Letters to the Editor, June 8, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 June, 2013, 2:11am

Protect historic treasures of To Kwa Wan

As a resident of Hong Kong I have come to care deeply for this city.

Part of what makes it such a wonderful place to live in lies in the character of its distinct neighbourhoods. To Kwa Wan is among these.

Where large parts of Hong Kong have seen plenty of urban renewal projects carried out over the years, this part of Kowloon has not.

The mostly mid-20th century buildings there are now in a dilapidated state and, as such, viewed as unattractive to residents. Being an important part of Hong Kong's built heritage and thus culture, these structures should be preserved.

Once extensively renovated, their true architectural beauty will show again and create a pleasant environment for inhabitants and visitors alike.

So far, only specific buildings have been given the heritage title in Hong Kong but I believe the area bordered by Ngan Hon, Sung On and Bailey streets and Ma Tau Wai/To Kwa Wan roads (with the exception of Bailey Garden) should be named To Kwa Wan Historic District.

Without a historic context, buildings will lose a lot of their value.

A similar example would be the White City of Tel Aviv. Built in the Bauhaus style, most of its historic buildings were until recently also in bad shape. However, they have now been renovated, and the White City has even been named a Unesco World Cultural Heritage site.

Arguments against preservation would be the scarcity of land in Hong Kong and that it is more expensive to renovate than to replace. The area I have described is small; and not everything can be valued in monetary terms.

As Ding Lik-kiu, former chairman of the Hong Kong Conservancy Association once said, if the government appeared only to value money, Hong Kong's youth could not be expected to hold to higher standards.

But if economic value is considered, with tourism booming, surely the creation of such a historic district would generate tourism revenue.

The government should consider this proposal before another part of Hong Kong's cultural identity is lost forever.

Massimo Catarinella, Hung Hom


Heed calls for green park on harbourfront

I was shocked by the comments of Michael Lynch, chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority ("Arts hub will need more cash, chief says", June 3), especially his remarks that there might have to be substantial downgrading including, I presume, of the Great Park.

The Hong Kong Alternatives - a citizens advocacy group calling for a "cultural green park" - believes such comments to be irresponsible. They show a complete disregard for public opinion.

For more than eight years, we have been calling on the government to consider alternative funding via public participation, tapping local philanthropists, corporate taipans, foundations and institutes like the Jockey Club, to establish a cultural district conservation foundation.

These city fathers would be the directors and the chairman of the board, and would take charge of fund-raising campaigns to finance future development of art and culture in Hong Kong.

We urge the arts hub authority to immediately allocate 10 per cent of the funds it has available to establish a working group of landscape architects, horticulturists and naturalists.

They should develop a fast-track programme to turn the present barren terrain into a manicured green meadow. This should be done before any major construction work begins, and in conjunction with cultural activities.

Hongkongers should not be deprived of a healthy and green harbourfront park.

K. N. Wai, the Hong Kong Alternatives


Questions over top aide's contribution

To quote a report on a current hot topic, "Top officials said the impact of Cheung's resignation would be minimal" ("Police question senior bosses in HKMEx inquiry", May 26).

Given that Barry Cheung Chun-yuen was a top aide to the chief executive and occupied other important public positions, this begs the question as to what he actually did and why he was paid so much for it.

If he was truly a valued member of the top echelons, I would have thought his resignation would have had a huge impact.

Andy Smailes, Pok Fu Lam


Lantau police must do more after tragedies

The tragic events on the roads of South Lantau seem to have gone unnoticed by the local police force.

These included a fatal motorbike accident on a Saturday afternoon and the deaths of eight feral cows on the once peaceful roads of South Lantau.

The local police presence is witnessed only on Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes, at the same time and the same place, when officers check for Lantau driving permits.

It seems the police spend the time in their cosy, rural and fully air-conditioned offices, stepping outside only to pick up their lunch from the beachside restaurants.

Could the commissioner of police please reassure the residents of South Lantau that he will now take action and actually police the roads to stop further innocent deaths?

Martin Bradley, Lantau


Culture, not economy, HK's big challenge

In April, Zhang Dejiang , No 3 on the Politburo Standing Committee, warned that Hong Kong was losing its competitive edge.

The top official, who is in charge of Hong Kong affairs, said the city could be "swept downstream" if it did not focus on economic development. I disagree with the points he made.

Hong Kong has one of the world's most robust economies and has succeeded through the policy of "big market, small government".

Even the implementation of the minimum wage law did not damage its free economy. But I think it has focused too much on domestic economic development and it is time to look at cultural development.

This is a beautiful city and it is its culture which makes it unique and special to people who visit from all over the world. In order to maintain that unique character, the government has to do more to help small and medium-sized enterprises. In particular, it must do what it can to stop our traditional shops from being forced to close down because of skyrocketing rents.

Charmaine Li Wing-huen, Tsing Yi


No place for sorry scenes of racial abuse

I am writing about the disturbing scenes of crowd disorder which occurred after the final whistle of the soccer match on Tuesday between Hong Kong and the Philippines ("Filipinos backed over soccer taunts", June 6).

Not content with pelting the celebrating Philippines players with multiple missiles, the Hong Kong fans turned their anger on the section housing the Philippine fans, which was largely made up of women.

What followed was a torrent of verbal abuse and continued missile throwing. The abuse continued for around 20 minutes and caused a lot of distress to the fans who were targeted.

I have seen many Hong Kong international matches in recent years and they are no strangers to defeat, so what prompted this outburst of vitriol at a narrow 0-1 defeat in what was merely a friendly game? Considering one of the few printable insults was "country of slaves", it can strongly be assumed that the abuse had racial undertones.

The police were almost completely inactive, no matter how bad the abuse became, and failed to apprehend any of the culprits. Just what level of crowd disturbance needs to occur for them to take action?

On a night when Hong Kong showed its solidarity in a peaceful June 4 candlelit vigil in Victoria Park, it was disappointing to witness such scenes elsewhere in the city.

As most of the aggressors appeared to be under 25, I do hope this is not a sign of a growing trend among the young people of Hong Kong.

If this city wants to continue to brand itself as Asia's world city, it needs to address the issue of racial intolerance, particularly towards such a large ethnic group that contributes so much to Hong Kong.

Chris Brown, Sai Kung


Set standard for Exco transparency

I agree with lawmakers who say that Executive Council members should declare their liabilities if the sum they have lost is large.

Such declarations would help to restore public confidence in the government.

This full disclosure is important since Exco helps the chief executive formulate government policy. They are privy to sensitive information at these meetings so there must be complete transparency.

This is important given that many people have talked of collusion between the government and business sector on certain issues. The government should issue guidelines so that Exco members know when it is appropriate for them to go public on their liabilities.

The community has high expectations regarding their conduct.

Lewis Yeung Lok-ming, Tseung Kwan O