Letters to the Editor, September 6, 2013
Information anything but propaganda
I refer to the letter by P. C. Law ("Time to cut out the inane propaganda", September 2).
The Information Services Department's main task is to serve the public by disseminating government information. This is achieved indirectly via the mass media and directly by broadcasting information on our own media platforms.
The department conveys news to the mass media through press releases, press conferences, briefings and by arranging public functions, radio phone-ins and televised public affairs programmes.
Another important task is to co-ordinate the dissemination of information during emergency situations such as typhoons and other significant events.
We also serve the public directly by broadcasting the content of government press conferences, speeches, briefings and other items on the government website gov.hk and by providing an archive for public reference.
The dedicated government news bulletin news.gov.hk ensures effective information dispersal in a convenient multimedia format.
The public can also subscribe to RSS feeds for the latest information available from the government and related organisations.
The department has also set up accounts with social media on YouTube, Twitter and Weibo to further boost communication with the public, while our "e-bulletin" caters for people accessing the internet via mobile phone and other portable electronic devices.
The government treasures public views expressed in the South China Morning Post's Letters to the Editor columns and other platforms. Such views are duly noted in related policy deliberations and in the enhancement of government work.
The government will continue to maintain close communication with the media and members of the public to support and strengthen its links with all quarters of the community.
Pauline Ling, assistant director, Information Services Department
Plea to save palm trees in heart of city
I visit Hong Kong regularly and at the end of a stressful day it is always nice to have a drink at a bar called Inn Side Out located in Sunning Plaza.
The beauty of this spot is that, even if surrounded by tall buildings, the bar has an open space where four tall palm trees stand as a last trace of nature in between the steel, concrete and glass.
On Monday, following my arrival from Italy, I went there as usual for a relaxing beer and heard the bad news that the bar is to be replaced by a huge office and retail complex.
Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to stop this project but I feel that something must be done to preserve the palm trees.
I appeal to the developer [Hysan Development] to ensure that the trees are saved and relocated in the new complex.
I hope in future the relevant government departments will give careful thought to construction projects when some of the few trees left in the city are under threat.
Francesco D'Onofrio, Sassari, Sardinia, Italy
Subdivided flats must be monitored
I refer to the report ("License subdivided flats and build 470,000 new flats over decade, says housing report", September 3).
It appears to some that we do not have a serious housing problem in Hong Kong, given that the city does not have too many homeless people sleeping rough.
However, on closer examination, it is clear that there are a lot of people enduring a miserable existence in subdivided apartments.
The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that there are long waiting lists to get a flat on a public housing estate.
If the government cannot find a way to increase the housing supply in the near future, then I think a licensing system for subdivided flats would be the answer.
For a start, it can protect residents as there will be regular checks by the government.
It is a good short-term way of tackling the problem.
Lee Ming-yeung, Tseung Kwan O
Get airport costs on audit body's radar
I refer to the letter from Stephanie Li, the Hong Kong Airport Authority's communication officer ("Airport Authority gives most of its profits to government", August 20).
She was responding to the letter from Dora Li ("Airport suffers under rival masters", August 10), who pointed out, among other things, that there is no need for a third runway.
Stephanie Li said that, since the 2003/4 financial year, the authority had contributed "more than HK$30 billion in dividends or as return of capital" to the government.
What she omitted to mention was that this was the first financial year the authority paid a dividend to its owners, the government, since the airport opened in 1998.
In return for having paid back a small portion of the construction costs of the airport, it now wants the government to fork out or guarantee its borrowing of another HK$200 billion for the third runway, not to mention an at least equal hidden sum in ancillary transport infrastructure costs.
Dora Li wants an independent think tank to carry out a consultation and study on whether there is a real need for another runway and cast doubts on the results of so-called studies paid for by the authority. If your correspondent is wrong, then Stephanie Li should come clean on how many studies have been carried out over the years and how much they cost.
She should also tell us how much the authority paid airlines to move their check-in counters to Terminal 2, with free rental periods, so it does not look like the white elephant that it is.
The Director of Audit or another independent body must look at this runaway monster called the Airport Authority.
F. Wong, Mong Kok
Mid-air drama shows need to fasten belts
It was hard to know how to react to the report ("'The plane dropped and bounced'", August 31) about two flights that hit turbulence. Gratitude for my luck in not being on board; relief the planes landed safely?
I also felt incredulity that a passenger "was angry that the airline staff had not taken better care of them" after they were admitted to a government hospital. I want to know why airlines, which seem able to impose any rule they want, can't make this one: "You must fasten your seat belt at all times when seated."
What disadvantage is there to this? People could still move around at appropriate times.
Jim Kushner, Wan Chai
Better care for elderly left to exist in misery
"Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn" is an affectionate remembrance for those taken in youth; for the rest, age does weary and the years do condemn; it is a path that awaits us all.
As Hong Kong's rapidly ageing population grows, so do the pressures upon families who must care for elderly relatives while balancing the emotional and fiscal burden of their own lives.
As living spaces in Hong Kong become smaller and as wives, often the surrogate nurse, need to work and care for children, the pressure on the elderly increases. Hong Kong's insufficient old age homes provide merely for existence and not for the remaining life the elderly have a right to enjoy.
Having taken the journey of my mother's own stroke and rehabilitation over the past few years, I have seen the lack of provision for the elderly in Hong Kong. Dementia is a topic which has recently been highlighted by the case of Alzheimer's sufferer Professor Charles Kao, winner of the Nobel Prize for physics and the father of fibre optics. It is a problem facing many Hong Kong families today.
While old age does not necessarily lead to dementia, our elderly are at greater risk of getting this disorder, which undermines the very being of that person, robbing them of their character and their independence. This often results in family decay and financial devastation.
The linkage between dementia and old age poverty must not be overlooked. The outreach to the elderly community by the government must be improved. The elderly have a right to quality care and families need to know that financial, medical and social support exists.
Mark Peaker, The Peak
China wise to reject attack plan on Syria
I was not surprised when the US government announced it planned to attack Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
The plan has been put on hold so that Congress can vote on it.
Such a military intervention may help to show the US is a moral and ethical world policeman. It may also act as a deterrent to those who might think about using such weapons.
However, for Syria, the intervention will not help in any way and it may even aggravate the crisis. After the US strikes have been concluded, the civil war between the rebels and the regime of Bashar al-Assad will continue and more citizens will become refugees fleeing this hell.
I believe China was wise to reject Washington's plan and I hope the US Congress also makes a smart choice.
Magnus Leung Hon-yuen, Shun Lee