Land exchange best hope for urban growth
I refer to Jake van der Kamp's column ("Land exchange is not the way forward", June 6) in reply to my letter ("Adopt land exchange for new town", June 5).
I was delighted to read his cosy view that we are "under nowhere near the development pressures we faced back then", from the 1960s to the 1980s.
In fact the situation is worse today by any standards, brought about by the 10-year pause in the public housing programme and the adoption of fiscal remedies (pace Donald Tsang Yam-kuen) to solve our housing requirements.
Our population has grown by half a million since then, from immigration of the largely poorly educated 150 a day from the mainland, and our housing needs continue to grow from frustrated household formation, ageing population and other causes.
As for another of his points, let those who have experienced them speak up for the "better resumption and compensation arrangements".
Van der Kamp makes light of the fact that the ownership of the land is almost always in the hands of the developers and not the smallholders who are glad to get the developers' shilling rather than the pusillanimous awards of the Lands Tribunal.
If we devised a system of exchange which now took this question of developer ownership into consideration and set a ratio of exchange, which reflected our present urban plans, then the payment of premium for the land granted in exchange would be a question of open valuation between buyers and sellers.
Surrender of the land would be quickly achieved and we could get on straight away with the urban development, hospitals and schools and the housing we so desperately need.
David Akers-Jones, Yau Ma Tei
HK legal status key to choice of safe haven
Why would US whistle-blower Edward Snowden choose to seek refuge in a place which is not even bound by the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees?
He said he chose the city because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent", and because he believed it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.
On March 25, an important judgment of C and Others v Director of Immigration and Others was handed down from the Court of Final Appeal, reaffirming the high standard of justice required in torture, persecution, and human rights cases.
One of the judges hearing the case, Mr Justice Robert Tang Ching, said the director of immigration was entitled to rely on the Refugee Status Determination of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
He said, "But it is essential that the determination must be made by the director and his duly authorised officers and that the determination must satisfy the high standards of fairness required".
Therefore, in conformity with the principle of non-refoulement, if Snowden turns to our government, the onus is on the Immigration Department to screen and assess Snowden's case independently, irrespective of the pressure from Beijing and Washington.
Hong Kong's legal independence is to be Snowden's safeguard, though in his interview with The Guardian he said he might eventually seek asylum in Iceland.
Brian Chan, Lam Tin
Rugby fans let down by dire match-up
Being a Kiwi I am an ardent rugby follower, and so naturally I was drawn to all the hype surrounding the one-off supposed mega match between the touring British and Irish Lions and the semi-legendary Barbarians.
Sad to say, I was also severely duped, along with thousands of other spectators, many of whom left the dire match-up well before the final whistle.
The so-called game was an overpriced farce.
The Barbarians were a pathetic squad of ageing players who had none of the supposed magical flair we had all been indoctrinated to believe they had in abundance. In short, they were useless and no match for a necessarily disjointed Lions squad.
What made things more farcical was the ludicrous decision to play this game in near mid-summer, when even mad dogs wouldn't venture out. No one could prosper in that sultriness, manifestly not the Barbarians. And not the audience who would have far rather sung along with Neil Diamond, than subject themselves to the Keystone Cops injury-break dancers out on the pitch, foaming at their respective mouths for the many water refreshment breaks.
Also, it was absurd that, given the location and the occasion, that fine local player Rowan Varty didn't even get a run-on for the Barbarians. Without any shadow of a doubt, he would have comprehensively outplayed all of his fellow team-mates.
Hong Kong Rugby Football Union got everything wrong, when in fact it had an opportunity to really get it all right.
Vaughan Rapatahana, Tin Shui Wai
Plover Cove option for fake Tai Po beach
Before the government goes ahead with its ill-conceived plan for the destruction of Lung Mei beach in Tai Po, has it considered the alternative possibility of constructing an artificial beach at the foot of the nearby Plover Cove Reservoir dam instead?
Since this is already an artificial environment, further development there would probably be far less ecologically damaging to the area than the current plan, which would wipe out a natural habitat rich in marine life.
Rod Parkes, Tai Po
Urgent need to address wealth gap
The wealth gap is creating various problems for our society.
Clear distinctions are made between different social groups, especially rich and poor, and conflicts can break out. This brings disharmony to society.
If the wealth gap cannot be dealt with the government's financial burden will increase as it will have to spend more of its budget on welfare payments and, of course, that burden is passed on to taxpayers.
The minimum wage legislation has not offered a solution as it is not enough for families faced with price increases.
The government has to deal with the problem of the widening gap between rich and poor by adopting short- and long-term policies. In the short term, there must be a substantial increase in the allowance which is given to disabled citizens.
In the long term, the administration must offer more financial support for retraining schemes. If people learn new skills, then they have a better chance of upward mobility.
Tracy Yu Ming-chui, Yau Yat Chuen
Beware the threats of more reclamation
Many in Hong Kong have expressed unease over government proposals to implement more reclamation projects.
Before any final decision is made on any of them, it is important to look at the positive and negative effects.
The government has talked about the financial advantages.
Take, for example, the proposal to build a third runway at the airport. The construction project will bring in more foreign investment. Also, once the runway is completed, the airport's capacity will increase.
More visitors and more goods will come into the SAR via Chek Lap Kok which will boost the economy.
Those opposed to further reclamation argue that it will threaten our marine environment and lead to a decrease of our biodiversity.
They point in particular to the plight of the Chinese white dolphins. They can still be seen swimming off Lantau, but will that still be the case once the third runway is built, given the disruption caused to their habitat by the construction work?
Their numbers are in decline and it was reported last month that their few areas of suitable habitat are shrinking. As of now, there are only 78 of the rare creatures remaining.
Their disappearance could lead to fewer tourists for Hong Kong. We have to consider all these issues and ask if economic growth is really more important than the environment?
Chan Pui-wai, Yau Yat Chuen
Armchair travellers can enjoy the ride
There have been some complaints online about two TVB programmes which focus on luxury travel.
Actually, Nat Around the World and Pilgrimage of Wealth are my two favourite travel programmes shown by the station. Yet, they have provoked widespread criticism. I would attribute this attitude to the widespread hostility most Hongkongers feel about the rich.
They argue that the programmes focus on the kind of high-end leisure activities and expensive products that only the rich could afford. For instance, the hosts visited a Michelin-starred restaurant, and exclusive apartments and wore designer clothes.
It seems some people feel jealous that they cannot afford this kind of luxury lifestyle and I think this is irrational.
I think these shows can actually benefit viewers. People from the grass roots are given the chance to broaden their horizons. For those from middle-class and upper-class backgrounds, the shows provide information about different countries, which helps them to plan their next trip abroad. When we are all so busy at work, it is a convenient way to acquire that information.
Leung Pik-kwan, Wong Tai Sin