Letters to the Editor, March 8, 2013
Tsang should use surplus to help the poor
With his sixth budget, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah failed to alleviate the problem of the wealth gap in Hong Kong. Tsang obviously feels it is important to be cautious, but there are times when you can be over-cautious.
Citizens from low-income families will not have been happy with the budget.
Despite having a large surplus, Tsang failed to announce measures that would help the poor.
Again we had one-off handouts, when long-term policies were required which could mean significant changes to the lives of people living in poverty.
While the tax concessions he announced might help the middle class, they could have been more generous.
Middle-class citizens are finding life very hard at the moment and the tax concession cap of HK$10,000 could have been raised to HK$13,000.
Also, the increase in stamp duty [announced ahead of the budget] is a measure that needs fine-tuning.
There could be levels of duty depending on a person's income level, with the rich paying the highest rate and the poor the lowest.
Also, I was unhappy with the financial secretary's comments that he was middle class because middle class people drank coffee and liked French films, and he liked "movies and tea" ("Price of entry to middle class…", March 1).
This is not an accurate definition of the middle class. As a top government official, he should choose his words more carefully.
We do not need a financial secretary who feels his only role is to help the government save money.
What we need is a financial chief who is both capable of relieving the financial burden of the poor and ensuring taxpayers' money is not squandered.
I hope that Tsang will do a better job and ensure that more Hongkongers benefit from his budgets.
Ceci Lam Wing-sze, Tsuen Wan
Social mobility an impossible goal for some
I refer to your editorial ("Middle-class: relief, not coffee", March 1).
Traditionally, people from the middle class are seen as being individuals who work hard and make important contributions to capitalist societies like Hong Kong. However, with the gap between rich and poor being so wide, looking at how members of the middle class live and how much they earn may not be an indicator of the standard of living in our society.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah talks about the middle class as drinking coffee and watching films. They are also likely to be citizens who have to bear the heavy financial burden of a mortgage. It is quite ridiculous to link social status with leisure activities.
It is also important to look at the problem of upward social mobility in Hong Kong. If we see society as an escalator, then the trip on that escalator, from university undergraduate to a member of the working middle class, is not an easy one.
As someone who will graduate in June, I think part of the problem is to do with Hong Kong's economic structure.
Business graduates will expect high salaries. Graduates in social sciences and subjects such as journalism and history will have lower financial expectations.
This perennial, unhealthy phenomenon makes most arts faculty graduates sad and frustrated. This is an issue which Mr Tsang has failed to address.
Sally Wong, Mong Kok
Stop making a political issue of baby milk
The milk powder shortage affecting Hong Kong and the mainland should be solved by increasing the import of foreign packaged products to the SAR and not through draconian measures such as the threat of heavy fines and jail sentences.
Hong Kong's prosperity and survival rely on import and export businesses.
There is no reason why Hong Kong cannot swiftly increase the transshipment of milk powder to the mainland.
There is no worldwide shortage of milk and milk powder.
Milk formula for infants is losing popularity in the United States and other countries in the West, because more mothers want to breastfeed.
Rightly or wrongly, mainland mothers want foreign packaged formula. They are the customers so we should sell it to them.
We have a supply and demand problem which can be resolved quickly.
Don't politicise the situation any further. And don't further damage the reputation of Hong Kong as a shopping and tourist mecca.
Don't ruin the good relationship between Hongkongers and mainlanders.
Anthony Tung Kai-cheong, Causeway Bay
Bravo festival organisers for show stopper
The organisers of the Hong Kong Arts Festival deserve our deep gratitude for bringing such pleasure to this city.
The varied fare was absolutely delightful.
It included the great Australian Chamber Orchestra, the wonderful musician Esperanza Spalding, a hit Broadway play by Chinese-American David Henry Hwang, the terrific British National Theatre, the lovely Peking Opera, and especially the magnificent American Ballet Theatre.
For myself, seeing American Ballet Theatre's magical performance of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and the stunning Alexei Ratmansky version of Shostakovich's 9th Symphony was sheer heaven.
Beatriz Taylor, Cheung Chau
Praise for pope who tackled evil
I refer to Alex Lo's column ("Catholic scandals no mere 'footnotes'", February 28).
The allegation that Benedict XVI was responsible for "a long list of cover-ups and conspiracies" is entirely unfounded.
As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then Cardinal Ratzinger asked for a quicker and simpler procedure to discipline priests.
He is partly responsible for the Catholic Church's reforms in this matter which, for example, have seen the number of cases of errant priests reportedly fall in the United States.
Aside from these reforms, Benedict has also personally issued heartfelt apologies and has met with victims of abuse on various occasions.
We should be grateful to the pope emeritus for his courage and determination in uprooting this evil and for the compassion he has shown in reaching out to the victims.
Carmela Ma Ka-mei, Sha Tin
Avoid Europe's mistakes in recycling glass
As a European concerned for the environment, I was happy to read, in your online edition, about calls in Hong Kong for a glass recycling scheme.
In Sweden we had a successful glass recycling scheme, which was launched in 1987, until the EU started phasing out incandescent light bulbs.
In January 2009, an adviser to EU Commissioner Margot Wallström issued a media warning that compact fluorescent lamps contained toxic mercury and called for a skull-and-crossbones label to warn consumers. Unfortunately, this plea was ignored by manufacturers and legislators.
In 2011, our national glass recycling company reported that 200,000 such lamps were being thrown into glass recycling bins every year. Our environment minister threatened legal action and demanded a prompt solution from responsible firms.
It takes only one compact fluorescent lamp to contaminate all the glass in a bin, which must then be deposited as toxic waste or cleaned by complex processes. It also poses a threat to recycling plant workers, as liquid mercury starts vapourising at room temperature. These lamps should have warning labels informing of mercury content, advising how to protect against the toxin if the lamp breaks, and where to dispose of it at the end of its life.
LEDs also contain toxic chemicals unsuitable for glass recycling and should be labelled.
I hope Hong Kong's citizens and leaders can learn from our mistakes and make wiser choices than we did in Europe.
Inger Glimmero, Stockholm, Sweden
Much at stake in decision on third runway
I can understand those correspondents who have argued in favour of a third runway at the airport.
It can bring positive developments, such as more job opportunities and fostering tourism, but there are drawbacks.
Residents in Lantau villages near the airport have found their lives have been transformed by their proximity to Chek Lap Kok, and not for the better. A third runway project would mean more construction work and more disruption.
Environmental concerns also have to be addressed. Pressure groups have warned that the project would threaten marine life, in particular the Chinese white dolphin.
While the government recognises the threat to the dolphins and wants to keep any damage to their ecosystem to a minimum, it cannot guarantee they will not be affected by further development.
The administration must think very carefully before deciding whether or not to go ahead with the project.
Michael Ng Tsz-chung, Ma On Shan