Letters to the Editor, July 6, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 July, 2013, 4:09am

Cross-strait free-trade pact positive move

I refer to the report ("Free-trade pact too open for some", June 27). The Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement is the first free-trade agreement signed between the two sides based on the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement and Article 5 of the World Trade Organisation's General Agreement on Trade in Services.

Therefore, signing this agreement sends a message to the international community of Taiwan's further liberalisation in trade. It will accelerate the progress of other related countries to sign free-trade agreements with Taiwan.

Also, it will lay a more solid foundation for Taiwan to achieve strategic objectives, such as applying for accession into the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and other regional economic integration agreements.

Our government has always promoted institutionalised cross-strait negotiations while bearing in mind the principles of "putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people", "parity, dignity, and reciprocity", and "national need, public support, and legislative oversight".

The services sector accounted for 68.5 per cent of Taiwan's gross domestic product last year and employed 58.8 per cent of the workforce.

This sector will gain from the agreement.

Taiwan will still control the pace and scope of further regulatory easing on inward mainland Chinese investment. The agreement also requires both sides to implement their respective trade regulations in a fair and objective manner and refrain from engaging in unfair competition.

Suzie Chen, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office

Noisome goo is nothing like real compost

Paul Stapleton, in his article ("War on waste", July 2) claims to be making compost on his balcony, but he is much mistaken if he believes that food waste that has rotted for two weeks has become compost.

His bucket of noisome, buzzing, wriggling goo is probably a health hazard that more than cancels out any environmental gain he may be achieving.

Composting is a complex, but natural, process that requires the correct balance of ingredients and takes around three months to achieve.

Once this state has been reached, a daily supply should be available. Mr Stapleton describes his compost as giving off intense odours and of producing a vile-smelling liquid, neither of which is surprising.

The real thing, as Dr Arthur van Langenburg writes in his excellent book Growing Your Own Food in Hong Kong, should be "dry and crumbly, and gives out a sweet, earthy smell. You should be able to plunge your hands into your compost, pull them out and simply dust them clean."

I wouldn't try that on Mr Stapleton's balcony.

Gordon Robinson, Happy Valley


Bottle redesign can clean up Watsons' act

As a 15-year-old K1 kayak paddle racer, and one who is training in the sea almost every day, it pains me to see the thick, poorly-designed Watsons water bottles and caps in our waterways and on our shorelines. The green colour makes them impossible to miss.

I realise the design for the bottle caps might have won awards for their shape, look and feel, but had there been an environmental component to that award, the design would have come in last place.

They clearly use a lot more plastic than caps on bottles of Bonaqua water. Just put the two caps next to each other and compare the size. Look at the Watsons cap's thickness, rigidity and size.

We all know about the plastic pellet spill last year in Hong Kong, so when you think of these caps next time you drink, imagine that you are using a lot more pellets than with other brands. Then think about all this material filling our landfills and floating in our waters.

I would like to send an open challenge to Watsons to completely revamp the design of its bottles, for the betterment of Hong Kong, its home base of operations, and the community it serves (and has been polluting).

Surely this can be a new chapter in environmental protection for the company, bringing opportunities for community engagement and brand improvement.

Without it, Watsons' design sits on the bottom of the global list in terms of bottle design with the environment in mind, while dotting our waters and beaches with a constant reminder of such. I think Hong Kong is better than this.

Ryan Cheung, Ma On Shan


Good idea to extend levy on plastic bags

I support the government's proposal to extend the plastic bag levy to all retailers with only those used for certain kinds of food, like fresh meat, being exempt for hygiene reasons.

Green groups have also welcomed the proposed changes, but have rightly urged officials to step up enforcement and for retailers to establish an environmental fund with the proceeds from the tax.

Since it was introduced, the levy has led to a marked reduction in the use of plastic bags by Hongkongers.

But there is always room for improvement, which is why I back its extension. Extending it is a better idea than increasing the tax charged from the present rate of 50 cents.

Hugo Chu Lik-hang, Tsuen Wan


Truth about brutality of shark hunting

A video was recently given wide coverage on the internet exposing the cruel truth about the shark-hunting industry.

You saw the shark being hooked, dragged on to the boat and beaten repeatedly until it had lost the power to struggle. It was then cut up while still alive.

There is still strong demand for shark products. We eat dishes which include shark fins, and also use shark liver oil for medicinal purposes. With demand for these products increasing, the hunt for sharks becomes more intense.

As a result of this, there has been a rapid decrease in shark populations. Some species now face extinction.

Sharks play a vital role in the marine ecosystem and by feeding on weaker species help to preserve the right balance. If sharks become extinct, this ecosystem could collapse.

This would obviously affect humans. The fact is that there are perfectly acceptable substitutes. For example, shark fins in restaurant dishes can be replaced by bean vermicelli.

Also, the government must strictly regulate the trade in shark products.

Amy Wai, Tseung Kwan O

Farcical level of naivety seen in spy saga

I refer to the piece in All Around Town ("Butting heads with a powerful foe", July 4).

It is hilarious that pro-Beijing lawmaker Ann Chiang Lai-wan has declared that the US government is "spying everywhere" as though she's only just woken up to this fact.

At the same time, she admits that China is "using anti-virus software which was designed by US developers," which prompted commerce chief Greg So Kam-leung to suggest that local companies should "deploy more efforts in research and development of internet security". If this is not a dialogue for a comedy act, I don't know what is.

Why does no one in Hong Kong and on the mainland want to admit that the PRC has traditionally engaged in massive surveillance which involves stealing technology and nuclear and other secrets from Western countries, particularly the US?

The whole business of anointing Edward Snowden as a newly minted saint has added to this farce because intelligent people should know that the business of governments everywhere is to spy on others.

Vandana Marino, Discovery Bay

Correcting parents of spoiled brats

Nowadays in Hong Kong, it is common for children to vent their frustrations on their parents and domestic helpers. Children's general lack of ability to perform simple chores is a consequence of overprotective parents.

Whenever I see someone else's child behaving badly in public, I invariably approach the child and advise them to stop. Some may argue that this action is impolite and not respectful to the parents. However, my intention is to show the parents what is expected of them when it comes to handling their sons and daughters. Parents have to be good role models to try and ensure we see fewer spoiled children misbehaving.

Christy Tse, Tseung Kwan O


Cashed up and globetrotting without HSBC

I do not bank with HSBC, but I sympathise with its customers who cannot use their cards at ATM machines overseas.

It must be incredibly frustrating, but there is a simple solution. Open an account with a bank that supplies an ATM card that can be used worldwide.

In the past 10 years, I have been fortunate to have visited five countries in South America, nine in Europe, and three in Southeast Asia, plus Australia, and my ATM card worked like a dream in all of them.

Bob Beadman, Ma Wan