Letters to the Editor, February 24, 2013
Putting the wind back in museum sales
I noticed that in your report ("The high seas presented in all their glory", February 17), a Hong Kong Maritime Museum spokesperson was quoted as saying: "We noticed that because we were far away in Stanley, the locals were reluctant to come."
During my tenure as museum director, the museum averaged 35,000 paying visitors a year. This compares favourably with the paid visits to government museums and, indeed, with that of similar maritime museums abroad.
More pertinently, as the museum's data certainly showed when I was director, as a result of the regular visitor surveys conducted between 2005 and 2011, 75 per cent of the visitors were locals. Of the 25 per cent who were not, the proportion changed over that period in Stanley from 5 per cent mainlanders and 20 per cent from elsewhere, to 15 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
The truth is that in a relatively remote location, especially one more geared to Hong Kong's affluent few, all visitors - local and foreign - are reluctant to make the journey. The hope I had, when negotiating for the new location of the museum as of 2007, was that by being centrally located, the number of all visitors would increase. That, I am sure, will be the case.
The projections the museum had during my tenure were of a three- to fourfold total visitor increase. However, one probability, with the museum's relocation to Pier Eight in Central this week is that the proportion of local to mainland/foreign visitors might actually change in favour of the latter. It follows that, far from the museum's relocation proportionately favouring local visitation, the result may be that proportionately the number of mainland and foreign visitors will increase more.
I believe that plans to offer free access to schools will ensure that at least the raw visitor statistics, undifferentiated between paying and non-paying visitors, will help ensure that local visitation remains the larger proportion. It may be that this is what the HKMM spokesperson had in mind.
Stephen Davies, former director, Hong Kong Maritime Museum
EPD must do more to extend life of vehicles
I refer to Environmental Protection Department assistant director Mok Wai-chuen's letter ("Government subsidies can turn vehicles into greener machines", February 15) regarding the government's plan to use HK$10 billion for replacing "dirty" vehicles.
It appears that Wong Kam-sing's and Christine Loh Kung-wai's joining the environment branch had no impact on improving the EPD's in-house ability to solve difficult problems. Mok declared the EPD advocated dumping 88,000 "dirty" vehicles, excluding buses, while everyone - including Wong - is talking about reducing waste and doing more to reuse and recycle.
Mok stated that the EPD is consulting with the transport trade, which is all very well; but that trade is dominated by motor dealers whose main business is in selling new vehicles. He then went on to endorse the Transport Department's ridiculous policy of asking vehicle manufacturers to "approve" changes to conversions and retrofitting new engines or electric motors to old vehicles.
It is obvious that such modifications are not going to be done by existing established manufacturers but by new, environmentally friendly car mechanics. The responsibility that any converted vehicle is safe, and roadworthy, ought to lie with the converter and not the original manufacturer.
While one can understand the EPD's lack of knowledge of car engineering, they ought to request expert help from the Transport Department, such as asking it to draw up guidelines for the conversion of old vehicles to become electric-driven.
As a starting point, maybe the government can examine how the "kit car" sector in Britain deals with private conversions in a manner that is quite reasonable. I would stress that the EPD ought to be in the business of extending the life of vehicles. They ought to support all activities that can extend a product's life.
And in this case, they should approve funding for pilot conversion projects, instead of rejecting them as non-commercial, under existing funding schemes - such as the Innovation and Technology Fund. In fact, people within the EPD, like Mok, must change their mindsets. No more business as usual; they need to look at ways of extending the life of all things, from a radio to a car.
If the department does not adopt such a policy to repair and upgrade existing things, it is not behaving in the manner required of a sustainable environmental protection agency. Moreover, the conversion of vehicles to electrical power will create an enormous amount of work for locals, while buying new vehicles will mostly benefit carmakers outside Hong Kong.
Nigel Lam, Kowloon Tong
Discordant note struck in Mok interview
It was interesting to read The Review's cover piece on Karen Mok ("What Karen did next," January 27) because, as a late bloomer who seems to have had all the advantages, she strikes one as rather ungenerous in not mentioning her competition.
Talking about her time as a student in London when she auditioned unsuccessfully for the West End's Miss Saigon, she claims she preferred a recording contract in Hong Kong that was offered to her at the same time.
Nowhere does she have the generosity to mention that a multi-talented Filipino named Lea Salonga was chosen for the Miss Saigon role and went on to win both the top West End and Broadway awards.
Obviously that's par for the course for the envy-ridden, cut-throat world of showbiz.
Renata Lopez, Wan Chai
Add glass to household recyclables
I applaud the government's great strides in encouraging household recycling in recent years.
It is not uncommon to see brightly coloured recycling bins on Hong Kong's streets but these are limited to paper, plastic and aluminium. Why not glass?
Wondering what to do with an empty wine bottle or broken light bulb is a frequent frustration. I suspect there may be a simple answer to the exclusion of glass recycling but, in the absence of having that clarification, I urge the government's environmental services team to give it some thought.
Mark Sutch, Pok Fu Lam
Prohibitions at beach leave no room for fun
A comment on the restrictions imposed on people using Hong Kong's parks ("Ease rules to breathe new life into parks", February 16") caught my eye. It said continuing such prohibitions would "make Hong Kong a laughing stock" to Western visitors.
Indeed, on a visit last week to a beach on the Gold Coast, I saw a group of Westerners enjoying great hilarity as they studied an official notice at the entrance which said among other things: No surfing; No water-skiing; No diving; No dogs allowed; No kite-flying; No ball games; No throwing of flying discs; No cycling or skateboarding. I wondered if the notice would go on to say, "Keep off the sand".
This was a beach, for goodness' sake! If all normal beach activities are prohibited what are children expected to do? Shall we see them sitting motionless on the sand, playing computer games?
Mrs Monica Latham, London
Selective ban on games poor use of space
From my Stubbs Road flat, I look out over Green Lane Service Reservoir Sitting-Out Area, a sizeable grass pitch with a narrow running track around it.
We couldn't wait to check out this gem and play some ball games. But on entering, a sign met us: "No ball games, no frisbees". Usually there are one or two people on the track.
The other day, a father came with his two small children and started to throw a (soft) frisbee. At that time there was one person strolling around the track. Immediately the female attendant came over to tell him off.
A heated discussion followed, where he obviously told her that it didn't make sense to ban such a harmless activity on the empty pitch. On two sides of the pitch, there are narrow paved strips where ballgames are allowed. But it leads to absurd situations where two groups of people share a tiny area while nobody is using the large pitch.
Can someone explain the reasoning behind this poor use of scarce outdoor space?
Josephine Bersee, Mid-Levels East
What became of laundered Luo billions?
Regarding Kwok Pak-chung's letter ("Clarifying law on money laundering", February 18), we have not heard from the government nor the public about what happened to the HK$13 billion laundered by Luo Juncheng. Where did it go?
And has Chiyu Bank (the subsidiary of Bank of China HK) been punished?
M.J. Kay, Tsim Sha Tsui