Clean Hong Kong campaign doomed to fail

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 May, 2013, 1:23am

While it is laudable that top officials set a good example last Friday with the launch of the Hong Kong: Our Home cleaning campaign, most ordinary citizens will have just rolled their eyes ("Ministers sweep into hygiene roles", April 27).

They know that as soon as the officials put their spotless white T-shirts, new rubber gloves and dusters away, it will be business as usual.

We will never achieve a cleaner city while the current modus operandi of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, tasked with keeping our neighbourhoods clean, is allowed to continue.

For some unfathomable reason, the department's street patrols are all officers of the hawker control unit. They hang around with their arms folded, often on streets that have never had a hawker problem. Any approach made to them with regard to cleansing and hygiene issues is met with the "it's not our duty" response.

There are no regular officers checking on, for example, overflowing dustbins, items stored on pavements, hygiene problems in alleys, open dumpsters often close to restaurants, renovation work conducted without the required screens in place, and dripping air conditioners. Only in Hong Kong would shopkeepers be allowed to store dirty mops and buckets on a main thoroughfare like Nathan Road.

Also, the department has failed to curb the anti-social activities of smokers who flick ash all over the place and discard their cigarette butts everywhere. The officers make a point of steering clear of any smokers' corner. The supply of special cigarette butt bins is totally inadequate, so smokers gather around regular dustbins on busy junctions, forcing pedestrians to breathe in second-hand smoke while they wait to cross the street.

Tsim Sha Tsui Residents' Concern Group has been suggesting for years that it is high time the role of the department's officers was reviewed. We need officers on our streets who can handle all issues related to general hygiene. If an officer cannot resolve the situation himself, he would alert the responsible department.

Not only does the new government publicity campaign achieve little, one can only surmise how much additional landfill the T-shirts, rubber gloves and other paraphernalia used once and then discarded have generated.

Handing out plastic bags with free products is another refuse generator.

When can we expect some practical and sustainable solutions from the government?

Paul Kumar, member, Tsim Sha Tsui Residents' Concern Group