Letters to the Editor, October 1, 2013
Ditch proposal for flats in country parks
I am opposed to the proposal to use some of Hong Kong's country parks to construct public housing.
I do not see it as necessarily alleviating Hong Kong's deep-rooted housing problems.
The heart of the problem is not just linked to demand and supply, but to rampant speculation of property.
Hong Kong has a free-market economy. Foreigners and mainlanders have taken advantage of this to invest in the city and this has led to skyrocketing property prices.
This makes property unaffordable for the grass roots, many of whom are forced to living in subdivided units. Instead of just blindly building more flats, the government should be trying to bring speculation under control.
Also, if the country park proposal is adopted, it will harm natural habitats and Hong Kong already has a lack of greenery. Hong Kong suffers from poor air quality so we need all the plants and trees presently in the country parks.
The administration should launch measures to stabilise property prices.
For example, people who are not permanent residents should not be allowed to buy more than one property.
People who contravene regulations aimed at curbing speculation should face tougher penalties.
I think it is more important for officials to deal with speculation rather than building more homes and so I do not support building more homes in country parks.
Queeny Cheng, Yau Yat Chuen
New waste charge does make sense
I refer to the report ("Families may pay HK$74 a month to dump rubbish", September 26).
If this waste-charge policy is adopted, it should be able to encourage citizens to generate lower volumes of waste. It would be similar to the levy imposed on plastic bags in shops. People are now using fewer plastic bags and this shows that a levy does work.
It is the most feasible proposal put forward as lawmakers continue to oppose plans to extend Hong Kong's landfills.
They argue that such extensions would create problems for nearby residents with an unpleasant odour. Also, opponents of a proposed incinerator say it could lead to air pollution. It would therefore seem as though this charge is the most effective way to reduce waste.
Actually, it should not be a problem for households to reduce the volumes of waste they generate if they use recycling bins. If citizens really want to reduce their volumes of waste, they can do so.
Janice Chan Wing-tung, Tsuen Wan
Subsidy for people who can cut back
I refer to the report ("Debate begins on waste levy options", September 26).
The Council for Sustainable Development has suggested two waste-levy proposals. One would require each household to buy pre-paid rubbish bags, which is fairer because it requires residents to take responsibility for waste. However, some people may dump their waste on the street to avoid buying more bags.
Asking the property management companies to collect fees according to the volume or weight of waste is more efficient. Nevertheless, it is less effective in curbing waste disposal. As the fee is shared among all households, so is the responsibility.
Both methods could make life more difficult for the underprivileged, especially those in subdivided units which are not managed by any committee.
We are unlikely to have an additional landfill or an incinerator in the near future, so a waste charge makes sense. The government has been promoting the 3Rs principle (reduce, recycle, reuse) for years, but I wonder how effective it has really been.
Awareness of the fact that we all have a social responsibility to protect the environment is still low. However, I am not sure taking money from citizens through a charge is necessarily the best option.
Residents at the private development The Oscar by the Sea have shown that people can habitually sort food waste from other refuse under a rewards programme ("Residents on a mission to slash their food waste", September 26).
The government could try out a similar scheme. For example, households could get a rates or rent subsidy when they reduced waste by, say, 1kg per day. They would be rewarded for embracing social responsibility.
Helen Wong Pui-ling, Fanling
City should have modern incinerator
I believe that we do need to build an incinerator in Hong Kong.
Most Hongkongers do not know much about incinerator technology. We used to have incinerators, which have been shut down. They used older technology than is now currently available.
They did not have advanced filtering systems so toxins were released into the atmosphere. Also, because of a lack of urban planning, they were built in urban areas and many nearby residents were adversely affected.
This turned many people against the idea of having any more incinerator plants.
However, modern incinerators have filtering which prevents the release of dangerous gas. Gas that is emitted is colourless and odourless.
Also, some of them can generate energy through burning refuse.
There is another advantage to burning rubbish. The high temperatures involved kill micro-organisms. This solves the problems of hygiene and bad smells.
If more refuse is burned, there will be less pressure on our landfills. This is important given the opposition to further landfill extensions.
Some critics point out that the incinerator will still emit some carbon dioxide, creating acid rain. It is true that carbon dioxide cannot be filtered out, but the problem will be larger if we put the waste into the landfills directly. This waste pollutes the groundwater and it produces a toxic gas, marsh gas. It harms humans and the environment. Carbon dioxide can become oxygen naturally by photosynthesis.
If people keep criticising landfill extensions and a new incinerator, then they have to tell us where we put the refuse when all the landfills are full. Ultimately, we have to make a choice - extend the existing landfills or build an incinerator. As I said, building the incinerator is the best option.
Hong Kong does not have a lot of available flat land, and so, given space limitations, I think construction of an incinerator plant is the best option available.
I think it could lead to us all enjoying a cleaner city.
Himmy Lee Chun-him, Yau Tong
Special police unit can curb animal cruelty
There were calls in the Legislative Council three years ago for a special police unit to be set up to deal with acts of animal cruelty.
The number of cases of mistreatment of animals is on the rise and some of the acts are extremely cruel.
This would indicate that there is definitely a need for a special unit.
Some people disagree and argue that this role is already performed effectively by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
They say that if the police unit was set up, the two organisations would be overlapping and duplicating the work.
Also, it is argued that as police officers, they would lack the necessary professional knowledge that SPCA officials have.
However, I think this special police unit could share the SPCA's workload, as its staff are already overstretched, having to handle thousands of complaints every year. They would welcome help from a special police unit.
Also, such a unit would have law enforcement powers.
The SPCA can only report abuse cases to the police, but police officers can take direct action.
Following the setting up of such a unit, the laws protecting animals and punishing those found guilty of cruelty could be tightened.
While having such a police unit would be a good idea, there will still have to be a lot of discussion to iron out the details.
But it would definitely ensure greater protection for animals.
Nicole Yung Yu-sum, Tsing Yi
Suffrage in the US is far from perfect
I find the lecturing by the US consul general in Hong Kong, Clifford Hart, on suffrage to be quite amusing.
I wonder if he holds similar views on universal suffrage in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Palestine.
Ever since the great Grover Cleveland yielded the presidency in 1897, the record of the United States in encouraging universal suffrage has been inconsistent at best.
Does Mr Hart consider it unacceptable that a candidate could win 77 per cent of the popular vote in a presidential election and still lose?
Four times in US history a candidate has won the popular vote and lost the election, most recently in 2000 where Al Gore got 500,000 votes more than George W. Bush.
Does he find it unacceptable that in the 2012 House of Representatives elections, the Democrats got the most votes, but Republicans won 234 of the 435 seats?
I invite Mr Hart to reflect on suffrage in the US before lecturing Hong Kong on the subject.
M. Todd George, Yau Ma Tei