Letters to the Editor, August 02, 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 4:12am

Historic site should not be degraded

Lugard Road at The Peak is a popular walking path, notable for its views and tranquillity.

The new landlord of 27 Lugard Road, a grade II historic building completed in 1916, has applied to develop this almost 100-year-old family residency into a boutique hotel. The 900-metre footpath leading to the house is on average only 1.9 metres wide.

It cannot support the extra motorised traffic generated by the hotel and the negative impact to the surroundings will be very significant.

Lugard Road is narrow and there are several parts of it where a vehicle and pedestrians cannot coexist and pedestrians would be at risk from cars.

The proposed use is not compatible with the surrounding land uses within a country park environment. The area is irreplaceable and is an iconic place for recreation for all Hongkongers and tourists. It must not be degraded and commercialised for the private benefit of a selected few tourists. This case will set a precedent for the demolition of other old and beautiful houses in the area. To erect two glass villas adjacent to it is a hideous idea.

I lived at 27 Lugard Road from 1999 to 2012. The property is in pristine condition. I know the neighbourhood better than most and it is obvious having a hotel along this narrow footpath will do more harm than good.

The Town Planning Board will consider this application (A/H14/75) on August 16. The deadline for public comment is today. People who object should e-mail the board (tpbpd@pland@gov.hk) quoting the application number.

Joseph K. Yao, Alliance for a Beautiful Hong Kong


BBC counters our daily diet of bad news

Of course Kevin Rafferty is right that the BBC isn't the serious respected institution of yore, but he seems to forget this is an entirely new generation running the show ("BBC loses touch with reality over birth of the royal baby," July 17).

The reality as far as the media is concerned is that today it provides "infotainment" because people generally seem to want to be kept informed and entertained.

It wasn't just the BBC that got all giddy over a minor British event but the rest of the world too.

Surely all the frivolity is a reaction to the grim reports we humans are bombarded with on a daily basis, thanks to communications technology.

Wars and conflicts, rapes and killings, disease and starvation need to be countered with cheery reports to lighten our lives.

L. M. S. Valerio, Tin Hau


Students need to speak up with English

I recently watched a current affairs programme on TV which highlighted the problem Hong Kong students have with English, because they are not speaking it in their daily lives.

The government has allocated a lot of money to the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (Scolar) to promote students' oral proficiency.

Separately, much money has been spent on the Native-English-speaking Teachers (NET) scheme which is designed to help local students improve their English skills.

It seems that despite all these initiatives students cannot be persuaded to speak up and use the language.

However, many of them work hard to get good grades in the subject of English language in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) exam. They work at developing their literacy skills in writing and reading to get high marks. Their teachers will spend a great deal of time preparing pupils for the public exam.

Given that the emphasis is clearly being placed in the classroom on this exam, the Education Bureau should redesign the HKDSE English paper, which would force students to speak English.

I suggest increasing the weighting of oral English from 10 per cent to 25 per cent in the exam paper and extending the oral exam time to 45 minutes for each candidate.

All oral assessments can be video-recorded in case of an appeal over a grade. This new exam format could influence classroom practice. English teachers would provide more conversational activities for students.

Maybe teachers would speak English with students outside the classroom and more students would be willing to practise spoken English with their friends because they all want better exam grades. Some people may think that this new oral assessment is costly and labour-intensive. However, it is worth trying when we look at its positive impact on students learning authentic English. Students would be preparing for six years for this 45-minute assessment, so it is cost-effective.

Instead of allocating more money to Scolar and the NETs scheme, the government should provide more resources to the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority to hire more part-time oral examiners. This new exam format would better motivate students to enhance their communication skills.

Cheung Wing-fai, Sha Tin


Investment visa rules don't reflect reality

I have recently been through the process of renewing my Hong Kong investment visa.

To say that the policies of the Immigration Department for such visas are absurd would be an understatement - at best they are arcane, at worst they directly contradict stated government policy.

Firstly, there is a requirement to "rent business premises" - most start-up businesses try to minimise costs by working from spare rooms at home rather than incurring expensive commercial real estate costs. Perhaps the department is not aware that Apple, Google and Microsoft all got going that way. Why is it trying to stoke the property market while the rest of the government is trying to cool it?

Secondly, there is a requirement to "hire full-time staff". New businesses prosper by hiring the specialist skill sets they need to run their operations; these days such skill sets are much more commonly found among contract staff, part-timers, outsourcing companies and consultancies.

The policy is so absurd that if you hired one full-time cleaner, or one junior clerk your visa would be approved, whereas if you hired two part-time specialist staff or external consultants it would not.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau's mission is to "foster a business-friendly environment and attract investment to Hong Kong". It will not achieve this until the Immigration Department makes some effort to understand how businesses work and how successful companies actually get going in the first place.

Immigration officers can only be expected to follow a tick-box approach, but someone desperately needs to make sure that those boxes reflect 21st century business life.

Lee Faulkner, Kennedy Town


Golf's 'fat cats' might prefer driving ranges

I refer to the letter by Andrew Nunn ("Loss of course would be a crying shame", July 24).

The question of the usage of the Fanling development land long used for recreation and social intercourse by the city's "fat cats" will actually be decided by those whom, Mr Nunn informs us, are queuing up to pay multiple thousands of dollars to enjoy a stroll in this verdant parkland - this while the homeless grass roots are trampled on largely by those who are "swinging the sticks".

Be that as it may, it has always been thus, never more so than in Hong Kong. My own interest in the issue is with those like your correspondent who never fail to refer to golf as a sport.

Come on guys, put down your popcorn and cokes, ease yourselves off the couch and have a real look at these pot- bellied golfers.

It is insulting to call them cats, fat or otherwise as they go on their walkabout, with the helper or motorised cart carrying their sticks.

The enjoyment of golfers would surely be enhanced by frequenting driving ranges, thereby eliminating the tiresome walking between hits.

The management of my sports club installed a golfing simulator, which surely satisfies all the needs of golfers while acknowledging the physical limitations of the club's golfing membership by engineering a lift to stop at the first-floor simulator to prevent the users having to scale a dozen or so stairs.

Those protesting over the demolition of their villages would do well to copy Occupy Central by taking direct action on every golf course each weekend.

John Charleston, Tuen Mun


Dirt cheap rent for rich clubs is shameless

I refer to the letter by Andrew Nunn ("Loss of course would be a crying shame", July 24). I am no fan of Michael Chugani but on this occasion I agree with him ("Golf course highlights city's unfair ways", July 17).

Mr Nunn missed the whole point, viz. the leasing of large and valuable plots of land virtually free of charge to clubs for the privileged few.

Never mind how much they pay and how long they wait for the privilege - that's the best way to restrict the number of fat cats for the limited availability.

You may call those joining fees, which Mr Nunn proudly quoted as the market rates, but the point is: why are they not paying the market rent for the plot of land for them to swing a stick? Either we keep the golf course but raise the rent to the market level or demolish it for public housing.

The same policy should apply to all other clubs which shamelessly pay dirt-cheap rent for the enjoyment of the few rich fat cats.

H. Hiew, Sheung Shui