Letters to the Editor, November 11, 2013
Rural flats only option for some citizens
I have some reservations about the views expressed by Ben Chun Ka-wai in his letter ("People want flats near workplaces", October 29).
He accepts that more flats must be built to solve the housing shortage in Hong Kong. However, he disagrees with those who believe that many of these apartments could be located in rural areas, arguing that it would be inconvenient for residents, most of whom work in urban areas.
I can understand people wanting to live near their workplace, but that is not always feasible.
We have to accept that there is only limited land for building houses in these urban parts of Hong Kong. They are already congested and land prices are very high.
As a consequence, apartments there are expensive. People on low incomes and, for example, those who have recently graduated and are just starting their careers, cannot afford them.
There is still quite a lot of available land in our rural areas, which can be used for housing, and it offers a cheaper choice for citizens.
I appreciate it is inconvenient for work, but surely commuting times could be shortened by the government strengthening the public transport network in these areas.
We face a housing problem that requires urgent action and building in parts of the New Territories can help to increase the availability of flats at a faster rate. The government also has to come up with long-term policies to ensure maximum utilisation of our limited land resources.
Amy Kong Shuk-fan, Kwai Chung
Nothing to do with home ownership
I refer to the letter by Hilton Cheong-Leen and Frederick Lynn, of the Hong Kong Civic Association ("Considerable increase in Home Ownership Scheme flats needed", November 7).
I am in full agreement with their view that ensuring home ownership is the basis for our society's stability. I am therefore dumbfounded by their support for the long-term housing strategy steering committee's recommendations, especially its initiative to build more Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flats.
Despite the name, this scheme has nothing to do with home ownership.
Rather, those that win this particular allocation lottery pay an upfront sum in lieu of rent. They will always owe the land premium, which they need to pay before they can move or sell.
This is not freedom; Friedrich Hayek would term it as "coercion".
The latest housing "consultation" should be focused on explaining how we, as a society, intend to pass full ownership of our entire HOS and public rental housing stock to the occupants - preferably free.
However, the reintroduction of the tenants purchase scheme is dismissed in just one sentence.
Of course, the document achieves its real purpose.
It is designed to promote the interests of the Housing Authority bureaucracy, a paper god which the 18 consultation questions unfailingly serve.
Stephen Brown, Tai Po
How to get more people on their bikes
People are becoming more aware of the need to be environmentally friendly, but in Hong Kong, compared to some other cities, we still have a lot of catching up to do.
For example, I would like to see the government introducing policies to encourage people to use bicycles every day.
If more people cycle rather than drive, there will be a reduction in carbon emissions.
Also, with fewer vehicles on our roads, there would be less congestion.
If people cycled regularly, they would have much healthier lifestyles; many Hongkongers are not getting enough exercise.
To enable a change in habits, the administration would have to create more cycling lanes than we already have and relax any restrictions that stop people carrying the bike onto public transport or taking it into shopping malls or into other public areas.
The whole point of government policy should be aimed at making it more convenient for citizens who want to use their bikes in the city, to be able to do so without facing various obstacles. We are global as well as Hong Kong citizens, and should be doing our bit to protect the planet.
Kathy Au Yeung, Wong Tai Sin
Parents are ignoring bad air problems
Now that the World Health Organisation has declared unequivocally that air pollution causes cancer, is there any chance our hapless leaders might at last take notice?
Sitting on their hands and hoping for strong winds to blow the filth away will no longer cut it.
I recall a piece in Lai See last year about a study in Australia of 2,680 primary-school children which found nitrogen dioxide (which is found in motor vehicle exhaust) in two-thirds of the children.
Why should such a study not be conducted here? The answer, of course, is that the results would be horrifying, the effects of pollution on our children's lungs would be laid bare for all to see and the hospitals would be swamped.
There is, however, a little light at the end of the tunnel.
After years of discussion in the Legislative Council, the idling engines law was finally passed, notwithstanding the vehement opposition of the taxi, public light bus, and tour bus lobby.
I am pleased to report that attempts to educate (rather than prosecute) offending drivers seem to be working.
I was in Causeway Bay recently and actually saw a public light bus driver switch off the engine while he went for his tea.
He was, as it happens, last in line with a dozen or so other parked minibuses, all with engines running, polluting the street and choking pedestrians. But, hey, Rome was not built in a day.
It is perverse that Hong Kong people will happily demonstrate in their thousands for universal suffrage, a swearing teacher, save our small offshore islands and a multitude of causes, but there seems to be total indifference to the grave matter which should be occupying everyone's attention and should have thousands of parents descending on Legco in protest: namely, government indifference to Hong Kong's filthy air, which puts the health of the city's children at grave risk, and in later life will have them coughing their lungs up.
Occasionally, a group of children guided by their concerned teacher will stage a protest against pollution. If they can see the danger, why can't their parents and why can't our leaders?
B. J. Carroll, Ap Lei Chau
Save energy for issues that really matter
The decision by the Executive Council not to grant Hong Kong Television Network a free-to-air TV licence has proved controversial. Thousands have joined rallies outside government headquarters to vent their frustration.
I am not surprised, since Hongkongers often complain, take to the streets, chant slogans and demonise the government.
Who really cares whether they have another TV station to watch? Don't these people realise there are more urgent problems in Hong Kong that need solving?
They demand freedom of speech even though they already have it. The media here is a lot freer than in many other parts of the world.
I cannot see a bright future for the city if crowds of peevish people are allowed to take control.
I wish individuals would not be so blinkered and self-centred and stop whining.
It would be better if everyone was more altruistic and devoted their time to meaningful causes.
There are many issues more worthy of our attention, such as poverty and pollution.
Ying Ng, Sai Kung
Central Star Ferry toilets disgusting
While the public toilets at the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry pier are well managed, the Central Star Ferry toilets are a disgrace and embarrassment for Hong Kong.
The smell of the male toilet on arrival brings back memories of public toilets in China in 1985, topped by a strange chemical smell.
The walls and ceiling are stained and the only cubicle has been out of order for over a year.
The departure area toilets have "cleaning in progress" signs in front of the closed doors for most of the day and if they ever open, there is a bad smell in there too.
Does the Star Ferry management plan to improve on this?
Hans Wergin, Cheung Chau
Urgent need for more inspectors
I refer to the incident last month where cables on a neon sign snapped and it was left dangling dangerously above pedestrians on Nathan Road.
It highlighted the risk some of these signs pose. Buildings Department inspectors have complained that they do not have enough personnel to undertake inspections.
There is clearly an urgent need to ensure pedestrian safety and therefore the department must provide more manpower.
Carrie Chan Yi-tak, Tai Wai