The influx of parallel traders who buy their stock tax-free in Hong Kong to resell it in mainland China at a profit is causing growing unrest. Residents of Sheung Shui, a town close to China's border, say the increase in parallel importers has pushed up retail prices and causes a general nuisance. Importers argue that their trade benefits the Hong Kong economy.
Letters to the Editor, March 17, 2013
Make trade in parallel goods fair for all
Parallel-goods trading is a controversial topic and a practice condemned by many people. However, I think it is beneficial to Hong Kong to some extent.
Shops like pharmacies, where people buy popular parallel trade products like formula milk to take back and sell in the mainland, see increased business and as a result will have to pay more in profits tax.
This extra revenue might help the government to implement initiatives that will help Hong Kong people, for example improving infrastructure.
However, there is no doubt the parallel-goods trade also brings disadvantages for Hong Kong. In Sheung Shui, where the parallel traders have been doing business for a long time, and frequently block access to the MTR station, residents have been inconvenienced and seen their quality of life reduced.
Moreover, the goods bought by the mainlanders can lead, as with milk powder, to shortages for Hong Kong citizens, possibly increasing prices through supply and demand, and lead to inflation.
Even so, I think the government should implement policies to regulate the practice that balance the interests of all parties, instead of targeting only the parallel traders.
Natalie Key, Tseung Kwan O
Clear evidence 'green' lighting is harmful
I refer to the letter by Allan Dyer ("'Green' lighting fears just a Luddite attack", March 3) replying to my letter ("'Green' light bulbs really a health hazard", February 22).
Evidence linking compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and LED lighting to mental illness, depression, exhaustion, and eyesight problems can be found on the Spectrum Alliance website. This site contains testimonies from patients, optometrists and medical doctors, including a clinical immunologist, who links causes of chronic fatigue syndrome directly to these light bulbs.
Patients across Europe have been unnecessarily prescribed drugs, with bad side effects, for a range of symptoms when in reality all they needed was to avoid CFL and LED lighting. CFLs and LEDs generate light very different from natural light. Incandescent bulbs produce light similar to natural light. It is the light spectrum from CFLs and LEDs that causes illness.
On January 19 the UN signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury. It bans the production, import and export from 2020 of certain types of CFLs because of the serious impact the mercury contained in these bulbs has on humans and the environment.
The article "Green light bulbs poison workers", in The Times, in 2009, gives a detailed account of how CFLs are linked to ill health. The Daily Mail on March 5 identified villages in China where pollution from metals has caused high rates of disease as "cancer villages".
Where I live, broken CFLs and LEDs are just tossed into normal rubbish, leaving rubbish collectors regularly exposed to cancerous toxins. The management company's attitude is one of, this is not a problem because the government is promoting these bulbs as green. The light bulb industry spends billions of dollars a year on securing deals with governments and green groups to promote CFLs and LEDs because these bulbs yield more income than the incandescent bulbs they seek to ban.
The Hong Kong government should ensure all light bulbs carry labels for light spectrum and toxins. Actual CFL and LED bulbs should be stamped with the skull and crossbones to prompt responsible disposal.
Dr Robert Hanson, Tseung Kwan O
Aquino not to blame in Sulu affair
I refer to the Philip Bowring's column ("Buried by time but not forgotten", March 10) on the incursion into the Malaysian state of Sabah by followers of the Philippine-based Sultan of Sulu.
Bowring says the "stupidity of Philippine politicians is stupefying".
However, it is important not to lump Philippine President Benigno Aquino with such stupidity. It's true that too many politicians in Manila are perennially obtuse about a great number of issues, but Aquino did not condone the madcap action of his country's Muslim marauders into Sabah. He took this stand, not only because that long-forgotten cause is irrelevant in the larger scheme of things, but because he needs to maintain solidarity with Malaysia in the struggle against China's bullying tactics vis-à-vis the South China Sea dispute.
Because of the poverty and disarray among various Muslim factions in the southern Philippines, it's easy to speculate that the Sultan of Sulu hoped to partake of the assets of Malaysia's thriving economy.
L. M. S. Valerio, Tin Hau
Reducing litter would deter feral raiders
Reading the report on the problems of feral cattle in Sai Kung Country Park ("Officers step up battle to rein in feral cattle", March 10), might I suggest officials consider enforcing anti-littering laws at barbecue sites in conjunction with extra refuse pick-ups on weekends and public holidays.
Having lived in the country park for several years I am amazed that people who obviously enjoy the countryside leave their waste strewn all over popular barbecue spots for others to clear up.
Cows (as well as monkeys and dogs) will not pass up the opportunity to forage through rubbish looking for food.
Rather than blaming feral animals for seizing the opportunity to find an easy meal, perhaps more preventative measures should be taken to keep litter under control.
Devon Bovenlander, Sai Kung
Compelling case for free legal aid plan
I am glad to hear about the government starting free legal advice at the total cost of HK$9.2 million, which is nothing for the government, but is a lot for those people who cannot afford to pay fees for barristers and solicitors ("Free legal advice to cost city HK$9.2m", March 12).
There are many people who want to represent themselves in court but have not much knowledge of procedures, and a case can go against them if they do not know the system.
With the help of free legal advice they will be able to get enough knowledge of how to fight a case themselves in court without a solicitor or barrister.
Gary Ahuja, Tsim Sha Tsui
Action long overdue on defective food
China has long been notorious for food scandals, so people's confidence in mainland food products has been damaged.
We should consider why some of China's food factory owners produce substandard food, and what are the negative impacts of doing so.
Unscrupulous food factory owners use poor quality or defective ingredients to cut costs or add cheap, harmful chemicals to make the food more palatable or appear fresher.
Producing substandard food is a despicable deed because it will have numerous negative impacts on different parties.
Even if a single agency which is responsible for food and drug regulation throughout the mainland is created, will it be enough to effectively address the problem of substandard food?
As well as introducing a regulatory agency, education for both food factory owners and the public should be provided. The government should teach food factory owners about the ethical aspects of their business, food safety and consumer rights. Subsidies could be allocated to enable them to select high-quality raw materials. Meanwhile, the public should be educated to recognise and avoid defective food. Factories producing the bad food should be named and shamed.
Food scandals involving toxic milk powder, waste food reprocessed into cheap cooking oil, and other health hazards involving food have disgraced China in the eyes of the world.
Adding chemical substances to food seems to be highly prevalent among producers in the mainland. For these reasons, the government should be very serious about tackling this problem.
David Wan Ho-yan, Tsuen Wan
Opportunity missed to slow soaring rents
I refer to the budget and wish to say how disappointing it was that there was no plan to restrict the rise in residential rents. A lot of attention has been given to the rise in property prices and supplying more public housing - including public rental units.
However, the number of people affected by rental increases in the private residential sector far exceeds those on public housing waiting lists - for both subsidised purchases and rental units.
Government ministers dislike anything that interferes with a "free market". I beg to differ and demand that the old rent control legislation be reintroduced, with improvements to further protect tenants. The government should not tolerate residential properties becoming a "speculative" commodity.
Just imagine - if rice was allowed to be speculated upon, we'd all starve.
Nigel Lam, Tin Shui Wai