Letters to the Editor, March 1, 2013
How can refugee body justify aid cut?
I read with shock the news that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Hong Kong is axing the HK$500 a month it currently pays out to refugees ("UNHCR axes all aid for HK refugees in budget cuts", February 27). How can this be? Is the UNHCR broke?
Refugees are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. They are not permitted to work or earn money in Hong Kong and yet they are to become even more vulnerable as the meagre pittance they do receive is to be snatched from them.
We are not talking about asylum seekers, thousands of whom flood into our city each year. Many asylum seekers are really economic refugees, who come here in the hope of a better life. We are talking about genuine refugees, who have had their cases heard by the UNHCR and have been assessed as having genuine reasons for having to flee their home countries to which they will never be able to return.
They are waiting here until they can move on to another country for resettlement.
There are only 132 of them, and at HK$500 each per month, that is a total expenditure of HK$66,000 per month - probably about the salary of one mid- level corporate worker.
Last year HK$30 million was raised for the UNHCR here in Hong Kong. What did they spend this money on? What budget priorities are more important than the economic survival of the very people this agency was set up to identify and support?
Anne Macpherson, Mid-Levels
Culture hub poverty claims are an insult
Once again Michael Lynch, the CEO of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, has failed to give accurate projections for the cost of building the first stage of the much anticipated and now largely-ridiculed West Kowloon cultural hub ("Arts hub chief faces music over cost blowout", February 26).
Having made the contemptuous comment [in July of last year] that "the basement is a complicated thing, it goes all under the site … It is complicated in financing" we are now informed of a massive miscalculation resulting in a HK$1.4 billion shortfall in the proposed building of the project's Xiqu Centre.
West Kowloon Cultural District was given an immensely generous endowment of HK$21.6 billion in 2008. To put this into context, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao cost less than 10 per cent of this sum to build and was completed in a time frame of less than four years. The result is perhaps the world's most iconic art and cultural destination that has raised more than €500 million (HK$5 billion) for the city of Bilbao.
Frank Gehry's design forges a rare chemistry between design and the public. All this was achieved without massive cost overruns and in a timeline that delivered to the people what they wanted.
To date, West Kowloon Cultural District has delivered nothing other than bureaucracy and a proven inability to get the job done. Constantly complaining that almost US$2.8 billion is not enough money to build a cultural district is an affront to the people of Hong Kong.
It is time for Michael Lynch to stop begging and start building; the people of Hong Kong have simply had enough.
Mark Peaker, The Peak
Bus fares hike will hit poorest the hardest
From March 17, passengers travelling on KMB, Hong Kong's largest bus operator, will face average fare rises of 4.9 per cent.
I do not know why the company feels it needs to raise fares by this much. Two reasons given have been soaring fuel prices and inefficient routes, but I wonder if these problems will be eased by the fare hike.
Justifying the company's decision transport minister Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said that the rate of increase was lower than the accumulated inflation rate of 6.31 per cent. However, I think the company is being unreasonable.
Inflation is becoming a more serious problem in Hong Kong, whether it is food, rents or clothes. Prices are rising and this has a negative impact on grass-roots families. These fare rises will only add to the financial burden they already face and make the gap between rich and poor in our society even wider than it already is.
Ordinary citizens should not have to pay the price for KMB being badly managed.
There should be a review of the way the company is being run and the necessary improvements should be made. Questions should be asked about why it is running a deficit.
I realise KMB has to strike a balance between its responsibilities to the company and to the public, but in future, it should consider what passengers can afford when planning fare rises.
Wendy Cheung Wing, Tung Chung
Return needed to post-Sars hygiene levels
I refer to the report ("'While I battled Sars, Dad died in ward above'", February 25).
The Sars epidemic of 2003 killed 299 people. Everyone became vigilant. They washed their hands and adhered to other hygiene rules.
However, 10 years on people have become careless. You often see people who do not wash their hands after they have been to the toilet or before they eat. You see people frequently spitting on the street and failing to wear a mask when they go to hospital.
We do not want diseases that are like or even stronger than Sars to affect the city. But people have to change and return to the hygienic habits they observed in 2003.
The government should put out an advert on television emphasising the importance of good hygiene.
Ng Ki-lung, Tsuen Wan
Smartphone users must show restraint
People seem to be inseparable from their smartphones these days.
Some appear to use them constantly. They take photographs, upload and communicate on the social network.
However, excessive use, especially in public places can cause problems for others. For example, drivers trying to send an SMS may be distracted and cause an accident. Also pedestrians absorbed by their smartphones can bump into other people on the street.
I think we all have to recognise the importance of being able to practise self-discipline and ensure that mobile use does not become addictive.
Yoyo Cheung, Tseung Kwan O
Help police keep Sai Kung traffic flowing
I refer to the letter by Mark Ranson ("Trucks hog pavements, yet police don't act", February 20), which mentioned various traffic and police matters in the Sai Kung area.
Sai Kung attracts many local visitors and tourists, especially over weekends and public holidays, which have placed immense pressure on the traffic network.
In response to the concerns raised by the local community, police conduct regular road safety campaigns and traffic enforcement operations which have resulted in some 750 fixed penalty tickets issued in and around Man Nin Street near the waterfront area over the past six months.
Furthermore, in the vicinity of Hong Tsuen Road where plenty of industrial outlets are located, during regular patrols, police officers do advise drivers to stay clear of the road and will issue fixed penalty tickets when deemed necessary.
Please be reassured that police will continue to monitor the situation and will take appropriate action to ensure road safety and smooth flow of traffic with due note of local unique circumstances. I hope your readers will appreciate that police enforcement action alone cannot solve traffic problems. Therefore, police appeal to drivers to be considerate to other road users.
As regards Mr Ranson's observation of officers taking naps on board police vehicles on public roads, we would like to invite Mr Ranson to contact Timothy Sharpe, senior inspector of Sai Kung Police Station, at 2792 8610 so we may obtain further details and look into the matter.
Eddie Wong Kwok-wai, chief superintendent, police public relations branch
Private rent control can foil speculators
The concept I don't see getting its fair airing is residential rent control in Hong Kong.
With runaway rents, could we not instigate residential rent controls? It might not find favour with greed-fuelled, delusional right-wing US think-tanks who took on laissez-faire with their mother's milk, and who looked on when the American financial crisis happened, but who needs the curse of their approval anyway?
Haven't they noticed that 50 per cent of Hong Kong people live in public housing with low subsidised rents? New York City has rent control for tenants and it's in America.
Private rent control might be a good way to combat speculation in flat purchases - otherwise Hong Kong property just provides another type of gambling to that provided in Macau.
Generally speaking, you don't have to read many newspapers to see that Hong Kong is not governed properly. Pick yourself up, international city.
Alastair Maxwell, Wan Chai