Letters to the Editor, February 22, 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 February, 2013, 4:04am

Development body should raise sights

It was disappointing to find so decent a man as Bernard Chan ("Hong Kong's complex problems can't just be fixed overnight", February 8) defining his mandate so narrowly: "My committee already exists. It is the Council for Sustainable Development, and its task is to find ways to implement waste charges."

Even the council's website says its job is to advise the government on strategy and priorities, not micro implementation methods.

Only 3 per cent of our gross domestic product is in manufacturing. We don't need factories; we need high-class, well-paying services to maintain or extend our lead as Asia's world city.

Given that sustainable development covers a very wide range of issues - from energy, to land use, to water and green spaces - all vital to Hong Kong's long-term attraction and efficiency as a place for business executives to live and work, one might have expected much more.

That is why it would have been more reassuring to read what the council considers to be Hong Kong's major development issues, and the priorities attributed to them, than to learn the council will dedicate its considerable strengths (seven professors/doctors, seven Justices of the Peace, four government ministers and three others) to the decidedly middle-ranking task of implementing waste charges - especially if only households are being considered for charges, which simplifies matters.

But he doesn't answer the obvious, more strategic question: why not businesses?

This narrow focus explains why people feel the government should try harder, despite C. Y. Leung's reasonably decent concrete achievements in the short term, as listed by Mr Chan.

He also refers to the need for time to get things moving. But actually, in 2008, the council did publish a relatively progressive and strong report on improving Hong Kong's air quality. Surely it would be better to push for the most important policies continuously, if the council is serious about them?

Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels


'Green' light bulbs really a health hazard

This is in response to Allan Dyer's letter ("Offer rewards for light-bulb recycling", February 17).

Compact fluorescent lights and LED light bulbs are disposed of incorrectly due to the failure of the government and retailers to make people aware of the poisons they contain.

According to the [anti-pollution group] Blacksmith Institute, these light bulbs contain the three most harmful toxins: lead, mercury vapour and arsenic. The United Nations is calling for compact fluorescent lights to be banned.

Given the amount of misinformation on the "greenness" of these two types of bulbs, they should be required to carry a skull-and-crossbones logo, and "poison" in capital letters.

In Britain, both cancer and mental illnesses have increased in line with the use of these bulbs, with one out of 30 people negatively affected.

A conference to address these issues will be held later this month. Taking part will be a number of cancer specialists from London, lawyers, independent lighting experts and charities.

It is hard to get the message out to the public about the damage to health and the environment these lights cause because of the advertising budgets of the lighting industry, its sponsorship of green groups and its deals with governments.

But the industry is fully aware of the problems associated with these lighting, hence their long list of exclusion clauses. These include clean-up instructions stating that if just one compact fluorescent light breaks, all air conditioning must be switched off, all windows opened, and humans and pets must immediately leave the room. It also states the need to keep them a safe distance from your head and their unsuitability for landfills.

These bulbs produce a type of light linked to mental illness, depression and exhaustion. Just as some people cannot tolerate peanuts, some cannot tolerate these bulbs.

The Hong Kong government should make people aware of the differences in light bulbs, and ensure that people have access to healthy, toxin-free incandescent lights.

It should also ensure that the bulbs are safely disposed of in ways that do not expose rubbish collectors to the known cancerous toxins.

Dr Robert Hanson, Tseung Kwan O


Change tunnel tolls now to cut congestion

I have read the three government suggestions regarding the cross-harbour tunnel tolls, and while I don't really agree with any of them, at least it means that something is happening.

If we acknowledge that owning a car in Hong Kong is a luxury, at least for most people, then car owners should have to pay for the use of the tunnels as determined by either the tunnel owners or the government.

The need to divert traffic from the congested Cross-Harbour Tunnel is an important issue and a solution is needed.

So I suggest the following options. First, raise the toll of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel to HK$30 and keep the Eastern Harbour Tunnel's toll at HK$25.

To get drivers to use the Western Harbour Tunnel, lower the toll from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon to HK$25 and keep the current HK$55 toll for the route back.

This solution for the western tunnel will overcome the congestion problem on the Hong Kong side.

The western tunnel operator can be compensated accordingly by the increase in the Cross-Harbour Tunnel toll.

I would not increase tolls for buses or commercial transport.

Further, why do we have to wait until the second half of 2014 for any agreed proposal to take effect? It is just too long.

Howard Cowley, Kennedy Town


Get-rich-quick schemes a trap for the unwary

In Wall Street, there has been a war between the world's most famous network marketing company and one of the best hedge fund managers.

Herbalife is trying to defend itself against allegations it runs a Ponzi scheme, while Bill Ackman's basic questions and allegations remain unanswered.

This news should be made known to readers because many network marketing firms today prey on ordinary people who are falsely guided into get-rich-quick schemes. I know of many in Hong Kong - but unlike Bill Ackman, there is no point publicly declaring them.

I only suggest that the government do a better job of enforcement against companies that prey on the innocent.

We need stricter enforcement standards on schemes that use network marketing in Hong Kong.

Rishi Teckchandani, Mid-Levels


Vaunted HK brand losing its lustre

The Brand Hong Kong website www.brandhk.gov.hk says the top five core values associated with the city are "free, enterprising, quality living, innovative and excellence", while its perceived attributes are "cosmopolitan, secure, dynamic, diverse and connected".

Perhaps they should read "stagnation, fearful, reactionary and directionless", if current events are any indication.

Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po


Sector that's not so flush with success

One has only to look at two of the larger property agent websites to see why prices are out of control.

A count of just two properties - Marinella and Larvotto - reveals there are 163 and 83 apartments for sale respectively. Virtually none has been occupied and the intended sales are therefore speculative.

Multiply this by the likes of Bel-Air and Kowloon's Austin Road properties, to name a few, and you see why the spiralling prices are poised to burst.

And when you spell-check Larvotto, it defaults to "lavatory". Maybe that's where we are headed!

David Dixon, Wan Chai


Still a place for compassion in business

I write in utter frustration at Now TV's appalling customer service and apparent lack of compassion for their clients.

I contacted Now TV on January 14 on behalf of a friend who needed to leave Hong Kong permanently due to bereavement in her family. She gave me permission to close her account and negotiate an exit package.

First of all, it is near impossible to get through to customer services, so I ended up calling Now TV subscriptions, who answered promptly and transferred me to a customer services representative.

After explaining the situation, I asked him if the contract could be broken on compassionate grounds, hoping he might consider offering a "stop payment". He said he would investigate, discuss it with his line manager and get back to me.

I still await his response. Meanwhile, my friend is still paying for a TV service that she is unable to use, due to no fault of her own. I have left messages on the firm's Facebook page and have contacted Now TV again to no avail.

Come on, Now TV, I am just asking for a fair go.

You can do better than this, and I really think you need to review how you deal with your customers' contracts, particularly when a family tragedy occurs.

Mark Joyce, Wan Chai