Letters to the Editor, September 17, 2013
Charges one tool for waste management
In his letter, Bob Carson ("Charging scheme won't lead to less household waste", September 12) has a crucial misunderstanding about waste charging.
While it is only one tool for waste management, it is an essential component at different steps along the way, including managing household waste.
It should be stressed that in exploring the option of waste charges, the key purpose is not to generate government revenue, nor to punish people. Rather, it is to provide ongoing incentives to encourage each of us to recognise that the waste we generate imposes serious costs on us all.
In fact, we already face costs for the waste we generate, but rather than paying for it based on how much we ourselves create, we pay through government expenditures to deal with impact of waste disposal on the environment. With waste charging, each of us will be directly paying at least part of the cost based on our own decisions and lifestyles. Charges serve as a continuing reminder that disposing of waste is not free and it incentivises us to make different decisions and to think carefully about the consequences of our lifestyles.
There will be a need to "police" a new charging policy. Waste charging is no longer so novel in the world, and different places have overcome problems such as fly-tipping in different ways. Hong Kong too will find its way.
Tellingly, Carson notes: "Perhaps manufacturers could be encouraged, rather than taxed, to create more environmentally friendly packaging".
This is the heart of the matter. Charging (taxing) is not a substitute to providing incentives - it is potentially one of the most effective forms of incentive to be used as part of a larger package of measures. I agree with Carson that such incentives must be strengthened.
Christine Loh, undersecretary for the environment
Schools help make students competitive
I do not agree with Flora Lam ("Education system has not improved", September 12).
As a Form Six student I have to say that I think our education system is quite good.
As this is a knowledge-based society, studying is going to be much harder than studying in other cities.
Young people will enter a working environment as adults which is very competitive and in school they learn to deal with that competition.
Though there is still an element of spoon feeding, with the new senior secondary curriculum we are acquiring knowledge.
Most students will study at least three languages and during their school careers acquire basic knowledge in different subjects.
This will help them earn a living here or in other parts of the world.
Some people talk of the advantages of studying overseas, but I do not think it is necessarily much better.
A cousin of mine studies abroad, and is under less pressure than students in Hong Kong, but because of that she may find it more difficult to deal with any crisis she may face if she works in Hong Kong.
She does not have the same understanding of the need to be competitive and hard-working and she does not speak Putonghua, which is a disadvantage in Hong Kong.
To succeed in your career in this city it is important to have a good grasp of English and Putonghua.
Your correspondent also complained that there are not enough places in degree programmes at Hong Kong's universities.
I do not think providing more degree places is necessarily a good idea.
In Taiwan, for example, there are too many degree programmes and this adversely affects the quality of some graduates.
I think Hong Kong compares quite well with education systems in other cities and countries. Overall it is a good place to study in.
Joyce Hui Hiu-ting, Lai Chi Kok
The Hong Kong Cricket Association chairman is bemoaning the fact that the government did not give it HK$10 million or even HK$5 million through its Mega Events Fund ("Organisers pull the plug on HK Sixes", September 12).
As an Englishman, I like cricket and have spent many hours playing and then watching.
I have a preference for first-class and test match cricket rather than the "slogfests" which now take place.
As a cricket fan and a Hong Kong resident of some years I have never attended the Sixes despite being invited as a guest by different commercial enterprises.
If the public, both here and abroad, was really interested in the Hong Kong Sixes it would pay to watch and the Hong Kong taxpayer would not have to stump up money for something that could hardly be described as a mega event.
It seems to be a trend both here, and around the world, that every time somebody wants to pursue a minority interest then they think that the money to pay for it should come from the majority of people not interested in it.
One could argue that Hong Kong is a cultural desert and that as an international city it has a scarcity of public, sporting and artistic events.
One could also argue that the only thing that the majority of Hongkongers are interested in is money.
I believe that the city is poorer for this lack of balance, but the citizens of Hong Kong make their decisions based on their own likes and dislikes.
Michael Jenkins, Central
Officials must check empty public flats
With all the discussions going on about how to increase the land supply and build more public units perhaps we should also have a look at the current tenants and occupants of the public housing units and Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flat owners.
In my own experience many public housing units rented to families or HOS flats purchased for self use years ago are either lying vacant or rented to friends and relatives illegally, because the families or owners have bought private proprieties and/or moved overseas but do not want to give up these units.
As per rules you cannot rent a public flat if you own a property. Since these people do not want to let go of the public rental flat, they use different methods and tactics to avoid detection, such as purchasing properties on their parents' and other family members' names.
I am sure if a proper check is done the government should be able to free up many hundreds if not thousands of public rental/HOS units which can then be allotted to the deserving families who are waiting for the public unit.
Naseer Ahmed, Tung Chung
Leave farms and country parks alone
I refer to the report ("Farmland 'may be option to ease the housing crisis'", September 12).
Earlier last week, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po had raised the issue of building flats in country parks. His comments drew strong criticism from environmental groups.
The idea of using farmland has come from executive councillor Bernard Chan. I oppose the development of any green-belt areas. They provide habitats for various organisms and help maintain Hong Kong's biodiversity.
There is not much agricultural land left in Hong Kong now.
We should not get rid of the little that remains to satisfy the demand for more homes. As I said, I do not think there is much of this land left, so just how many flats could it realistically accommodate?
Preserving the agricultural land that we still have in the SAR helps us aim for the sustainable development of the city. Also, farms are an important educational tool. They can help young people have an understanding of the lifestyles of rural communities. People living in these communities in the northeastern New Territories, which are earmarked for new towns, have said they do not want their rural lifestyles disrupted by the government's plans.
There is a lot of abandoned land which is used for temporary car repair workshops and storing containers. It could be redeveloped for housing. The government should speed up the process of identifying it.
The administration must have long-term planning strategies, taking into account the needs of all stakeholders.
Aston Cheung, Sha Tin
Moved by kindness of HK surgeon
It has been widely reported in the world's press that, in an act prompted by great compassion, Hong Kong surgeon Dr Dennis Lam Shun-chiu provided his expert medical services to help that poor boy (Bin-Bin) whose eyes had been mercilessly gouged out by someone in a bestial attack in Shanxi province.
Appalling though that original attack was, this kind-hearted response by the Hong Kong medical profession gladdens the hearts of all who read about it, as I did in London.
Such solid support to those in dire need of help speaks much to the credit of those kind volunteers and also redounds more widely much to the credit of Hong Kong itself.
We must all now pray that these good people are able to help improve the life of this unfortunate lad and thank them warmly for their compassionate efforts for him.
Paul Surtees, adviser, Hong Kong Federation of the Blind, London, England