Letters to the Editor, March 23, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 March, 2013, 2:57am


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Standing up to milk brands' machinery

I refer to the letter from Clara Shek, of the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong ("Baby milk marketing ban a blunt weapon that will hurt HK", March 16).

It was interesting to see yet another self-interested commercial group complain about the proposed Hong Kong Code of Marketing of Formula Milk.

Formula manufacturers are likely to spend much of their annual marketing budget of HK$1.6 billion to fight the proposal to ban all marketing activities on formula milk for children less than three years old. They are concerned about losing some of their substantial profits.

Despite their assertions that there is no evidence their marketing affects breastfeeding rates, recently published research by the University of Hong Kong shows that the rate has risen substantially in public hospitals since free formula samples were no longer provided. It also shows that the best predictor for short-duration or no breastfeeding is the early introduction of formula.

If the manufacturers, promoters and retailers of formula had provided "honest advertising content" and "legitimate marketing operations", there would be no need for the code. The World Health Organisation introduced the worldwide code in 1981 as a direct result of unscrupulous marketing activities by formula manufacturers, and these continue, albeit in a different form, today.

No baby over the age of 12 months needs formula but 77 per cent of four-year-olds in Hong Kong still drink it because advertising has convinced them it is required, even though culturally the Chinese consume few, if any, dairy products.

The Department of Health needs to address the underlying reasons for poor breastfeeding rates in Hong Kong - and there are many. But at least it's starting where it knows it will have the biggest impact.

It is hard for the government, non-profit and volunteer groups to counterbalance the claims of such a big industry which can - and will - spend money on advertising and numerous other forms of marketing, including to medical professionals, that help it to grow its market.

It is in the public interest that there be a level playing field of information about formula milk rather than the one-sided information that is available through the current so-called free market.

Caroline Carson, La Leche League Hong Kong


What type of democracy do we 'deserve'?

It is comforting to know from Jennifer Eagleton that we are only relegated to a lesser kind of democracy than desired and not, as Chris Patten and his disciples say, that we are totally without democracy ("We now have lower form of democracy", March 18).

But what is the level of democracy that we were at first thought to deserve? I am sure nobody knew, including those on either side who negotiated for our future beyond 1997, because no one knew our dependability (maturity is the wrong word) to do good and not ill with the double-edged sword of democracy.

After the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong, we saw self-righteous people remotely passing judgment (which turned out to be wide of the mark) on and meddling in what was happening in 1989 in Beijing from late April to June 4.

That was the first sign of our "non-dependability", which caused the level of democracy intended for us to be rolled back. Frankly, people were over-traumatised regarding Tiananmen. There could be no justification for overturning the agreement to return Hong Kong to China. One legislator called for Hong Kong to go independent and another for it to be leased to Britain for a further 100 years.

Then we have the likes of "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, Albert Chan Wai-yip and Wong Yuk-man messing things up. And of course we have the annual June 4 brainwashing of the younger generation by the late Szeto Wah's lot, calling for the overthrow of the central government.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan


Confusion on government paternalism

In his column ("Was Confucius a behavioural scientist?" March 18) Alex Lo offers us a false choice by saying that John Stuart Mill is in favour of unrestrained liberty and Confucius justifies government paternalism.

All governments (including Western ones) "nudge" their citizens and society in certain directions; the question is how they do it.

The idea of government as parent is not alien to Western governments; the question is, are you a "tiger mother" whose methods verge on the abusive or a parent who respects the rights of the individual child?

Chris White, Sai Ying Pun


Bus firms must impose large suitcase charge

Recently I have noticed that some people are taking heavy suitcases and other bulky luggage on regular bus routes between Sham Shui Po and Tsim Sha Tsui.

This luggage takes up a lot of space and reduces the standing capacity on buses when they are full. I would suggest that the bus companies charge them double fare, because they prevent other fare-paying passengers from boarding.

It is fine for people to take such luggage onto airport buses, but it is very inconvenient to other passengers when they do so on regular city routes.

I hope the bus companies will take some action on this.

T. Narain, Sham Shui Po


More heritage, less glitz, for Lantau project

The proposal to develop Lantau into a commercial zone by building more shopping malls in Tung Chung is not feasible.

Most hotels are located in urban areas like Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay and it will take visitors a long time to get to Lantau. Therefore, I cannot see building more malls in Tung Chung as a way of diverting tourists away from these overcrowded urban areas that are so popular with shoppers.

Also, Hong Kong is seen as a shopping paradise with its diversity of retail options. But we already have too many malls with a lot of international-brand retail outlets. They are not that different from what can be found in many countries. It would just be boring for people if we built more of the same.

It will be more interesting for visitors if we develop traditional shops on Lantau which sell products that reflect the unique culture of the city.

Cherry Yau Wing-yan, Sha Tin


Police cracking down on illegal bikes, tricycles

I refer to L. Charleston's letter ("Call to recycle intelligence on 'danger' bikes", March 16), which expressed concern over the use of electric bicycles and tricycles in Mui Wo, Lantau.

Public safety, of which road safety and the reduction of traffic accidents form an integral part, is a key operational priority for the Lantau Police District.

The police will continue to promote road safety through a three-pronged approach, namely: publicity, education and enforcement.

Our officers are very mindful of your correspondent's concerns.

Not only in Sham Shui Po, but throughout Hong Kong, the police are taking enforcement action, including warnings and arrests, against persons driving motorised bicycles and tricycles in contravention of the law. Indeed, on March 19, two people were arrested for such offences on Lantau.

Please be assured that the police will continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate action to ensure the safety of all road users.

To assist the local police, your readers are encouraged to report any sighting of the use of electric bicycles and tricycles in the Mui Wo area to the duty officer of the Lantau South divisional police station at 2984 6200, or call 999 in case of emergency situations.

Eddie Wong Kwok-wai, chief superintendent, police public relations branch


Curbing phone addiction is in parents' hands

With rapid advances in technology, most people, especially teenagers, now have their own smartphone.

They use it to chat with friends, surf the internet and also use it for entertainment.

However, because these devices have so many functions and are therefore so useful, some youngsters are unable to practise self-control and become addicted.

Something must be done to prevent them from getting to this stage.

Overusing your smartphone, given their tiny screens, can affect your eyesight if you are reading small-sized text for long periods of time.

It can also affect students' schoolwork.

With all the distractions offered by the phone, they will spend less time studying and this will affect their academic performance.

It is up to the parents to nip this problem in the bud.

They should limit the time their children can spend on a smartphone and talk to them about relying less on the gadget in their daily lives and alert them to the risks of overuse.

With greater parental control, teenage addiction to these devices will become less of a problem.

Cheung Wing-yip, Tseung Kwan O