Letters to the Editor, July 1, 2013
Policies fail to make flats affordable
As a young professional who was born in the 1980s, I would like to comment on what the government has done so far to tackle Hong Kong's seemingly never-ending housing problems.
The most drastic measure taken so far is the imposition of heavier stamp duties on some property buyers. This has had some cooling effect.
However, property prices remain higher than in 1997 when it was thought they were at their peak.
I disagree with those who argue that one of the main problems is insufficient supply.
There are plenty of new residential buildings, but how many citizens can afford to buy the flats? I think the answer would be very few.
The situation has been exacerbated by mainland citizens coming here and buying a property for investment purposes.
Not only does this raise prices but it demoralises those Hongkongers trying to buy a place to live in.
Further measures, on top of the stamp duties, must be taken to control the number of non-local property buyers.
Redevelopment is another solution, but the government has not been decisive.
It is failing to earmark which areas should be allocated for urban renewal.
There is a lack of overall co-ordination and officials cannot even say how many flats could be created through redevelopment projects.
It must come up with a plan outlining which districts and which kinds of buildings should be given priority for renewal.
It is sad to see people in their 20s with so much energy and ambition and such big dreams, who feel trapped and helpless when faced with the financial obstacles that stop them buying their own flat.
The officials cannot just sit in their offices going on about preserving Hong Kong's free economy.
They must recognise the problems that exist and come up with comprehensive plans as soon as possible which lead to a drop in property prices.
Leung Yuen-lung, Sham Shui Po
Questioning official figure on solid waste
I refer to the letter by environment undersecretary Christine Loh ("Moves to socially responsible waste disposal well in hand", June 21).
I was taken aback by her comment that Hong Kong's "municipal solid waste recovered-for-recycling rate of 48 per cent…figure is correct".
The Environment Bureau's own "Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022" clearly says otherwise.
This document states that Hong Kong generates 9,650 tonnes per day of municipal solid waste (that's 1.36kg per capita for a 7.1 million population) and, as Ms Loh admits, 9,000 tonnes of that goes to landfills.
The last time I did percentages at school, the difference in the first figure and second figures (recovered waste) divided by the second came out at 7.2 per cent.
If on the other hand, as Ms Loh asserts, the 48 per cent figure is correct, then the actual municipal solid waste generated by Hong Kong people is 9,000 tonnes divided by 52 per cent which equals 17,267 tonnes per day, or 2.44kg per capita.
A figure that is 25 per cent greater than the US or an astounding 320 per cent of that for Tokyo would make Hong Kong probably the most wasteful place on earth.
So, either the 48 per cent claimed recovery rate is inaccurate, or Hong Kong's true rate of municipal solid waste generation is far higher than the bureau dares to admit. Which of these two statements is correct?
Until we have the answer, we cannot possibly trust the various other assertions made in the blueprint and repeated in Ms Loh's letter.
Our organisation, Living Islands Movement, is also writing formally to the secretary for the environment to request this essential clarification.
Mark Parlett, secretary, Living Islands Movement
Cut speeding problem with higher fares
Although a report published earlier this year revealed a problem with taxi drivers speeding, I do not think that compulsory training is an effective way to deal with the problem.
If, instead of being able to rest after a long shift, they had instead to attend a training course, it would make them even more tired and this could put their passengers at risk.
I'm sure all cabbies recognise the potential risks from speeding and don't need a training course to point this out.
We have to look at the root of the problem and ask why they are doing it in the first place.
There have calls for an increase in taxi fares.
I think the main reason cabbies are speeding is because they are not earning enough money.
Fares should be raised or the cabbies should be provided with subsidies so that their income increases.
Chow Yik-ming, Sha Tin
America has controlled its citizens by fear
We knew that the US was conducting cyber warfare against other countries, but did not know the extent that it was spying on its own people.
The track record of countries doing this is not good.
All such governments talk incessantly about how "glorious" their country is.
The US, which shouts the loudest about freedom, liberty and free speech, has managed to deflect criticism of its actions by creating a circus around one man, Edward Snowden. It is a case of "shoot the messenger".
This is a country that has controlled its citizens by fear, with threats to its security, starting with "the British are coming" over 200 years ago.
This has been followed on a regular basis with other dire threats, right up to the present day, at the same time telling Americans that they were living in paradise.
Always lecturing other countries around the globe about democracy, the US has one of the most corrupt governments in the world, with many legislators influenced by vested interests. The donations to presidential campaigns do not come without a price tag.
This is a country that dropped two atomic bombs, laid waste to vast areas of Southeast Asia, bombed Libya, attacked Iraq, based on a pack of lies, invaded Afghanistan and is killing people in Pakistan. It is now planning action in Syria using the threat of chemical weapons as justification.
It's as if napalm and Agent Orange had never been invented.
I worked for two US companies and enjoyed the experience.
I have visited America many times over the past 30 years, and enjoyed it and hope to do so again to visit friends.
What I did not enjoy was the constant propaganda about the glorious USA.
People who dissent, or are suspected by the self-appointed of being politically incorrect, are hounded by the media or government.
It is exactly like one of those authoritarian states they are always warning us about.
Michael Jenkins, Central
Corruption blocks better life for poor
I refer to the report about a makeshift charcoal factory in a Manila slum ("The dark face of grinding poverty", June 17).
It described how, to earn a meagre living, people were risking health problems such as lung cancer because they had to inhale the smoke coming from the charcoal pits.
They suffer daily torment, but are reluctant to leave, because, as one mother of three said, at least they could make a living and feed their children.
She obviously felt that enduring this depressing environment was her only option.
The people in this charcoal factory deserve to have better lives, but the Philippines is a country with a wide wealth gap and where corruption is rife.
This mother and others are in a desperate state and are victims of an unjust political system.
Luk Ka-wing, Diamond Hill
Court's ruling undermines marriage
I am disappointed that the US Supreme Court has decided to overturn the federal Defence of Marriage Act ("Double victory for gay marriage", June 27).
Too many children are hurt by a strange and increasing inability to appreciate how important it is to bring together mothers and fathers for children in one loving home.
All societies need an institution that connects children to their mothers and fathers, the only institution that does this is marriage. Redefining marriage changes the basic understanding of it from a child-centred institution to one that sees it as a temporary commitment which prioritises the "romantic" happiness of adults over building a loving, lasting family.
The meaning of sexuality is essentially to bring about the union of man and woman, and give humanity posterity, children, a future. This is a point we need to hold firm, even if it is not pleasing to our age.
Paul Kokoski, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Insensitive use of Virgin Mary statue in shop
I was in Hong Kong recently and while walking past a shop, Chapel, in the Ramada Hotel, in Chatham Road South, I saw a statute of the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary being placed in the window as a decorative item among the clothes hanging for sale.
As a Catholic, I felt it was rather insensitive of the shop window designer to do that.
I felt it was inappropriate, just as it would be to use other statutes, for example, the Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin, as a decorative item.
S. Y. Lim, Kuala Lumpur