Letters to the Editor, July 2, 2013

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 July, 2013, 5:28am

Safety in water must be taught at an early age

Kudos to reporter Charley Lanyon for highlighting drownings at Shek O ("Going under", June 25).

I lived in Shek O for nine years and, like other residents, came to dread the sound of helicopters during the summer because this usually meant that a search had been launched for a body.

I saw how Shek O and Big Wave Bay surfers made up an informal life-saving squad, often putting their own lives in danger to save beach-goers who had got into trouble. I saw Shek O resident surfers and others regularly give help to people in various states of distress in the water. I often escorted people back to the beach from the swimming platforms because they did not have the strength or confidence to return alone. Sometimes four or five youngsters on a flimsy inflatable would be floating in deep water and were unable to paddle back to shore.

Although swimming safety - not swimming in your clothes, if you are drunk, or at night - may seem like common sense, these are things we learn (however unconsciously) from our parents and teachers.

They are like learning to look left and right before crossing the road, and should be instilled early and indelibly.

Qualified, fit and well-equipped life-saving teams are vital, as are flags and prominent signage, but these alone are not enough.

Hong Kong children need to be taught water safety early on and have the message subsequently reinforced.

In South Africa, youngsters can join life-saving clubs - much like Scouts and Guides - which encourage teamwork, build confidence and enhance swimming skills.

They may then go on to become qualified lifeguards but, even if they don't, their skills should keep them safe in the water and their knowledge may be passed on to friends and family.

Cartoon-type mascots can make a lasting impression on children. I learned road safety from a cat called Danny and learned not to litter from an ostrich called Zibi. Perhaps the Leisure and Cultural Services Department could have a mascot (a yellow duck?) that could go from school to school teaching water safety.

Solveig Bang, New Delhi, India

Citizens can learn to be less wasteful

While the debate on landfills rages, one might take a pause to consider why Hong Kong needs more of them.

From a consumer perspective, Hong Kong people are wasteful and seem not to have an awareness that if we do not reduce, reuse or replace items made from non-biodegradable materials such as plastic, we will continue to need more landfills. More landfills are not the solution. Changing personal consumption attitudes and behaviour is.

Instead of complaining about landfills in your neighbourhood, first think about why they are there in the first place. Every single person creates waste.

If each person thought more consciously about their own consumption habits, Hong Kong could become a world example of best practice in how a city can engage proactively to create its own sustainable future.

Karin Malmstrom, Sai Kung

Light pollution problem could be eased

Earlier this year a survey revealed that Hong Kong had the worst light pollution levels in the world.

Light pollution is serious in Hong Kong and there are many black spots, such as Tsim Sha Tsui, with brightness levels 1,200 times higher than a normal dark sky.

Health specialists say light pollution can disrupt the biological clock and affect brain and hormone functions.

I believe that in the evening commercial buildings which are not in use should have to switch off lights.

Restaurants which are open and residential buildings should obviously be exempt from such a ban.

The government should also be able to control the brightness levels of lights on buildings and advertising hoardings.

These hoardings with their strong lights are the worst offenders when it comes to light pollution. It should not be too difficult for the administration to ensure they are not so bright.

This is a problem which I believe can be dealt with effectively. However, it needs the concerted action of the government and Hong Kong citizens so we can make the city a better place to live.

Max Tsang Hin-mong, Tsuen Wan

No point in wasting police resources

I feel that I must put a rather more balanced picture of Lantau traffic problems, after reading the rather vitriolic pontification from R. E. J. Bunker ("Lantau needs traffic offence crackdown", June 18).

I have lived in Hong Kong for 28 years and have driven all round Hong Kong during that time.

I have only been stopped once for a police roadblock in Kowloon, and have only ever been stopped once in Clear Water Bay for a licence check.

However, I have been given three breathalyser checks on South Lantau, have been stopped at numerous road blocks (two last month on South Lantau) and also received my only speeding fine in Hong Kong on South Lantau (for going to work at 7am with a typhoon signal No 10 having been hoisted).

I have to agree that Senior Superintendent Kong Man-keung should be very happy with the 477 speeding fines this year, on a part of the island with less than 48 kilometres of road and few cars ("Police not complacent over accidents", June 12).

You can never completely eradicate poor driving, but what Mr Bunker seems to want is a small police state on South Lantau. I and many others do not want this island to turn into a police state, but can advise Mr Bunker on some states in Asia where such practices are accepted.

I thought it would be obvious to most that South Lantau is far too small to warrant a dedicated traffic unit; it would be a complete waste of resources.

Far more worrying and dangerous is the proliferation of cows on South Lantau. To come round a blind corner at the correct speed to find a large bull on your side of the road and a bus coming the other way is no laughing matter; it is only a matter of time before we have a tragic accident.

That, coupled with the many cyclists of dubious ability, particularly at the weekends, is what we should be using our police resources for rather than having a breathalyser unit out at midnight patiently waiting for a car to come past.

Miles Robinson, Lantau

Hongkongers should be more positive

Since its handover to China, Hong Kong has had three chief executives.

According to opinion polls, all of them have had poor ratings, with many of the opposition parties slinging mud at them with protests and marches. They have urged all three of the chief executives to step down.

The reasons are obviously beyond the comprehension of veteran politicians.

However, even a layman knows that during colonial rule, apart from the so-called freedom enjoyed then, things were not in any respects better than after the handover, especially so far as the national status is concerned - even Hongkongers with BN(O) passports are virtually stateless.

Why, then, do we hear no gripes against colonial rule? Personally, I cannot think of any sound reason except that some Chinese feel prejudiced against their own country.

"One country, two systems" is a unique idea.

Faced with a host of problems, politically, economically and internationally, it is not too much to say that the role of chief executive calls for a person with superb leadership skills.

I do not know if such a person exists in Hong Kong.

There has be a level of flexibility and pragmatism.

It does no one any good to constantly bombard the government with criticism.

People should recall the wise words of the American president John F. Kennedy, to "ask what you can do for your country".

I believe the government and the people would benefit from Hongkongers taking a more positive view rather than embracing radicalism which is tantamount to a form of political suicide.

Peter Wei, Kwun Tong

Labels can allay fears over GM food

Some people have expressed concerns over genetically-modified food which does not have labels that give consumers sufficient information.

The fact that some products in the US did not indicate on the label that they contained GM food has made many people worried about similar problems possibly existing in Hong Kong.

With GM food there is clearly going to be a profit motive on the part of manufacturers.

Therefore, I do not think we should assume, as some people have in the past, that GM food is automatically good for us.

We have to consider the possibility that in some cases it may do harm.

I am not convinced that government regulations regarding GM food are strict enough.

All products containing GM food must make this fact known to shoppers.

Chan Pui-wai, Yau Yat Chuen