Letters to the Editor, July 24, 2013

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 3:51am

Worried about court's ruling on captain

I refer to Philip Bowring's column arguing there was a miscarriage of justice in the trial and conviction of [jailed] captain Yuriy Kulemesin ("Judgment put fair play on trial", July 14).

This case does appear to have disturbing features, which may indicate an unsafe conviction. Captain Kulemesin's ship, the Neftegaz-67, collided with the Yao Hai. The critical question was whether the ships collided in a "narrow channel".

The final appellate judgment concluded that the prosecution had "established beyond reasonable doubt" that Kulemesin had no reasonable grounds for his belief that the Castle Peak channel was not a narrow channel and that the crossing rule (rather than the narrow channel rule) applied. Conviction was "inevitable".

Controversially, the judgment was made despite widely differing opinions among expert witnesses. This alone would seem to give Kulemesin reasonable grounds for his belief. It was known that seamen treated the buoyed channel as narrow, or not, at their discretion. It was also known that buoys were laid in the channel only to demarcate a safe route for deep-draft vessels carrying coal to Castle Peak Power Station, and for large transiting container vessels. Shallower-draft vessels - including the Neftegaz-67 and Yao Hai - were able to navigate within or outside the buoyed route.

Expert opinion that there was no narrow channel when ships could navigate outside a buoyed channel was deemed "irrational" by the Court of Final Appeal. It also said it was irrelevant that the channel was not gazetted as a narrow channel.

Contradictorily, given its view of the expert opinion, the court suggested that gazetting would be relevant if "a particular area has been formally noted on a chart or otherwise publicly stated as not being a narrow channel".

It may be odd were the director of marine to state as much, since irrationality is a primary ground for judicial review of administrative action.

A defence complaint that the prosecution failed to include the director of marine as an expert witness (whose known opinion supported Kulemesin) was rejected because that is what the prosecution decided. But the prosecution's duty is to include both potentially exculpatory and inculpatory evidence. And the court's duty is to ensure fairness.

Michael Scott, Tsim Sha Tsui


Speed bumps have worked in France

The problem of speeding in Sai Kung Country Park could be easily and cheaply alleviated if the government followed the French example and installed speed bumps.

These are widely used in France to control vehicle speeds in the vicinity of schools and in towns and villages.

Commercially available ones are about 5cm high, but the most effective speed bumps are built into the road surface and can be up 20cm in height.

They are identified by warning signs and road markings.

Robert Wilson, Discovery Bay


Loss of course would be a crying shame

Michael Chugani says in another one of his provocative and one-sided Public Eye columns ("No putts - let the children play ball instead", July 17) that the 170 hectares of space currently rented by the Hong Kong Golf Club is "wasted on a couple of thousand rich guys swinging sticks and riding around in golf carts".

Instead, he believes land should be used as a "giant open space where children can kick a football, picnic with their families or fly a kite", and that "if Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying dares to do that, his dismal poll numbers will shoot up".

Thank goodness Chugani is not the chief executive and has no control over the Hong Kong government.

In the same column ("Golf course highlights city's unfair ways"), Chugani also criticises the golf club for supposedly being "unfair", by paying just HK$1 a year to the government, while the average Hongkonger pays a "hefty" HK$19 to use a public swimming pool.

Has he not thought about how much the club's "fat cat" members have paid, and how long the waiting list is to join a club where you supposedly just "swing a stick"?

Those over the age of 30 literally pay over HK$200,000 just to join as a five-day member, let alone monthly membership fees exceeding HK$2,000 per month, as well as other considerable expenses on top.

As for the waiting list, those wishing to join now can expect to get in 20 years later, if they're lucky.

So one would ask, why do these people bother?

One simple answer I can give is that golf plays a vital role in our society, with an ever-growing demand.

Contrary to the perception that it's purely a sport for elitists, many people from all walks of life show a keen interest in the sport.

Because of this, there is a shortage of courses in our small territory, meaning many ordinary people are forced to go elsewhere just to play a round of golf.

While I do recognise Hong Kong's critical housing problem and the government's search for space to build public housing, the loss of such a valuable sporting facility with a long history would be a crying shame.

Andrew Nunn, Tai Po


Let shops get used to new price law

I completely agree with the government's decision to bring in new consumer protection regulations in the form of the amended Trades Descriptions Ordinance.

The amended law can prevent some shops from using misleading sales practices.

This will offer consumers greater protection against exploitation.

I think there have been particular problems with the sales practices of cosmetics and some of the claims made regarding products and their supposed properties and health benefits.

With the new regulation, shops selling these products will not be able to make misleading claims or conceal additional charges.

This will ensure that shops engage in fair competition with each other.

Although I support the amended ordinance, I think it has limitations and there is some ambiguity.

The regulations say a price should not be regarded as the original one if it has been applied to a product for an unreasonably short period of time but it is not clear what that means and it will be difficult for officials to verify.

I also think many shop owners are still unclear about the requirements regarding price tags.

The Customs and Excise Department [which will enforce the law] should have a transition period. Shops found to have violated the law should be sent a warning letter during this period.

After the transition period is at an end, the law must be enforced.

Christy Cheung Hoi-lam,Kwai Chung


Critical thinking skills are improving

Hong Kong students have been criticised for lacking the ability to think critically about problems.

There has been some improvement with the introduction of liberal studies in schools. It has given young people a chance to analyse current events. There is no model answer so they can introduce their own ideas without the risk of losing marks.

I think parents and teachers can help by promoting self-learning and encouraging teenagers to think independently. Students should be given more opportunities to express their views.

In this way, they can improve their presentation skills and become more confident when talking in front of people.

I hope more teenagers will make the effort to express their own views. This will help with their overall development.

Can Chan Hoi-yin, Tsing Yi