Letters to the Editor, July 19, 2013
Tourism's pros and cons need to be weighed
I refer to Michael Chugani's column ("Squeezed out", July 13).
If Chugani had read my message carefully he would have noticed that the 100 million tourist number by 2023 is not a target, but rather an estimate based on current rate of growth.
The reason why the working group on convention and exhibition industries and tourism (I was only the convenor and spokesman) put this number on the table was to sound a warning bell that if we should get anywhere near this number of tourists, our current level of infrastructure, including hotels and transportation (MTR, as Chugani pointed out) and everything else, would be totally inadequate.
We would for instance have to double the number of hotel rooms. There is therefore no conflict between what he said and what we put forward.
Whether we should close our doors is the subject of some debate. The working group's view is that Hong Kong should continue to welcome visitors from around the world, not just the mainland, and we should make great efforts to target high-spending groups like business visitors.
To do otherwise will damage Hong Kong's reputation as an open economy. Chugani's argument that we should refuse more tourist revenue when there are poor people living in cubicles is a strange one. But I do agree that the government should focus more on distribution as our society gets richer.
Do I take the MTR? Nothing can keep me away from the most efficient transport system in the world.
Jack So, convenor, working group on convention and exhibition industries and tourism
Bureaucrats failing Lantau's schoolchildren
The news about the University of Chicago's business school setting up a campus in a derelict government building in Pok Fu Lam is interesting, because there is another long-unused building on Lantau that's been the subject of some controversy over the years ("HK$1,000 10-year rent deal for US college," July 12).
The large Mui Wo secondary school building with its extensive grounds has been shut for some time, with several parties making proposals for its use, to no avail. Ideally this site would make a fine school, even a university, especially since the population of Lantau has grown enormously.
Schoolchildren of all ages have had to spend long hours commuting to Hong Kong and Kowloon schools, to the detriment of their health, because the bureaucrats apparently lack the will or the imagination to tackle the issue.
Obviously it takes a prestigious American institution to make the authorities act when they should also consider the needs of the local younger generation.
Isabel Escoda, Lantau
Plan for new town could be made to work
The government's revised plan for the new town development in the northeast of Hong Kong, which will eventually have an aggregate population of over 400,000, has stirred up controversy.
My reaction to the revised plan, with its different boundaries, is that it is a great deal better and that much effort has gone into producing a plan which meets many of the criticisms made of the earlier ones.
These plans stirred up thoughts about building on the Fanling golf course, but I would like the protesters to hold their horses and think more deeply about this reckless suggestion.
I assume that when the shouting is over the new town will be built. Imagine, in the years to come, a city of half a million people existing on the northern side of the road which now borders the golf course and, south of the road, a magnificent heritage park of delicately mounded lawns, clumps of trees, picnic spots, birds and flowers. The former golf course would be a park, a jewel for the enjoyment of the huddled masses to the north. Do not now destroy this opportunity with a hasty reaction, rather let us work a bit more on the city plan to make it acceptable.
Apropos of those villagers whose lives were upended when, after hundreds of years of living in the site of the Shek Pik reservoir, they had to give way to the building of the dam. Some opted for agricultural resettlement. They moved to the next valley, houses were built for them, fields were terraced and the government even hired buffaloes to plough them. What if we ploughed the land set aside for agriculture and built comfortable resite houses for the settlers?
This new plan ignores the land between its northern boundary, the Shenzhen River and the high-rise city to the north, thus turning its back on our neighbours. Is this how it will be in 2047? Should there not be roads and streets leading north and the land between, with its fishponds and abandoned paddy fields, having a development plan, perhaps for some village housing?
David Akers-Jones, Yau Ma Tei
Turn Fanling golf course into landfill
Sometimes one has to combine our problems to create a win-win solution. When the Tsueng Kwan O landfill is full, it can be capped with soil, fitted with methane extraction facilities for energy use, and turned into a golf course to replace Fanling.
Then when the lease expires on Fanling golf course in 2020, we can turn it into a landfill, in the middle of which sits the chief executive's weekend retreat. That should focus his mind on the need to build incinerators and convert waste into energy.
David M. Webb, Mid-Levels
Why should tycoons fund our pensions?
I refer to the letter by Peter Wei ("Tax tycoons to fund universal retirement goal", July 13).
Your correspondent backs calls to raise "tax rates for rich and privileged businessmen" to fund a pension scheme.
Clearly he must not come from the world of commerce.
If such a policy was implemented by the government, the tycoons could easily leave the city and find another home.
However, they would take with them their management skills and their work ethic.
Many of them work harder than most of us, sometimes seven days a week.
They are responsible for many of the utilities and other enterprises that keep Hong Kong functioning properly.
If they left and took their businesses with them, we would have power and food shortages and many popular shopping malls would close.
Regarding a universal pension fund, it is up to all of us to work hard for our own personal retirement fund.
Those who do not have enough can turn to charities, many of which depend on the generosity of the tycoons.
These businessmen donate a lot of their profits to organisations that are helping people in need.
Pang Chi-ming, Fanling
Ecosystems at risk because of shark fin trade
Shark fin dishes are popular with Chinese because they are expensive and people think it will raise their status in the eyes of others.
If they are wealthy and are in a restaurant with other people, they might feel they will lose face if they do not choose shark's fin soup from the menu.
In traditional Chinese society, it is still seen as a symbol of prosperity. However, as food it has no nutritional value.
Instead of thinking about its importance in terms of social status, people should be thinking about what effect the finning process has on shark populations.
Many sharks, when they are caught by fishermen, have their fins removed and then they are thrown back into the sea.
This is not only a very cruel method of fishing, but also bad for the environment. It puts at risk the delicate balance of marine ecosystems.
Some species of shark are now at risk.
If these species become extinct because of overfishing, ocean ecosystems will be damaged or destroyed as they are natural predators at the top of the food chain and ensure the right balance of marine ecosystems. So, for example, if some species of shark become extinct, we could see an increase in the population of sea lions and seals.
As I said, shark fin dishes do not offer much in the way of nutrition. Also they contain high levels of mercury which is passed through the marine food chain.
So, far from being good from a medicinal point of view, consumption might harm people.
I believe the sale, distribution and possession of shark fin should be banned.
Vanessa Tsang, Tseung Kwan O
Exam focus is damaging education
Hong Kong is a very prosperous city, but its education system is flawed.
Studying should be a satisfying experience that leads to the acquisition of knowledge, but that is not how the system works in our schools.
Teachers switch the emphasis from the importance of learning to the importance of passing exams.
The education process should involve studying, sharing and investigating knowledge, but teachers always switch the focus, telling students that the emphasis should be on getting high marks in exams. Instead of having a reasonable amount of homework, they face a huge workload after school and many lose interest in learning.
If nothing is done to change this rigid approach that takes the fun out of learning, then I am concerned about future generations and the sort of education experience they will have during their school years.
Alvin Kwok, Tseung Kwan O