Letters to the Editor, January 30, 2014
Au must come clean on new incinerator
Elvis W. K. Au, deputy director of environmental protection, continues as chief standard bearer for the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator project, with his letter ("Shek Kwu Chau chosen as site for incinerator after exhaustive process", January 18). He again makes questionable assertions.
Mr Au claims that potential health impacts are included in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the incinerator site. Yet with no trials involving Hong Kong waste, the EIA just states the emissions will reach European Union standards.
In a meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment, Mr Au asserted that the incinerator technology would "completely destroy organic pollutants". This assertion is also made in an Environmental Protection Department assessment of waste treatment technologies.
Does the department have grounds for making such a bold claim?
All the information I have seen on incineration indicates that it produces substantial amounts of organic pollutants, and the pollutants removed from emissions make the chimney ash even more toxic. If the department has evidence to the contrary, it should be presented. If not, it is surely incumbent upon Mr Au to present a more honest picture of incineration.
This honest appraisal could also mention research linking incinerators to health impacts such as cancers and birth defects, and of cases in which incinerators have suffered accidents or created excessive emissions.
While incineration cannot destroy all organic pollutants, more advanced plasma arc waste treatment exposes materials to temperatures of 4,000-7,000 degrees Celsius - blasting molecules apart. There are minimal emissions, and inert glassy rock instead of ash.
The department has dismissed recommendations for adopting plasma arc waste treatment, relying partly on the increasingly outdated technology assessment, and with claims that a plant in Japan closed because of technical issues. Yet according to Richard Fish, president of technology provider Alter NRG, "the reasons for the closure were related specifically to a lack of feedstock - not problems with the technology".
Does the department have evidence to the contrary? If not, honesty is again called for.
In fact, after resolving early technical issues, the Japanese plant led to construction of the world's largest plasma arc waste treatment plant in Teesside, UK, which will begin commissioning within weeks.
There are technology suppliers and partners willing to work with Hong Kong, perhaps with a pilot plant as a step towards a facility that can be built much faster and at considerably less expense than the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator.
Dr Martin Williams, director, Hong Kong Outdoors
End all our discrimination against maids
I refer to the letter by Jan Hokerberg ("Mistreatment of maids like a form of slavery", January 25).
I agree with him that the unfair treatment of maids from poorer countries must stop.
As an employer of an Indonesian helper whose friend was under the spotlight recently, I understand the feelings of these domestic helpers.
It is high time we reflected on our attitudes towards maids.
Changing legislation or ensuring existing laws are enforced would offer a quick fix, but would not deal with the root of the problem.
There is a pressing need to change our mindset. Adults must end any discrimination towards these helpers from Indonesia.
Children can instil the correct concept in others. They are Hong Kong's future leaders. If they grow up with the right attitude, then we can have a society in future with no more racial discrimination.
Even minor acts of tolerance are important and can create a more caring society.
Anthony Wah Chi-shing, Hung Hom
Children need more outside play areas
I have three active children who were all born in Hong Kong.
My husband and I love taking them to the outdoor playgrounds around Hong Kong Island. One of our favourites is the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park in Sai Ying Pun. However, I would like to know why the Leisure and Cultural Services Department cordons off half of the grassed area every weekend for watering.
This is the time when families are out with their children and there is little space for play as it is around Hong Kong Island.
The playground is already crowded so the grass area should be able to relieve the crowds by being fully accessible.
Secondly, why are the security guards stopping rollerbladers and kids on scooters when they pose no threat and are in no way noisy or environmentally unfriendly?
There are already very few places for them to ride their bikes, so the next best exercise on wheels is the scooter and rollerblades but now this is being stopped.
In any other first-world society, exercise and having fun would be encouraged in children by the government.
Thirdly, since we are short of play areas on the island, and especially near the waterfront, will officials be putting a playground in the new green area near the government headquarters at Tamar? I sincerely hope they have considered the one million children in this city who would benefit from having a specially designated area to play in.
Tanya Rabinowitz, Mid-Levels
Just put your phone away on escalators
I agree with Kelly Lee On-ting that people on MTR escalators and in the street often look intently at their mobile phones while being completely oblivious to what is going on around them ("MTR's mobile phone plea is now ignored", January 20).
This is despite an announcement in MTR stations for passengers not to look at their phones while on escalators. If they are concentrating on their smartphones and there is an accident, then their response is likely to be delayed and they could be at risk of injury. This is a safety issue and all people in MTR stations should pay attention to it.
It should just be automatic for everyone to take the simple precaution of holding the handrail on an escalator. They should not need to be reminded of the importance of doing this as it is common sense. It shows a lack of self control on the part of some people that they ignore the announcement.
All they are being asked to do is put their smartphone away for a few minutes. There is a need for some people to change their attitude in this city.
Wang Tsz-man, Tseung Kwan O
Think hard about how to be a parent
I am concerned about the number of teenage suicides in Hong Kong.
I do not think there is any doubt that many of today's teenagers do not have such highly developed problem-solving skills as the previous generation. They often seem unable to deal emotionally with any setbacks in their lives.
Those parents who have been overprotective must take some responsibility for this state of affairs.
Helicopter parents, as they are known, fail to appreciate that teenagers are on the verge of becoming young adults and still treat them as children.
They make their decisions for them, and when their sons and daughters do something wrong, the mothers and fathers blame someone else.
By contrast, there are youngsters who suffer emotional problems because of a lack of parental care.
Adults may have to work long hours and can spend little time at home. If the child is having psychological problems, they may not recognise this.
In extreme cases, the teenager may commit suicide.
People in this city need to think carefully about their parenting skills and if what they are doing is the right way forward.
They should avoid being overprotective, but also ensure they communicate with their children so they can take any necessary steps to help before it is too late.
Renee Fung Hoi-kiu, Tsing Yi
Control mainland immigration
In recent years, the influx of mainlanders has led to conflicts with Hong Kong citizens.
This can be traced back to mainland women coming to the city to give birth. They realised that the quality of health care they would get in a Hong Kong hospital was better than what they could expect on the mainland.
It put tremendous pressure on Hong Kong's medical resources. Different stakeholders protested over this abuse of the system and the government implemented measures to crack down on it.
There has been pressure on our education system, especially kindergartens, with children coming from over the border.
We can also expect greater competition for school and university places between local and mainland students. Mainland educational opportunities are still limited.
Mainland citizens are using up a lot of the city's resources and the decision of the Court of Final Appeal allowing new migrants to apply for welfare, rubbed salt in the wounds.
I think the Hong Kong and central governments have to find a way to control this influx to ensure the sustainable development of the city.
Darren Tang, Tai Po