Letters to the Editor, January 1, 2014
Now time to scrap one-way permit scheme
I refer to the ruling last month of the Court of Final Appeal, that it is unconstitutional to deny social security to new immigrants.
This has sparked concern among the public over Hong Kong citizenship issues, in particular, the abuse of the one-way permit system.
Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) is designed as a safety net to help needy people and ensure that they get enough to eat and are not homeless.
The seven-year residency requirement to be eligible for CSSA was introduced in 2004, and was undoubtedly intended to prevent blatant abuse of scarce resources.
Also, applicants deemed eligible for CSSA will surely also be entitled to apply for other benefits like public housing and free medical care.
The one-way permit scheme allowed mainland residents to come here, but with zero financial support.
However, it has become distorted and I think that it is now time to scrap the outdated scheme as soon as possible. This can ensure better utilisation of precious public resources for the benefit of local people.
An immigration sponsorship scheme should be introduced instead which can plug any loopholes which have been created by the one-way permit over the last few years.
Gravis Cheng, Yuen Long
Wait for welfare was sound policy
The Court of Final Appeal's ruling on new immigrants being able to apply for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) will attract more mainlanders to Hong Kong.
It is unfair to Hongkongers. They have paid their taxes while they were working and are entitled to welfare.
The new immigrants have obviously not worked here and therefore not paid any taxes. They have made no contribution to our economy, but can now apply for the same welfare benefits as locals.
This will make some Hongkongers angry.
The government set a seven-year rule before people were eligible in order not to make this welfare available to migrants who had just arrived.
I disagree with those people who backed the court's ruling, and who felt that the government's policy was discriminatory, as I do not think that it was.
Officials needed to send the right message that immigrants had to make a contribution to society before they would be eligible for CSSA.
If these people had long-term plans to stay in the city then a wait of seven years was not that long.
We also have to consider the implications of the court's decision. Mainland migrants can now claim CSSA.
Will they next claim the right to be given public housing?
Hong Kong people are not against having more migrants, but in the interests of a harmonious society, it is better that they have to wait for a period of time before being entitled to claim benefits.
Himmy Lee Chun-him, Yau Tong
Jets can cover much larger search area
In his letter ("GFS needs turboprop planes not jets", December 27), your aviation expert correspondent Eugene Li challenged the Government Flying Service's choice of the Challenger 605 jet to replace its turboprop fixed-wing aircraft.
He based his challenge on the use of the aircraft for search and rescue and land surveying flights.
When it comes to electronic searches for search and rescue distress beacons, the jets can search from a far higher altitude and therefore cover a much larger area and in a shorter time than a turboprop.
The same goes for calibration flights for ground radars and navigation aids.
The propeller blades of a turboprop are known to interfere with the electronic signals of the navigation aid.
Suitably convertible in outfitting, the Challenger jet can be used as a business jet for VIP transport.
I can remember the late Margaret Thatcher and governor Sir Edward Youde making such use of them.
I believe the Observatory prefers a jet for flying into a typhoon to gather data.
Peter Lok, Chai Wan
Poor English a problem for world city
Although Hong Kong has been dubbed Asia's world city, English proficiency here is in gradual decline.
A recent report showed us being surpassed by some of our neighbours with regard to English standards.
I think that, since the handover in 1997, more people have shown a preference for speaking Chinese as the main language of communication. Even in the classroom in many schools, English is rarely used.
Students who are attending a Chinese-medium of education school (rather than English-medium) have a limited chance to practise in class, let alone outside the classroom. They are not immersed in an English-language environment.
The old adage that practise makes perfect is applicable here. These youngsters have fewer opportunities to use English.
At home, their parents will prefer or might only be able to converse in Cantonese.
Even with their peers, they are at a disadvantage as they will use Cantonese when in conversation and will text in Chinese.
Adults whose English-language skills are poor also have few opportunities to improve them.
At work they will only use English when it is absolutely necessary.
Outside the office, they are unlikely to engage in conversation with English-speaking foreigners.
I think we can only justifiably call Hong Kong Asia's world city if more citizens can show a good command of English, given its importance globally.
Camilla Lam, Kwun Tong
Passengers prefer to use the MTR
KMB wants to increase its fares by 4.3 per cent next year, partly because of loss-making routes.
I think the company's losses are unavoidable given the competition it faces from the MTR Corporation.
The MTR has expanded so much that it now covers most of Hong Kong. Also, it is developing new lines, such as the Kwun Tong Line extension, Sha Tin to Central Link, West Island Line and South Island Line.
The MTR is much more convenient and so most people would prefer to take the train rather than catch a bus. For these reasons, daily passenger numbers on KMB routes will keep falling and its losses will increase.
Also, KMB does not offer fare discounts to students. For that reason, many youngsters choose not to take a bus when going to school. If fares rise again, then more people will decide it is just too expensive a mode of transport.
I think that if KMB lowered its fares, rather than seeking a further increase, it would attract more passengers and might eventually realise a profit in this sector of its business.
Sion Chan, Yau Yat Chuen
Use surplus to install smoke detectors
The fire in the 24-storey Continental Mansion, in North Point on Sunday, once again reflects the need for smoke detectors to be mandatory in all buildings in Hong Kong.
In a city where almost everyone lives in high-rise accommodation it is only a matter of time before a towering inferno will claim lives that might otherwise have been saved.
Perhaps spending a fraction of the government's ridiculous surplus to prevent loss of life might be considered money well spent.
Mark Peaker, The Peak