are still struggling to cope with the New Senior Secondary curriculum, including the school-based assessment. The curriculum has been heavily promoted by the government, but it has not really matured and there is room for improvement.
Over a six-year period, secondary school students are now expected to acquire more knowledge than before, yet there is insufficient teaching time. Because of this, students and teachers find themselves having to attend extra lessons during holidays. This leads to many of them feeling tired and stressed.
The school-based assessment does not give an accurate reflection of how hard individual students have worked or how much they have learned. And yet it is an additional burden which they cannot just ignore because it may affect their public-exam results.
It is good that the government is giving more support to kindergartens and special needs students, but it must not neglect the concerns of other students.
Xenia Au, Sha Tin
Spare a thought for dogs' fate
Many may be railing about the fact that horsemeat has been passing for beef in the West, but we should pause and think of all the dogs cruelly slaughtered for mainland dinner tables, as described by Cecilie Gamst Berg ("Where a dog's dinner", February 3).
The Chinese can always accuse beef, lamb, pork and chicken eaters of also killing animals, but much of that is done by using stun guns before they are dispatched.
The fact that many Chinese consider dumb animals as insensate creatures is utterly disgusting, showing that such inhumane acts reflect negatively on a society.
Renata Lopez, Wan Chai
HK 'nimbyism' can hamper waste policy
One of the most pressing issues in Hong Kong is how to deal with solid waste.
It is widely known that our landfills are nearing capacity. In the near future, they will no longer be able to provide adequate space for the mounting waste generated every day.
The government is seeking alternative measures to dispose of waste, and one idea that is being considered is to build an incinerator.
While supporters see it as an effective way to deal with our waste problems, green groups oppose it because they believe the emissions from such a plant would cause air pollution and thus harm people's health.
Apart from concerns that an incinerator might not be environmentally friendly, there is also the issue of where it should be located.
Because of the "nimby" (not in my backyard) syndrome - an attitude that is extremely common in Hong Kong - it does not matter which neighbourhood officials choose.
If, for example, they opted for Sha Tin, the residents of that district would raise strong objections.
Because of this, I feel the government would have little success finding a suitable site on which to build it.
I think it is better to change the attitudes of Hong Kong citizens. We must all learn to follow the basic principles of the 3Rs, that is, reduce, reuse and recycle. That way, all residents can lead greener lives.
I also think that the polluter-pays principle is a very practical policy for the government because it makes people take financial responsibility for the pollution they have generated.
When it comes to generating waste, people have to take responsibility for their actions. If they don't, then they should not complain if an incinerator is built near their homes.
Crystal Lam, Fo Tan
Pay more to scrap trucks that pollute
The serious air pollution problems that we are facing in Hong Kong can lead to a deterioration in the quality of life of our citizens.
In an effort to tackle these problems, I think the government's proposed subsidies to get people to replace or upgrade their old trucks should be increased.
Phasing out old, diesel-run commercial vehicles is an effective policy as they are one of the major sources of roadside pollution in Hong Kong.
Phasing out Euro I to III diesel-powered commercial vehicles will significantly reduce the emissions of particulate and nitrogen dioxides.
However, these subsidies cannot be introduced in isolation. They should be seen as part of an overall environmental strategy.
Michael Ng Tsz-chung, Ma On Shan