Letters to the Editor, October 6, 2013
Preserve old shops before it's too late
It has long been a common occurrence in Hong Kong to see the traditional shops forced to close down, priced out by rising land values that relentlessly push up their rents to levels only big chain stores and multinationals can afford.
Hongkongers have become resigned to the loss of these charming, characterful, local independent shops, while stores like McDonald's and Wellcome proliferate.
Although it is convenient to have a chain store nearby, old shops like the Lin Heung Tea House in Central, dating back to the 1920s, are vital to the fabric of society.
Hong Kong is a truly special place; a blend of cultures, social texture and history make it the unique, world-class city it is.
The loss of these irreplaceable, one-off shops is unbearable. Hong Kong should be more than just a cold, characterless city interested only in money and must strive to retain its unique appeal.
The government should consider social as well as economic aspects and retain these wonderful old businesses, perhaps offering rent subsidies or tax breaks so the old stores can continue to grow with the city.
Hong Kong could emulate Singapore's mix of old shops in Chinatown or Little India, treasures preserved among our central business district skyscrapers, but only with the combined will of the people and the government.
Charmaine Li Wing-huen, Tsing Yi
Shanghai trade zone sends a wake-up call
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is correct that the new free- trade zone in Shanghai will not "threaten" Hong Kong, but it most certainly will challenge it.
Li Ka-shing's more prudent observation that the zone "will have a big impact on Hong Kong" reflects that the city needs to stop feeling sorry for itself and start focusing on the real handover in 2047 when the SAR ceases to be and Hong Kong likely becomes fully integrated with the mainland.
The central government has been meticulous in observing the terms of the Joint Declaration and allowed Hong Kong to go about its business.
Competition on a global scale defined this city, yet across the border in Shenzhen 11 million people work; a bridge to Macau and Zhuhai will soon bring the other side of this pincer movement closer.
Megacities such as Chengdu , Tianjin , Ningbo , Wuhan and even Taipei will continue to compete against one another and against Hong Kong. With a population of less than 10 million, Hong Kong risks becoming no more than a suburb; it is not on track for 2047.
Neglecting to plan for a future deemed too far away to worry about may be Hong Kong's ultimate failing.
Hong Kong must define its own place, export its own excellence and prepare for a role in a vastly different future. The changes in Shanghai should be seen as the first warning shot across the bow that Hong Kong needs to find its long-term competitive advantage within the larger nation it is part of.
Mark Peaker, The Peak
Refund on plastic to help stop waste
I can sense environment undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai's frustration in her comments in the press about waste management.
I have not seen the results of the experiment in charging for plastic bags at the supermarket, so I cannot say if it has succeeded in reducing waste.
Being a single man and shopping for groceries on my way home, I tend to pay extra for the bag but use it for household waste. It is more expensive than buying a box of waste bin bags but that is the price I pay for convenience.
From my own observation at the checkout at my local supermarket there seems to be a reduction in the number of plastic bags being used.
When I was a child in England we used to collect soda "pop" bottles to return to the shop, as there was a refundable deposit. Of course in those days the bottles were glass, but it meant that they were recycled.
Why not do the same with plastic bottles? Charge an HK$1 deposit , refundable when returned to a store or shop, no matter the size of the bottle. The shops would be the recycling collection points. The installation of a small compacter and baler should not be too expensive on an individual- store basis.
I would imagine that they could recoup some of the cost through selling on the plastic or that somebody would collect the waste free of charge and then sell it on to recycling plants.
No doubt there would be opposition, from people unwilling to pay extra, drinks manufacturers and supermarkets, who will all complain about extra costs, but something needs to be done.
Hong Kong people are very cost conscious so they will ensure that they either reduce their usage or return their used plastic bottles.
Plastic needs to be recycled, not put into landfills.
Michael Jenkins, Central
Never allow building in country parks
I am vehemently opposed to developing the country parks.
Proponents complain Hong Kong has little building land but lots of parkland. As the city's housing shortage has become increasingly alarming, the development chief, Paul Chan Mo-po suggested the government could consider developing the country parks to solve the problem.
However, I think the country parks are crucial to us. They are convenient for everyone - even near Central there is Pok Fu Lam Country Park - providing clean air and natural beauty, a stress-free environment for recreation and relaxation.
Their accessibility and boundless value as a natural refuge is something we should protect, not seek to damage.
Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee said recently that opening up 1 per cent of the country park land would be acceptable and that it would provide lots of housing to benefit citizens. New World Development chairman Henry Cheng Kar-shun said parks with few visitors should be considered for development. These arguments may seem reasonable but it is the thin end of the wedge. Once developers are allowed in, more will follow.
Though Hong Kong is small, we still have land for building. Why must the government and developers always want to build in the country parks? This is too harmful to the environment.
The first step towards solving the housing problem is to stop building land-greedy luxury housing and build cheaper, smaller, more densely packed mass housing instead.
We should exhaust all existing available land, and identify all the unused industrial buildings and old apartment blocks to convert to housing or demolish to build new flats.
Developing our beautiful country parks should never and must never be an option.
Katie Lee, Ma On Shan
Checking for bad eggs at Wellcome
I was at the Wellcome store on Robinson Road on September 30, trying to open an egg container to check for cracked eggs - a common practice among grocery shoppers although not something I had usually done.
As I was doing this a staff member rushed over and told me to stop. I explained to him the previous two times I had bought eggs the cartons had contained cracked eggs and I asked how else I could ascertain there wasn't another one this time.
I felt cheated the previous two times. The staff member just reiterated that I could not do it, and walked away. So did I.
Selling one bad egg out of eight in a box represents an improvement in revenue of 12.5 per cent. I would like Wellcome to say whether customers are allowed to check its products.
Tony Yuen, Mid-Levels