Letter to the Editor, August 27, 2013

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 August, 2013, 3:22am

Early start for woodland park essential

I am in complete alignment with Professor C. Y. Jim who voices serious reservations concerning the park plans for West Kowloon ("Arts hub park should be true woodland, not second-rate parody", August 17).

Several correspondents to these columns have pointed out to the authorities that it would be sensible and logical to give priority to the landscaping because woodland parks take an age to mature. My impression is that our civil servants increasingly have their heads in the sand. Sydney gives an excellent reference point to what can be achieved as its magnificent botanical gardens hold the prime harbour frontage alongside the iconic opera house.

Professor Jim laments our usual overbuilt public spaces which seem to specialise in plenty of concrete and poor-quality ceramics.

Hong Kong Park is an example of our government's normal approach, with a plethora of unnecessary artificial features. Fortunately, this Admiralty site inherited many splendid mature trees from the former Victoria Barracks, and these prove that God is an infinitely superior landscape architect, particularly when compared to the efforts of our Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

My confidence in Hong Kong creating a "world-class signature project and source of pride" at West Kowloon was well dented when I recently visited the City Hall library, as from the high block one is able to get a complete view of the new Central waterfront stretching between the new Star Ferry terminal and convention centre at north Wan Chai.

We were promised a "world-class" waterfront public space.

Admittedly this is still a work-in-process, but ugly roads and other transport-related facilities already disfigure and disrupt this area, which was originally defined as a public pedestrian space, to a major degree, and the few trees look sparse and pitiful.

I. M. Wright, Happy Valley


Cathay trip nothing to do with licences

I take the strongest exception to the headline and summary line used in the story about legislators who joined a Cathay Pacific aircraft delivery trip to France earlier this month ("Lawmakers face ire after Cathay junket to France", August 22).

In the summary line of the story it stated that this trip was organised after Cathay Pacific tried to "prevent low-cost start-up carrier from obtaining licence". The implication here was that we organised the delivery trip to somehow influence decisions being made on granting licences to other airlines.

This is far from the truth. Yes, we did invite a number of legislators on this trip, but new airline licence applications go through the government, not the Legislative Council. And it wasn't just legislators we invited - there were other guests from different sections of the community.

Calling this trip a "junket" implies that it was an extravagant celebration that had no clear purpose other than to entertain the legislators. That also is far from the truth.

Aviation is an important industry in Hong Kong that employs thousands of people and is a pillar of the local economy. For many years, it has been Cathay Pacific's practice to invite guests to events such as aircraft delivery trips and new destination launches.

The key purpose of the delivery trip to Toulouse was to provide a deeper understanding of aviation development, current aviation technology innovations, and issues the industry faces. We also wanted to highlight how our HK$171 billion commitment for new aircraft purchases over the next eight years is an important investment not just for the airline itself but also for Hong Kong's future aviation and economic development.

As the home carrier of Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific remains committed to building a deeper understanding of the aviation industry and Hong Kong's role as an international aviation hub. We will continue to promote aviation knowledge and engage the general public through events such as delivery trips, destination launches, and community programmes.

Chitty Cheung, director corporate affairs, Cathay Pacific Airways


Take argument to logical conclusion

I am impressed by Frank G. Sterle's proposal that Gibraltar and the Falklands be handed over to the nearest major country irrespective of the wishes of the residents of those places ("Time for sun to really set on British empire", August 17).

Now that we have established the precedent, we will need somewhere to put all the Americans after they evacuate the US in favour of the few remaining Apaches, Cree [and other native Americans] and all residents in Alaska (bought from Russia), Texas and California (stolen from Mexico/Spain), not to mention Hawaii which can be given back to the local surfers. And I assume Mr Sterle, from Canada, is ready to hand his country back to the Mohicans and Huron tribes from which it was pinched. What was that expression about glass houses again?

Dallas Reid, Mid-Levels


New system for voting in HK's leader

I would like to propose a system for electing the chief executive from 2017.

Any Hong Kong citizen, no less than 40 years of age, who is a permanent resident, with no right of abode in any foreign country, and, who has ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than 20 years, is eligible to stand.

These requirements accord with the Basic Law.

An additional new requirement to be included on the ballot will be the signatures of 1,000 registered Hong Kong voters supporting the candidate.

The election would then be held over two rounds.

The first round would see a ballot of all candidates.

Here, the Australian optional/preferential voting method should be used.

Voters vote for a single candidate or mark the candidates according to their preferences with one being the highest.

This overcomes the unfairness of the traditional "first-past- the-post" voting, whereby a winning candidate, in a field of more than two, may have a winning vote tally less than the total votes tallied against the other candidates.

After the first round, a second vote would occur two weeks later.

The two candidates with the most preferential votes from round one, would run off against each other in a traditional first-past-the post ballot.

This system that I am proposing has four strong advantages.

First, the eligibility requirements to stand fit the Basic Law.

Second, candidates must obtain a level of popular support from voters before inclusion on the ballot. Therefore, the "nutters" should be eliminated at this point.

Third, preferential voting ensures that the two final candidates are not selected on a minority of votes.

Last, the run-off election ensures an open contest for all registered Hong Kong voters to have the final choice in electing their chief executive.

I love democracy. Roll on 2017.

Gary W. Stainton, Jardine's Lookout


Bookstores also suffering financially

Bookstores and families in Hong Kong are both victims of publishers.

The prices of school textbooks place a heavy burden on many families as they go up every year.

A secondary student will have to pay at least HK$3,000 for all the books that are needed. Some parents blame bookstores for pushing up prices. However, I think these stores are also victims. This is especially the case with small shops which are at the mercy of publishers.

Bookstores have to submit a tender to be able to provide textbooks for a period of two to five years. They are often forced not to change prices even if the publishers charge them more every year over this period. This can lead to these businesses making losses on these books.

Bookshops also face rising expenses, because of inflation and rising rents and salaries.

These expenses eat into their profits every year.

In effect, the pressure on these bookshops can be just as bad as the costs faced by families with schoolchildren.

I think with regard to this growing problem, we need to ask if it is acceptable to have large companies monopolising the market.

Nicole Yung Yu-sum, Tsing Yi


Officials have dropped the ball with pitch

The awful condition of the pitch last month at the Hong Kong Stadium for the Barclays Asian Trophy made Hong Kong look like a laughing stock in the international sports arena.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department which operates the stadium undertook several remedial measures. However, I am still not convinced it has been able to make the necessary improvements.

The poor condition of the pitch has been a long-standing problem since the venue was renovated and reopened in the early 1990s.

Reports and criticism of pitch maintenance surface from time to time, but I have not seen evidence of any improvements.

And what happened last month must raise questions about the efficiency of officials from the department and their capacity to deal with the problem.

They have known about this problem for several years and yet have still failed to deal with it. I think in this regard the department has proved to be inefficient. It has only taken any action when a report about the problems with the pitch appears in the media.

Hong Kong is an international city. Because of that, we should not be concentrating just on economic development. Sport development is also very important. I hope the department will solve this problem in the near future.

Cathy Chau, Kwun Tong