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Letters to the Editor, November 24, 2013

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 November, 2013, 5:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 November, 2013, 5:01am

Parks present last, worst housing option

Lau Wong-fat, chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk, has backed the idea of building flats in Hong Kong's country parks. I do not agree that this is the way to ease the housing shortage.

The country parks are places for citizens to pursue leisure activities and enjoy nature. It is essential to have green land in our polluted, overbuilt urban environment. The trees and space help make our air cleaner and fresher, and without them the environment will be damaged even more seriously.

I agree with Lam Chiu-ying, former Observatory director, who likened the effect to that of a "cancer cell" - allow a little development and you will not be able to stop it spreading.

Besides, there is no need to even consider building in the country parks yet. There are brownfield sites and many parcels of available potential building land on the fringes of existing urban areas that can and must be developed first.

Undeniably, Hong Kong does need to provide more land for homes.

The government should immediately launch an in-depth public consultation, looking at all available options, aiming to start building next year.

Reclamation of building land from the sea is controversial and expensive but should also be looked at before building in the country parks. Hong Kong is surrounded sea so there are many opportunities to expand in this way.

The government should also deliver a workable long-term housing plan, looking more than a decade ahead, to avoid this kind of crisis in future.

Lo Chak-yee, Sha Tin

 

Social forces override need for golf courses

I refer to the letter by Cherry Lam ("Officials must think carefully about courses", November 17), where she fiercely defends the whims of rich golf course users over the needs of the people. She also states that "With [the removal of] these old courses we would be removing a part of Hong Kong's traditional past".

But Ms Lam fails to understand that the traditional past and environment take a back seat when there is a serious lack of housing. Furthermore, the Hong Kong Golf Club's Fanling courses are of little historical significance to the majority of the population, let alone a young couple struggling to find a suitable home to build a family.

A possible impact to the environment is a necessary sacrifice if the government is to provide its people with suitable housing.

Ms Lam refers to the "tens of thousands of citizens who have to endure poor living conditions". All the more reason to convert this vast tract of land into a housing estate, which will at least mitigate a very real, serious lack of housing which should be put before the needs of what Ms Lam refers to as a "small group of golfers".

Besides providing housing for 170,000 people, this could give the government a sorely needed boost in popularity.

Therefore, it should stop pussyfooting around the rich and for once act in the interests of the people of Hong Kong.

Jason Leung, Stanley

 

Political spin seeks to quell Haiyan's wrath

The corporate media have carefully avoided the social context of the devastation wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

There is a definite political agenda in their claims that nothing could have prevented the damage from the 300km/h-plus winds. The pictures from Tacloban, however, tell a different story. Businesses, malls, government buildings and mansions are still standing. The city's country club is virtually undamaged.

The extent of the damage was caused not only by global climate change but also by the global capitalism that drained the country's resources for two centuries.

It created a permanent underclass housed mostly in shacks made of plywood and rusted corrugated metal.

The sugar industry has permanently ruined the lives of many in the country for generations. The installation of the hacienda system by Spanish colonists in the early 1800s changed productive farmers to landless serfs working for wealthy hacenderos.

Those who resisted this new form of slavery were quickly hunted down and shot as "bandits" - with the complete support of the government, the press, and foreign investors.

The export of sugar quickly became the most profitable export and the hacenderos became fabulously wealthy.

To this day, almost 50 per cent of the land devoted to raising sugar is owned by less than one per cent of the planters, about 1,800 individuals, who all come from the sugar baron families.

The same individuals also control the industry's sugar mills, refineries, and the factories producing fertilisers, pesticides, and farm implements.

These landowners are not only the economic elite, they are also the political elite, and are a big power bloc in national politics.

Workers in the sugar fields still include families and children, as the daily wage is less than US$5. As a result, sugar workers have long been plagued by malnutrition, high infant mortality, disease, and mounting debt.

The 2012 Asean Free Trade Agreement cut sugar tariffs and caused thousands of layoffs. Efforts to re-invigorate sugar production and the service and tourism industries have been weak and spotty. Unemployment is at 7.3 per cent.

On November 12 the badly damaged sugar mill in Tacloban was closed.

William DuBay, Ap Lei Chau

 

Saluting plan for new life at Cenotaph

Frank Fischbeck raises a very good point in relation to this icon in our city's centre ("Cenotaph looks forlorn and lifeless", November 17). However, it is used at least one day more each year than the one day he refers to - November 11, I presume.

From 1966, the year I arrived in Hong Kong, I have been at the Cenotaph every April 25 that I have been in town.

That is Anzac Day, and the Australian and New Zealand community observe a dawn service. This is an example of two countries combining each year to honour their servicemen who served jointly in wars against a common enemy.

I agree it would be appropriate for other nationals with consulates in Hong Kong to stage similar ceremonies, to bare their heads and say, "We will remember them."

Gordon Andreassend, Hong Kong Historical Aircraft Association

 

Schools must help stub out smoking trend

While there are decreasing numbers of adult smokers in Hong Kong, more teenagers are taking up this bad habit.

We have to establish why, and what can be done about it.

Teenagers are easily affected by friends, so we need to work to counter this peer pressure. Children often follow what their parents do, especially when they are still small. They will imitate in order to show that they are capable and mature.

Although schools should accept the responsibility of educating students about the dangers of smoking, how many of them actually do?

They focus on academic pursuits. Moral education is often put aside.

It is high time the government co-operated with schools to take action dissuading youngsters from taking up this dangerous habit.

Lam Suet-yi, Fanling

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This article is now closed to comments

rpasea
"Undeniably, Hong Kong does need to provide more land for homes."
.
This is the conventional wisdom but where are the facts to back this up?
honkiepanky
You're kidding right? Well if you really want some facts to back up the (obvious to most) fact that HK is short of housing:

- HK has only 12 sq m of living space per person. This is less than 1/2 that of singapore [1]. While I can't find a broad international comparison, I would bet serious money that no other developed economy comes even close to HK on this measure of inadequacy. Just go to other countries and look.

- HK homes are the most expensive on the planet [2]. Yes low interest rates and speculation have something to do with this, but interest rates have been low in many places for years now.

- Private residential rents have more than doubled in the last 10 years [3]. Rents are based entirely on end user demand and have nothing to do with speculation.

- The pace of private residential construction is less than half what it was a decade ago after years of tight policy by the Tsang administration [4]

[1] www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1131222/singapore-hong-kong-face-happiness-deficit?page=all
[2] www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-17/hong-kong-most-costly-city-for-office-home-rents-savills-says.html
[3] www.housingauthority.gov.hk/en/common/pdf/about-us/publications-and-statistics/HIF.pdf
[4] www.legco.gov.hk/yr12-13/english/sec/library/1213in20-e.pdf

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