Letters to the Editor, March 4, 2013
Greed has undermined our society
Michael Chugani in his column has painted a gloomy economic outlook for Hong Kong ("Greed reigns", February 23) and his vivid description reminded me of the film Les Miserables and Mencius.
When greed reigns, it suffocates sustained economic growth. The birth rate and demographic profile will be deformed and, therefore, in the long run the population pyramid is not healthy.
Hong Kong is no longer an ideal place to live and bring up a family.
Also, when greed reigns, more home buyers become slaves to their mortgages. Not only that but as property prices skyrocket, more people find they cannot afford to buy a decent flat and the queue for public housing and the Home Ownership Scheme gets longer.
Rampant greed has meant that the creativity and vitality for which Hongkongers are famous - the Lion Rock spirit - has been shattered. Cantonese Opera troupes and arts groups cannot afford to rent an arena.
With such depths of greed being prevalent, the predatory rule of the jungle will prevail.
Chugani's observations are insightful and accurately describe the ugly face of capitalism. What is happening now in Hong Kong also happened during the Warring States and Spring and Autumn periods more than 2,000 years ago. Mencius once warned a ruler that the country was in danger if the upper class exploited the lower echelons of the community.
Unfortunately, this is now happening in Hong Kong. People are now saying that it is time for government intervention, but is the government listening?
Lo Wai-kong, Yau Ma Tei
Small stores deserve a helping hand
I refer to the letter by R. Hang ("Break the retail monopolies in poor areas", February 21) about the problems caused by operators of malls in poor areas of Hong Kong. I fully understand the strain people feel from the constant increase in the costs of living.
The Link Reit controls a large portion of the retail market and it pretty much does as it wishes, especially when it comes to rents. Consequently, those small tenants, like the "mom and pop stores" which sell specific goods and have limited resources, cannot afford the higher rents and are replaced by chain stores.
These small stores that are disappearing may not make huge profits, but they are full of character and display what I would call the human touch.
They are particularly important in malls in grass-roots neighbourhoods, providing goods and services at affordable prices. They also offer young people with ambition the chance to launch their own enterprises. However, as these shops disappear, our malls are all starting to look the same.
Shoppers now have less choice when it comes to product variety. As their monopoly spreads, chain stores find it easier to increase prices.
The government should use some of its budget surplus to let out more public areas to small-shop tenants, charging reasonable rents.
The small stores may not be very popular with mainland visitors, but pluralism is one of the features of Hong Kong and the retail sector should cater to all classes and tastes.
Amy Kong Shuk-fan, Kwai Chung
Pointless work on Lamma footpath
Recently, near my home on Lamma, a simple village footpath that winds between a lychee orchard and some open fields was raised with concrete about 20cm in height over a stretch of more than 40 metres.
Apparently there had been a puddle at one end.
It seemed like overkill for a simple puddle (I had never noticed a puddle in six years of walking daily along this path), but I decided to let this "improvement" go since the damage had already been done.
That was until last month, when I noticed a sign from the Lands Department stuck to a lamp post saying that they were now going to add a handrail along the full length of this grass-edged path, presumably because it had been raised in height.
Could the department please explain, through these columns, the reasoning behind the initial approach to removing what must have been a small puddle? Wouldn't a slight curve in the path surface remove excess water? And how can they now justify spending what must be hundreds of thousands of dollars more, on adding handrails to a 20cm-high path, raised in height by them, when it didn't need raising in the first place?
Yet again, this really does smack of jobs for the boys - something we've been seeing way too much of in recent years on the outlying islands.
Edward Williams, Lamma
Container homes not feasible here
Young people dream of owning a home and starting a family. But many of them are finding it very difficult to realise this dream because of real estate hegemony which has led to spiralling property prices.
To overcome this problem, one pressure group has suggested stacking shipping containers under flyovers and turning them into homes.
Supporters of this proposal argue that it has been successful in countries such as England and Canada.
However, these countries have lots of open spaces in many of their suburbs where it is possible to put these containers and turn them into homes. This is a very different environment from a flyover. From a financial point of view, the idea might seem attractive to young people, given that it would cost around HK$150,000 to turn a container into a home. Also, people would be free to decorate the inside of the container as they saw fit.
However, while it might make financial sense, given Hong Kong's overcrowded conditions, I doubt if it would be a feasible project.
We need to concentrate on dealing with the problems that have been created by property hegemony and rising property prices so that people can live in real homes.
Scarlet Wong, Sha Tin
Bizarre debate in such a wealthy city
Am I the only one who finds it difficult to comprehend how, in a city with a HK$64.9 billion fiscal surplus, there can be a debate over whether shipping containers could be converted into temporary housing?
Whatever will be suggested next?
Housing old people in cages? Oh, wait...
Michael O'Neill, Tai Kok Tsui
Gratuitous sniping at great lawyer
I find myself yet again having to correct an article by Grenville Cross ("Time to take stock", February 27).
What has become an almost regular feature in articles he writes for the South China Morning Post is his gratuitous sniping at the previous secretary for justice, Wong Yan-lung, SC. Mr Cross left the post of director of public prosecutions in 2009 which he held for 12 years. He was replaced by Ian McWalters, SC (now Mr Justice McWalters) and later myself, and since then we have both implemented major reforms and initiatives to the prosecution service.
I should add that Wong Yan-lung is an outstanding lawyer of the utmost integrity who served the community with principled professionalism as justice secretary.
As to his comments about Wong Yan-lung not standing aside in the Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation in relation to the former chief executive, similar comments were previously made in his article in May of last year ("Too hot to handle"). which I corrected by letter the following month (May 9). I should add that soon after the matter was referred to the ICAC, Mr Wong ceased to be justice secretary on June 30, 2012.
In any event, it had been repeatedly made clear that the secretary for justice had and would in sensitive cases delegate the prosecution decision to the director of public prosecutions and/or seek independent advice from outside counsel.
Mr Cross states that Timothy Tong, the then commissioner of the ICAC, had stood aside because he reported to the then chief executive. That is not so; as Mr Tong stated at the time, he stood aside because he knew another person involved in the matter.
Kevin P. Zervos, SC, director of public prosecutions
Mobile maps have so much potential
Mobile mapmakers are wondering what the next step is in leveraging their mobile map systems as you outlined in the article ("Searching for streets paved with gold", February 24).
There is lots of money to be made in geographic information systems (GIS). They consist of maps loaded with information from databases.
It's a wonderful way to organise and access information, including all the stuff in your home. One example is the Apple Places feature in iPhoto for geographically organising your pictures. Other possibilities are immense.
Since 1969, Esri has been the world leader in the field, with one million customers around the world.
Attaching personal databases to maps seems the way to go, with an enormous expansion of their usefulness.
William DuBay, Ap Lei Chau