Letters to the Editor, April 29, 2013
Public estates involved in recycling
I refer to Colin Bosher's letter ("Food waste recycling scheme works", April 18) which asked if Hong Kong's public housing estates have any recycling programme.
The Housing Authority has in fact undertaken various waste recycling initiatives in recent years and is committed to reducing waste in its public housing estates through different waste recycling and education programmes.
For example, the authority has been part of the Source Separation of Domestic Waste Scheme run by the Environmental Protection Department since 2005. About 1,280 sets of three-coloured recycling bins collecting waste paper, plastic, and metal containers have been placed in domestic blocks in about 160 public housing estates under the authority. In addition, recyclables collection counters are set up in our estates on a regular basis to collect domestic recyclables from tenants.
To widen the choice of recyclables, the authority has also joined the Fluorescent Lamp Recycling and Recycling of Rechargeable Battery programmes run by the Environmental Protection Department, and has also partnered with non-governmental organisations to collect used clothing.
Since 2010, the authority has collaborated with the department to launch a glass bottles recycling trial scheme for 29 public housing estates.
In 2012, the authority launched another trial scheme, an on-site food waste recycling project for two public estates, and an off-site food waste recycling trial scheme for five public estates.
In addition, the authority has also organised educational activities on green management to promote and raise environmental awareness among our tenants. For example, it has been in partnership with three local green groups in the Green Delight programme since 2005.
These groups work side by side with estate management advisory committees in each estate to launch a series of educational green programmes. The committees will also work with local NGOs to organise promotional and educational programmes on green management regularly.
The authority will continue to explore other green initiatives to further improve the living environment in our estates.
Leo Law, chief publicity manager, Housing Department
Government has neglected disabled
I refer to the report ("Disabled face loss of care facilities", April 23).
It should come as no surprise that the Social Welfare Department now intends to pay for urgent upgrades in hostels providing services for the marginalised disabled community of Hong Kong. This is necessary because the government has had a track record of showing a severe lack of interest in these hostels.
Rather than meeting the needs head on the administration delayed for decades. And it funds any minimum effort in a random, disorganised fashion from its windfall from gambling [the Lotteries Fund], an activity that also leads to more social problems.
The disabled of Hong Kong and their overwhelmed caregivers deserve much better from this government.
Catherine LaJeunesse, Sai Kung
Stores can help families on low incomes
High prices in supermarkets have a profound effect on Hongkongers, especially those on low incomes with limited daily budgets.
They are under tremendous financial pressure and often find it very difficult to earn enough to get by. However, prices are still rising and often above the rate of inflation.
The city's large food retail chains could do something about this. For a start, at the end of each day, they could sell unsold perishable goods at a discount to people on low incomes.
After all, many of these products by their very nature will deteriorate overnight and so cannot be displayed on the store's shelves the next day.
What is the point of throwing away this food when it can really help someone?
Also, they could co-operate with different charities such as Oxfam so that low-income families could purchase daily necessities at affordable prices.
They could be issued with a special card by the store to indicate they were eligible for this scheme. Other citizens should support such initiatives. They should try and imagine what it is like to live on or below the poverty line and grasp every opportunity to help these people, including giving donations to NGOs.
The whole community of Hong Kong needs to unite. We must work together to help citizens on low incomes cope with the effects of inflation.
William Chan, Sha Tin
Fearing more sackings with wage hike
The Legislative Council has approved the statutory minimum wage rate increase from HK$28 per hour to HK$30 per hour with effect from May 1.
When the minimum wage was introduced, there was a lot of opposition and some employees claimed that they lost their paid-for lunch hour and had to work even harder than before.
Employers, especially in restaurants, said production costs rose because of the minimum wage and high rate of inflation and many raised prices.
I am worried that with the new HK$30 rate some employees could be fired.
This would be unfair as government statistics indicate that rising rents and increasing costs of imported food take a far larger slice from restaurants' budgets than the wage bill. It would create a far more harmonious workplace if employers took good care of staff and employees, in return, did their best to help the company make profits.
Christina Leung Ka-Yu,Kwai Chung
Singapore hospital rate reasonable
I was surprised to read in Sally Ferguson's letter that in Singapore subsidised health care is available only to Singapore citizens ("Backing Hong Kong's public hospitals", April 29).
When we lived there in 2003, our helper was admitted to hospital and I did not have health insurance for her. When I registered her, I could choose between different classes of care.
At the hospital's recommendation, I chose the cheapest class (which was based on the luxury level of the ward rather than the quality of the care). She had to stay for a week.
I think we paid around S$500 (HK$3,131), which was incredibly cheap for a week-long hospital stay, including medicine.
Maybe the system has changed in the meantime but it certainly offered cheap access to high-quality care at that time.
Josephine Bersee, Happy Valley
Does board now play any useful role?
I refer to the letter by Thomas Chow, chairman of the Town Planning Board ("Town Planning Board members do express independent views", April 22).
Alex Lo's criticism that this statutory board is little more than a rubber stamp is valid ("Planning watchdog on a tight leash", April 17) and the chairman assumes the role of chief whip. Mr Chow protests that he is "obliged to state the facts".
The papers that go before the board for its consideration are prepared by the Planning Department, not an independent secretariat. They list the relative government department's opinions, and include the department's own overall appraisal together with its explicit recommendation for the board's decision and action.
The board has a responsibility to promote the health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the community and to guard against overzealous planners. Will Mr Chow therefore oblige these columns with the facts of how many cases in the last 10 years have been before the board? In how many of those cases has the board's decision differed from the government planners' recommendation? This fact should illuminate board independence, or lack of it.
There is an opinion that the board is obsolete. The Planning Department should take full responsibility for its own decisions, and not use the statutory Town Planning Board as a smokescreen. Developers and the public may subsequently challenge those planning decisions at the Town Planning Appeals Board.
Roger Emmerton, Wan Chai
Problems that one-child policy created
The central government brought in the one-child policy in the 1970s to prevent population growth spiralling out of control. However, the restrictions it has imposed have caused a lot of problems in the years since its introduction.
With the traditional bias for sons in Chinese society, many couples have aborted female fetuses. There have even been cases of forced abortions. Many baby girls are abandoned. The policy has led to an uneven gender ratio with many more men than women.
I understand why the policy was introduced in the first place.
However, given the problems that it has caused, surely it is time for the government to overhaul its population control policies. It can help keep population growth down by placing greater emphasis on education and getting across the message about the advantages to the nation of controlling the population.
Beijing should recognise the problems caused by the one-child policy and address them.
Ruby Kwok, Tsuen Wan