Letters to the Editor, September 20, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 September, 2013, 2:00am


Seniors need to work, not be patronised

What an annoying and patronising letter from Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, the secretary for labour and welfare ("'Aware, caring' government spending billions on elderly", September 13).

In his reply to a letter sent from Mark Peaker ("Better care for elderly left to exist in misery", September 6) he uses expressions such as "our frail elderly citizens", "dementia patients", "our rapidly ageing population", as well as assuring us that the government is so concerned that it will spend in the region of HK$5.58 billion this financial year.

The government Mr Cheung works for insists on having a retirement age of 60.

As long as it does this, thereby encouraging other companies and institutions to also get rid of perfectly healthy workers at an age when they have more years to offer, the consequence will be that the so-called elderly will sink into a state of dementia and depression, as well as have physical ailments, at a far earlier age than would otherwise be the case.

Hence, the cost of caring for these people will be much higher than would be the case if they had been able and encouraged to keep working, thereby keeping their minds and bodies active, while earning money, which could aid the government coffers rather than deplete them.

This government, in my estimation, has got it completely wrong and this will continue to be the case so long as it has no appreciation of what the over-60s want. Officials' heads are in the clouds because they have a pension to look forward to, so see no reason to disturb the status quo.

Mr Cheung, the "elderly" do not need your money, they just need to work. Then you will see how many people get dementia - far fewer.

Chris Stubbs, Discovery Bay


Flats in parks would hurt water supply

In the debate over the use of Hong Kong's country parks for housing it is surprising that no one, including our environment minister, has pointed out their importance for water supply.

Water, through rainwater, is our most valuable natural resource. New housing development anywhere is in conflict with environmental sustainability.

Furthermore, our highland areas, including existing country parks, have the potential to increase the local sourcing of water supply from the current level of below 25 per cent to approaching 50 per cent if groundwater is also exploited.

Contaminated water will require spending more money on water treatment.

Wyss Yim, Pok Fu Lam


Irony of letting navy occupy Central dock

The Society for Protection of the Harbour has asked the Hong Kong government to state clearly that waterfront land in Central belongs to the public and not to the naval division of the People's Liberation Army.

This is a very important issue because it relates to the use of land in Hong Kong, a major source of wealth and vital for housing, recreation, transport and all the other vital functions of our advanced metropolis.

Land should be surrendered for military use only when the security and defence of the city are at stake.

The ships of the PLA already have a base on Stonecutters Island, only a few minutes away from the open sea. Having warships berthed in Central is a waste of a valuable amenity.

In colonial times, the British armed forces occupied many large sites throughout Hong Kong. Before 1997, many people asked that such sites be made available for civilian use but Whitehall and the British military ignored these requests. The estimated value of these extensive, yet under-utilised sites in those years was more than HK$100 billion, an enormous amount; it must be at least four to five times that value now.

Unfortunately, a military-minded power like Britain was willing to donate this land to the incoming military forces rather than to the people of Hong Kong.

As a result, we have been deprived of a huge amount of possible income and much-needed land for economic development and for sorely needed housing.

For this reason, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his administration must vigorously resist any occupation of our harbour by non-civilian and wasteful users. We need amenities and space to breathe, not warships.

Isn't it ironic that some politicians and commissars are so upset by a suggested Occupy Central movement, while at the same time contriving to occupy a part of Central that belongs to our future?

J. Garner, Sham Shui Po


Time for Japan to stop using nuclear power

I refer to the report ("Japan shuts down last nuclear reactor", September 16).

Nuclear power has become an integral part of our lives.

Although it provides a large amount of energy and is green, as we have seen, it carries with it risks of radioactive contamination.

This can put ecosystems, on land and in the sea, and the lives of people at risk.

I agree with the decision taken in Japan to shut down its reactors for inspection.

Since the Fukushima nuclear crisis erupted in 2011 tourism and food exports have been hit.

I think it is time for the country to stop using nuclear energy and focus on developing sustainable energy and encouraging energy efficiency.

Brian Au, Ma On Shan


Maintenance fee unjust for old boilers

Hong Kong & China Gas [Towngas] charges a monthly maintenance fee of HK$9.50.

The purpose of this fee is to cover labour costs for "fully qualified, registered gas technicians to undertake maintenance and repair, on-demand inspections and a regular safety inspection on an 18-month cycle of customers' home gas appliances, gas installation pipes and external gas pipes". It is also supported by a 24-hour customer service hotline.

I was recently having problems with a gas water heater at a flat in Kowloon. The company said that, as the heater was very old, there were no spare parts, and I was told I would have to pay more than HK$4,000 for a new one.

Its technicians put stickers on old but functioning heaters to say they are old and spare parts are not available. In such cases, the company should reduce or even waive the monthly maintenance fee.

The amounts involved are small per household, but think of the cumulative amounts for the large number of households in Hong Kong with such old appliances and the years during which the company has collected this maintenance fee, even though it does not provide maintenance for these ageing models.

James Lau, Shouson Hill


End live-in rule to make helpers safer

Horror stories keep coming up in the press about employers abusing domestic helpers, causing physical harm and psychological trauma.

I wonder what was in the minds of the people who have committed these acts. What right did they feel they had to inflict physical injuries on another human being?

These foreign domestic helpers have left behind husbands and children in their home countries to perform domestic chores for Hong Kong households. Yet they are sometimes looked down upon and treated as slaves when they should be seen as house guests.

I do think that most Hong Kong families are treating their helpers very well. A case in point: our daughter and son-in-law work tirelessly on weekends sacrificing precious rest time to help migrant workers build a better life and plan for their eventual retirement. However, a small minority of helpers are mistreated on a daily basis.

Wouldn't it be a win-win situation if domestic helpers were allowed to live outside their employers' households?

Employers and family members would enjoy the privacy they need in small Hong Kong apartments.

Secondly, tension and friction between employers and helpers would be greatly reduced, as would opportunities for mistreatment and abuse.

Domestic helpers come to Hong Kong to work, not to be imprisoned in cramped quarters slaving away 15 to 16 hours a day.

Hongkongers work so hard to seek a better life. Helpers have the same right.

Philip S. K. Leung, Pok Fu Lam


Broader vote disempowers vested interest

I enjoyed Peter Forsythe's letter ("Universal vote desirable but no panacea", September 14).

It definitely raises some interesting questions (as well as showing an example of good parenting, in the way he engages his son in an intellectual debate).

Mr Forsythe asks what would be improved in "today's Hong Kong by having universal suffrage". While I agree that universal suffrage may not be a universal panacea, I can think of at least one thing that would change.

If Hong Kong's politicians had to stand for general election, and had to concern themselves with re-election, they might be more responsive to the needs of the general public, rather than just concerning themselves with keeping Beijing and the Hong Kong real estate cartels happy.

Universal suffrage probably wouldn't completely get rid of individuals like development chief Paul Chan Mo-po, but it would give Hong Kong people a greater say in how our territory is managed.

Steve Schechter, Tai Po