Letters to the Editor, September 12, 2013
Small-house policy is the real problem
The development minister and blogger, Paul Chan Mo-po, has floated his trial balloon to assess the community's reaction to flats being built on land in Hong Kong's country parks.
I surmise that the Environmental Protection Department's controversial decision to site its incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau, is a precursor to Chan's thinking.
The point is that government ministers are loath to get to grips with the real land issue, which is the use and abuse of New Territories land.
They steadfastly avoid confrontation with the belligerent backers of the out-of-date small-house policy.
This policy should have been resolved well before the 1997 handover.
Now our civil servants will not act, and wish to take the line of least resistance.
They much prefer to face down cultured environmentalists than do the "right thing" and deal with the unruly villagers and the tough power brokers of the Heung Yee Kuk.
Chan also appears to be succumbing to developer pressure to use South Lantau for luxury development, which I assume will be targeted at rich mainlanders.
How does Chan see this helping the long-term strategy to create thousands more dwellings for our needy citizens?
Developers are great at driving a thin end of a wedge, as is evident from the massive wall developments along the Kowloon harbourfront built only since Kai Tak airport was closed and height restrictions removed.
The establishment of our country parks was a master stroke by Murray MacLehose, the 25th governor.
It has retained Hong Kong as a unique place. Otherwise the ad-hoc development that we witness in the New Territories would already have blighted our scenic countryside in the relentless pursuit of money.
Any suggestion of building homes in the country parks deserves to be shot down before it flies any further, and most definitely until the New Territories land dispute is finally resolved for the benefit of all Hongkongers.
Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels
Country parks a stroke of brilliance
Floating the idea that we should consider building in country parks is fraught with danger.
That crackpot idea to build a road bridge to Macau has gone from an idea that was floated to awful reality.
Luckily we managed to stop completely filling in the harbour. Now the idea is to allow building in country parks "to ease the housing shortage". It is not as if there is no alternative.
The creation of country parks was a stroke of brilliance, founded on the need to protect Hong Kong's water catchments and at the same time preserve the countryside for future generations.
Once this is eroded, it can never be regained. There is no going back on the destruction of countryside.
I say no to building in country parks, and I hope there are sufficient other like-minded individuals to ensure this madness is stopped.
Graham Price, North Point
Old factory areas ripe for redevelopment
It is depressing that someone in Paul Chan's position, already discredited with the public, should blog that "someone mentioned 70 per cent of Hong Kong is country parks", when he must know the number is untrue; or else he is astonishingly ill-informed about his policy area. The government's own website says 40 per cent.
If he wanted to regain trust, he could talk about the large tracts of old factory-use land, already well served by transport systems - for example in Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay - that could be the subject of massive redevelopment.
If he wants to change the law on development, he should not attack the country parks' legal protection, even to "test the water", but fight to secure rezoning of old industrial areas for residential development - perhaps adding some street- level urban green space into the bargain.
Country parks provide Hong Kong citizens with relief from the stress of urban living and should be valued more, not less, as the population rises.
To attack them when he is under public criticism concerning farmland soon to be developed demonstrates his political instincts are negligible. Already a bit of an albatross for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, one must ask how much longer he can last.
Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels
Respect those with different viewpoints
I think it was wise for supporters and [most] detractors of teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze to cancel planned protests outside her school at the start of the new term.
Large-scale demonstrations would have proved disruptive for the pupils and perhaps have frightened some of the children, especially if disagreements between rival organisations had become heated and unpleasant.
People in our society should welcome all opinions by different groups being expressed, so long as they are presented in a civil manner.
Of course, people hold different views.
However, we all have to learn to show respect for those individuals who disagree with us. After all, we all need to live together in this society.
Cheung Ho-yan, Kwun Tong
Education system has not improved
I refer to the article ("It's true, Hong Kong's a better place to live than five years ago, report says", August 29).
The report from the Economist Intelligence Unit said that Hong Kong scored full marks for education and I cannot agree with that conclusion.
As a Form Five student I know that we do not have a good education system in the city.
It is still dominated by rote learning. The teacher finishes a chapter in a textbook and moves on to the next one even if not all students understand what they have been told.
Also, it is difficult for students to get into a university because there are not enough places on degree programmes. I certainly have not seen any improvement in the education system in the last five years.
Living standards have not got better either. People have to wait a long time to get a public housing flat and the cost of buying an apartment is beyond the means of many Hongkongers.
We still have high inflation and so I do not think there has been an improvement in the last five years.
Flora Lam, Tseung Kwan O
Concerted effort can help street sleepers
I refer to the report ("Damage-control bid after storm over homeless", September 6).
It referred to two government departments reacting to complaints over comments by two officials who "blamed good-hearted citizens for aggravating the homeless problem in Sham Shui Po" by providing meals for the homeless.
The report shows the need for officials to think carefully before speaking in public.
Sham Shui Po is one of the districts in Hong Kong which has a large homeless population.
The government should be allocating more resources to deal with the problem.
I appreciate the actions of those kind individuals who have tried to help these people. Their contribution is an integral part of any concerted effort, including government initiatives, to ease the plight of the homeless in the city.
The Social Welfare Department should seek stronger co-operation with the citizens and organisations which are trying to help people suffering from extreme poverty.
Kammy Lo Wing-lam, Kwai Chung
Tirade about ATV upsetting and offensive
I am writing this on behalf of ATV's English news department in response to the report ("Tempers flare as ATV rally highlights split over station", August 28).
Claudia Mo Man-ching makes a sweepingly irresponsible generalisation when she calls ATV "the biggest joke in Hong Kong and an insult to all those working in the television industry", dismissing ATV's news as "biased, flawed and fictitious". I am used to Ms Mo's regular rants against ATV, but perhaps she can tone down the high-pitched hysteria for a moment and be fair.
I have no idea what ATV did or said to her to provoke this vendetta, and while I have no wish to get involved in it, her comments are upsetting and offensive for the team of competent and dedicated reporters that I work with. As a former journalist herself, and now a lawmaker, I hope she can encourage young people in the profession instead of demoralising them. If she watches our English news, perhaps she can point out the "biased" and "fictitious" reports to me.
I am happy to invite her to our office for a day to see for herself how hard-working and professional my colleagues are. I am also happy to show her the feedback we get from the many viewers who write in to show their appreciation for our efforts.
Perhaps she can think about that before she launches into her next tirade and your newspaper gives her a forum to vent.
Yonden Lhatoo, editor-in-chief, English news and public affairs, ATV