Letters to the Editor, November 29, 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 3:34am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 3:34am

Time for Shell to stand up for the 'Arctic 30'

Thirty brave people were held in prison cells for around two months in Russia following a peaceful protest at one of the first oil rigs in the high Arctic.

Although 29 of them have been granted bail, while awaiting trial, the charges of hooliganism have not yet been dropped.

Hence the Arctic 30 could still face up to seven years in prison, if convicted. Oil drilling in extreme Arctic conditions can never be safe. Starting to burn the oil would tip our planet into catastrophic climate change. Yet the global oil giant Shell has signed a deal with the oil rig's owners, Russian state-owned company Gazprom, to launch a new oil rush into the Arctic.

After more than 60 days of detention, with the Arctic 30 having finally been granted bail, there is no better time for Shell to decide on which side it stands. It's time the company used its influence with Gazprom to drop the charges facing the Arctic 30 and called a halt to its ill-fated Arctic adventure.

The 30 are 28 Greenpeace campaigners, a freelance photographer and a freelance videographer. The 28 campaigners acted out of conscience and the journalists went there to report the story.

They were there to expose and document the risk that oil drilling poses to all of us. They are brave, honest and peaceful. Now they face being imprisoned on ridiculous charges of hooliganism.

The one thing Gazprom fears is scrutiny, and that is what the Greenpeace protest exposed them to. Gazprom's Arctic rig is an ageing, dangerous platform. Its other Arctic rig sank with the loss of 53 lives, and it has no idea how it would clean up an Arctic oil spill. And of course it is taking advantage of the melting ice, by drilling for the fuel that caused the melting in the first place.

Shell is in a hugely powerful position to influence Gazprom. If Shell wanted to stand up for freedom of expression and to see the Arctic 30 hooliganism charges dropped, it could push Gazprom to make the call. However, by staying silent, it's hard not to conclude that Shell is putting its Arctic oil deal ahead of ensuring that the hooliganism charges facing the Arctic 30 are being dropped.

Millions of people across the world are now waiting for Shell to do the right thing.

Fanny Lee, Greenpeace East Asia campaign manager


Indonesian maid abuse is trafficking

I refer to the article by Mabel Au, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong ("Break the chain", November 22).

Only now, after some years of importing Indonesian women to work as maids, is Hong Kong acknowledging that too many are being treated as slaves.

In past decades, it was Filipinas who faced the same degrading treatment, with some non-governmental agencies able to provide assistance in various instances.

Since it seems the Indonesian women are recruited from their country's kampongs and don't always know of their rights, they have been vulnerable to exploitation in the form of overwork, underpayment and abuse by too many local employers. It's plain and simple trafficking.

A common sight in places like Mui Wo on Lantau is one in which physically small women are being made to pedal tricycles on which grown adults are taken around. They have become no better than the old-time Chinese coolies.

Governments can sign UN convention protocols about protecting migrant workers' rights, but without the proper oversight for implementation, the vicious cycle will go on, with hapless Southeast Asian women bearing endless injustice.

Vandana Marino, Lantau


Waste levy will make people think twice

With the thousands of tonnes of garbage generated every day in Hong Kong, our landfills will soon reach capacity.

With the scarcity of land it will be difficult to build more of them, which is why the government is proposing a waste charge scheme.

I believe the administration should introduce this levy.

It will ensure people think twice before they dispose of their rubbish.

They will make the effort to reduce the volume of waste that goes into the bags.

They are more likely to separate the waste and not throw away material that can be recycled, such as paper, plastic and metal.

Also, the levy will generate additional revenue which the government should use to improve the environment.

For example, it could put more recycling bins on the streets, and organise activities to promote awareness about the need to protect the environment.

It will help change the whole culture of waste and how it is disposed in Hong Kong. As people get more used to the charge, they will recognise the need to recycle waste rather than put it in rubbish bins.

Rheneas Choi, Yau Ma Tei


Hongkongers quick to offer seats to elderly

Over the past few weeks, a number of correspondents have expressed concern about the manners of some passengers on public transport in Hong Kong and I remain puzzled by their negative comments.

I regularly take public transport (buses and the MTR) and am always pleased to see how willing many local people are to offer their seat to passengers in need.

One correspondent talked about being in her 80s, at the front of the bus and having to stand.

If you are at the front, it is unlikely seated passengers would see you.

Elderly people who move into the bus will be spotted and almost certainly be offered a seat.

There was a complaint of younger passengers having fallen asleep after a hard day at work, without noticing elderly passengers on board the bus. Obviously if they are asleep they cannot be expected to see an elderly person or someone who clearly is in need of a seat.

Whenever I am on public transport and have no seat to offer because I am standing, I always ask a younger person if they would kindly offer their seat. The response to my request has always been positive and immediate.

On the other hand, during all the years I have been living in Hong Kong, unless my memory is fading, I don't remember having noticed any Caucasian person on public transport who offered their seat to an elderly or disabled person.

I must say that I find it depressing to read or hear so much criticism when I think we should all count our blessings to be living in Hong Kong with all its merits.

Monique Dutard, Aberdeen


Drug testing scheme will help addicts

Hong Kong has always had the reputation of being an international city with one of the lowest crime rates in the world. But we do have a problem of drug abuse among young people. This is a social problem that must be addressed.

Youngsters are impressionable and some have the misconception that taking illegal drugs will help them solve the problems they face and escape from the stress students experience at school.

It is heartbreaking to see them fall into the trap of drugs and have their lives ruined. It is important that youngsters who become addicted are given a chance and helped with recovery.

The government's proposed adoption of a compulsory drug-testing scheme is a bold initiative which can help to identify young drug addicts.

Critics point to grey areas and the possible violation of human rights.

I know it is difficult for society to reach a consensus on this issue, however. We have to come up with a method that deals effectively with this serious problem.

I think parents have to support this compulsory scheme, for the sake of the future of the younger generation.

The battle to curb youth drug addiction is a long-term one, but I believe it is possible with the concerted effort of educators and the government.

Gabriella Cheng, Sha Tin


Low crime rate justifies 'stop and search'

I refer to the report ("Police tactics queried after 1.6m spot checks last year", November 24), regarding questions being asked about the force's stop-and-search tactics.

Let's put this as simply as possible: the most important figures revealed in your report are that New York has twice the crime rate of Hong Kong and in London it is 10 times as high.

I would ask anyone who is questioning the policy of the police with regard to on-the-spot searches and identity checks, how they would feel about their own safety and that of their family if they lived in a city where they had a much higher chance of being a victim of crime.

The crime rate comparisons clearly show that the Hong Kong police's stop-and-search tactics are working.

Our crime statistics make us the envy of most if not all countries around the world.

If this is the price we need to pay to live in safety, I think we are getting a very fair deal.

I have lived here for almost 20 years and when people ask me what I like most about Hong Kong, it is definitely not the good air; rather, it is the safety I and my family enjoy, a safety which all citizens are guaranteed no matter what their ethnic background.

Hans Wergin, Cheung Chau