Letters to the Editor, December 27, 2013
Don't penalise all Filipinos for bus tragedy
Travel involves risk, and fate dealt those Hongkongers in the Manila tour group tragic cards on August 23, 2010 when they became victims in the Rizal Park hostage-taking incident.
But People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip is being blinkered and small-minded in proposing an amendment to the immigration law to penalise Filipino domestic helpers and visitors for the sad outcome ("Lawmaker outlines plan to ban Filipinos", December 21).
He is overstepping his position if he thinks he can bring "Manila to heel" to apologise. Governments are loath to humble themselves, especially to outsiders, and similarly the Hong Kong government has not apologised to its own people for the shortcomings of its officials in relation to the Lamma ferry disaster in October 2012.
Filipinos contribute greatly to Hong Kong by their work, as tourists and with their buoyant and compassionate personalities. Hong Kong would be a much poorer society without them.
I find it crass that Chan uses the victims of this tragedy to promote himself and uses the protection afforded by his position in the Legislative Council to make divisive and discriminatory statements.
I trust that the administration will not support Chan's private member's bill.
P. C. Law, Quarry Bay
Sai Kung still sold short on air quality
The new air quality health index is a step in the right direction but hopefully not the final step ("A welcome move to clear the air", December 23).
It will be interesting to compare what it says with what the Hedley Index tells us about current air quality (which, incidentally, is back up to very dangerous again).
The Friends of Sai Kung have failed in the past to get the Environmental Protection Department to install an air quality monitoring station in the district.
Our nearest stations are Kwun Tong and Tap Mun and the boffins running the super air quality site at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in the district refuse either to provide readings or allow a visit.
Guy Shirra, Friends of Sai Kung
Lifestyle change to help beat pollution
Hong Kong often has smog containing large quantities of pollutants because of winds carried from the mainland. This can cause the level of suspended particulates in the city to exceed World Health Organisation guidelines.
These suspended particulates from vehicles and factories irritate respiratory systems, sometimes leading to chronic conditions and reduced visibility.
Poor air quality on the mainland and places such as Hong Kong affected by what happens over the border can be a health nightmare for those who suffer from allergies.
However, responses from the mainland to these problems are sometimes disappointing. For example, there was the report in the nationalist newspaper, the Global Times, saying smog "could help the country's military defence strategy" ("Smog 'is helping to guard against missile attacks'", December 10). Trying to put a positive spin on this form of pollution when mainland citizens are suffering as a consequence is unacceptable.
The central government must try to improve the country's air quality. It is very important to find substitutes for non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels. Most renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power are clean and produce no carbon emissions. The government also needs to set up special clinics to help citizens who suffer respiratory diseases because of the high pollution levels.
Hong Kong citizens also need to have a greater level of awareness about the impact of pollution on their health. Our air pollution levels are better than those black spots on the mainland, but we are still affected by what is happening north of the border.
Although we have an air pollution index, the government needs to do more to educate citizens, through television adverts, so that they have a deeper understanding about the effects of pollution.
A heightened level of awareness can also make it easier for the administration to get through its proposed policies aimed at cleaning up the environment. With worsening air pollution in many countries, the importance of environmental protection cannot be overemphasised.
All necessary action must be taken by governments to protect the environment and clean up bad air.
Let's stop making excuses for the present state of affairs. We all need to change our lifestyles.
Wina Leung, Tai Wai
GFS needs turboprop planes not jets
I read in the Chinese press that the two new Challenger 605 fixed wing aircraft to replace the Government Flying Service's (GFS) Jetstream 41 aircraft, which have been in service since 1997, will cost a total of US$70 million. They will come into service next year.
About five years ago I spoke to someone who worked for the GFS who said the Jetstream aircraft had to be retired soon as it was difficult to get new parts.
As I understand it, they operate over 1,000 hours a year, for search and rescue, law enforcement, aerial mapping and work with other government departments.
The expenditure on the new aircraft was approved by Legco. Why were no objections and questions raised about why such a large amount of money had to be spent on these two new aircraft? I suppose lawmakers just felt GFS personnel were the experts.
GFS is responsible for search and rescue in areas around Hong Kong, including the South China Sea, to a maximum distance of 700 nautical miles. This is not a very large distance to cover, compared to, say, a country like the US.
The fixed wing aircraft of the GFS operate at an altitude of between 4,000 and 7,000 feet.
A jet consumes a great deal of fuel operating at low altitudes.
During a search and rescue operation it would be very difficult to find survivors when the jet is travelling at a high speed compared to the present turboprop aircraft.
I feel the GFS has been allowed to waste taxpayers' money by purchasing the two Challenger 605s. I am sure these taxpayers would be interested to know the operating cost per hour of these jets and annual maintenance costs.
I have spoken to several pilots and they were surprised the GFS had purchased these two aircraft and agreed it was a waste of money.
The government should ask why the relevant GFS committee decided to recommend purchasing these jets instead of replacing the Jetstream 41 with another type of turboprop aircraft.
It would have been better to purchase a King Air 350 turboprop aircraft.
Eugene Li, Deep Water Bay
HK students put under so much pressure
Nowadays, students in Hong Kong are under a lot of pressure, and suicide is a growing problem for teenagers.
They have to attend so many tutorial classes and have other extracurricular activities.
They face pressure from their studies and also from their peers.
Teachers and parents compare students with their peers, which increases the level of pressure on teenagers to do well academically.
Teenagers will find they can be heavily criticised for a poor academic result.
This pressure caused by competition is also exacerbated by students who are now coming from the mainland to study at universities in Hong Kong, both as undergraduates and graduates.
They are competing for the limited number of undergraduate places that are available at Hong Kong's tertiary institutions.
Parents with their academic expectations put additional pressure on their sons and daughters, expecting them to do well in all their examinations.
In addition to extra English classes, some teenagers also have to do Spanish and French lessons.
Schools also make things tough for students academically, as for all head teachers, it is important for a school to have a good track record when it comes to examinations.
Because of this, teachers, school heads and parents will put additional pressure on students to excel in exams.
Nadia Lam, Tsim Sha Tsui
Allow Tracker Fund option for MPF
The winner of the Nobel Prize in economics this year, Eugene F. Fama, has observed that the long-term returns of the stock index are better than managed funds.
It would be best if we are allowed, as contributors to the Mandatory Provident Fund, the choice of investing in the Tracker Fund of Hong Kong.
I think this should be allowed because the fund gives a reasonable return (in terms of appreciation and dividend) over the long term.
Also, the fund maps the Hong Kong economy.
It has a very low management fee and also a very low cost when it comes to buying and selling.
Finally, it gives long-term stability to the economy
If contributors can directly subscribe to the Tracker Fund, it will reduce the management fee.
The risk exposure is reasonable and stock performance is very transparent.
The availability of the Tracker Fund will give a very good alternative to the portfolio of MPF funds that fund holders can currently choose.
Dennis Li, Mid-Levels