Letters to the Editor, May 30, 2013

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 May, 2013, 2:56am

Officials keep opting for more concrete

I refer to the letter by Edwin K. H. Tong, of the Civil Engineering and Development Department ("Government will give priority to near-shore reclamation projects", May 21).

Mr Tong should know that there will always be unease over reclamation while the department that pours the concrete is the same one heading the consultation.

True to form for the department's consultations, the material presented to the public contains no data to explain Hong Kong's environmental or developmental challenges. What are Hong Kong's population assumptions on which the department bases its plans?

All the public gets is pure marketing and free plastic folders. The department's consultants use pictures of Singapore and the Netherlands to convince the public to support reclamation. Why not show examples of the department's real work - the concreting of our hillsides and shorelines - to ask the public if they want more of the same?

Hong Kong's laissez-faire system has generated many land issues requiring urgent attention - areas that need to be regenerated; agricultural land purposely despoiled; land banking by developers; new housing standing empty and old buildings abandoned; sensible planning impeded by petty squabbles and colonial-era rules and collusion.

Instead of focusing resources on addressing these problems, our bureaucrats chose to pour concrete into the sea. Bravo Hong Kong - a bold vision indeed from the "Concrete Everything for Dollars Department".

Jo Wilson, chairperson, Living Lamma


Accusations of poor hygiene unfounded

We would like once again to refute the allegation of lack of hygiene facilities at Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) as raised in Martin Brinkley's letter ("Poor hygiene in workplace not acceptable", May 27).

To clarify the matter, it was a group of crane operators who alleged such poor hygiene conditions existed - a statement that was actually challenged by the staff themselves.

Toilet breaks have always been available to the staff as required, with 20 stationary and mobile toilets placed in HIT's terminal yards approximately 200 metres apart so crane operators are never far from one.

The crane drivers are in continuous radio contact with their supervisors who will send vehicles to take them to the toilets on request. We have been monitoring these calls in recent weeks and in all cases a dispatch car arrived at the crane within 15 minutes.

Contrary to company regulations, there is evidence that some staff have not bothered to follow the rules and relieved themselves in the crane cabin. This is not conducive to leaving a particularly pleasant environment for their co-workers and damages the equipment.

It is in no way condoned by the company and the crane operators are aware that they can be severely disciplined for such practices.

It is unfortunate that media coverage of our rebuttal received less coverage than the false allegations made at the time.

Edward Tang, general manager - operations, Hongkong International Terminals


Look at all angles before extending tax

The levy on plastic bags in retail stores in Hong Kong has been in force since July 2009, yet some people are still sceptical about its effectiveness and whether it should be extended.

The legislation was introduced to encourage citizens to bring their own bags when they go shopping. The disincentive came in the form of a 50-cents charge for each plastic bag they asked for in the store.

They could still get bags for free when purchasing fresh fruit, seafood or bread.

After the first 12 months, it appeared that the scheme had been successful, with a drop in the number of plastic bags ending up in Hong Kong's landfills.

However, the next year, praise turned to doubt with some environmental groups and lawmakers questioning the effectiveness of the scheme.

They argued that some shops were taking advantage of a loophole, with some products being sold sealed in plastic bags.

I have noticed a change in attitude by many shoppers. I often see housewives now bringing their own bags to supermarkets. Clearly, more people are becoming environmentally friendly.

However, there is still evidence of abuse. Bags provided for fresh fruit and seafood are taken by some shoppers to hold other goods.

I am also concerned to see cashiers at supermarket checkouts putting frozen food or snacks into plastic bags without asking the customer.

The government proposes extending the scheme to cover 100,000 retail outlets, up from about 3,000 shops currently ("Paper bags 'shouldn't be substitute' for plastic bags", May 13). It has also announced its intention to reduce by 40 per cent the amount of waste dumped in landfills by 2022.

Some critics have said that paper bags might be used instead and will still end up in landfills.

I don't think small and medium-sized enterprises in the retail sector will offer paper bags to customers, as they are too expensive. However, this is still something to be considered by the government.

It must ensure that the extended scheme is well planned.

There are examples of levy schemes working. In Ireland, consumption of plastic bags was cut by 90 per cent and the tax resulted in millions of euros in revenue. Other countries have followed suit and it is becoming a global trend.

Our government can learn from these examples, but must look thoroughly at all aspects of an extended scheme.

Elaine Chow Yuen-ting, Tung Chung


Undermining traditional family values

There has been a heated debate about the Court of Final Appeal's ruling to allow a transsexual woman the right to marry a man.

Leaders of some religious groups have expressed concerns about this decision, feeling it undermines traditional family values. Although I am not a follower of any religion, I agree with this view.

For example, what would happen if a father with sons decided to become a transsexual? What effect would this have on family life even if the family somehow stayed intact? I can't help feeling that, in such a situation, the sons would feel worried about the reaction from their peer group.

We have to consider the adverse impact on traditional values in the family and in society.

Jacky Leung Ka-hoi, Diamond Hill


Hongkongers need to be more relaxed

I refer to the letter by Adrian Kwok ("Ad encourages irresponsible behaviour", May 16).

I do not know much about one2free's new smartphone app called Playground, but I did watch three adverts promoting it. They showed people who were bothering the user disappearing with a tap on the phone's screen.

They were amusing and were meant to highlight how much fun it is to access the Playground app.

Although one did show a teenager ignoring his mother's call to help her with the housework, I think it is unlikely that it would encourage teenagers to care more about computer games than doing their household chores.

Young people love to play, but most also recognise the importance of studying hard in school and being dutiful sons and daughters.

They are constantly being taught the importance of filial piety, as it is an integral part of Chinese culture. These adverts should be seen as a harmless attempt at humour.

If anyone takes them too seriously, that is perhaps a reflection on our society. People in this international city face heavy workloads and busy lifestyles. They are often so busy and tense at work that they have little time for humour.

The selling point of Playground is to say that we need to lighten up.

People need to relax more. Also, there is a tendency to be too critical in Hong Kong. Citizens can sometimes be oversensitive and negative and this can hurt the harmony of our society.

There needs to be a change of mindset, with less complaining or fault-finding.

Cress Tam, Tsuen Wan


Puzzled by pointless use of umbrella

When there is a sudden downpour, you see the appearance of hundreds of umbrellas on the streets of Hong Kong.

However, it amused me to note that they even do this when they are swimming.

During the Buddha's birthday public holiday on May 17, as it was a very hot day, I went with my family to two different beaches.

We were quite astonished by what we saw.

When there was a brief rainstorm, people who were swimming and therefore were already soaking wet, immediately left the sea to take shelter under umbrellas.

Those who couldn't get to their umbrellas in time resorted to folded-up newspapers.

This was a new and amusing experience for myself and my family.

I wonder if any of your readers can enlighten me on this practice and explain the difference between getting wet in the sea and in the rain.

Baseer Naweed, Tai Wai