Letters to the Editor, February 8, 2014
Banyan trees sacrificed to developers
I refer to the report ("Felling of iconic tree angers activists", January 24). It is not only activists, but all Hongkongers who value their living environment who will feel sad and angry that these old banyan trees have been hacked down.
The walls and wide steps connected Nam Koo Terrace to the Hung Shing Temple which sits at the original Wan Chai shoreline on the tail of a characteristic rock spur formation running through the site from the mountainside above Bowen Road.
The wall trees and these solid granite relics were recognised as the finest on Hong Kong island. This evocative locality is being sacrificed for tourists and shopping. It is ironic that our government is destroying cultural heritage that strongly appeals to foreign visitors in order to accommodate a tourist hotel.
In most world cities, architects would give "their right arms" for such a unique opportunity to sympathetically integrate a modern hotel into this topography, with its impressive old stone structures and mature wall trees.
Here in Wan Chai, we can only expect a massive podium and concrete, glass and tiling and weak replacement trees in bunkers with no root room. But more than a failure of architecture, this represents a failure of government.
This development required much public land, and the Town Planning Board's conditions of approval required a landscaping plan, tree felling report, and a public park at Ship Street.
According to the approved master layout plan, these old stone walls and stairs are located at the eastern boundary of the park, while the 55-storey hotel tower is situated on the other side.
The government held the strong cards in its negotiations with Hopewell Holdings to revalidate a 1994 plan. The reason that this exceptional heritage site was not retained within the park is simply that our officials do not give any aesthetic or cultural value to such historical relics.
To most developers, heritage is just a nuisance that stands in the path of "progress". Few people will know of this secret area hidden away for decades behind Queen's Road East. Now due to its demolition and demise, sadly this will remain the case.
I strongly suggest that the Leisure and Cultural Services Department rescues the granite walling blocks for use in its new public park at Ship Street and replants Chinese banyans.
Roger Emmerton, Wan Chai
Leung's focus on education is welcome boost
In last month's policy address, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying pledged HK$3 billion for the Low-income Working Family Allowance which will help needy households.
He also earmarked money to provide grants to needy students studying at mainland universities and to help disadvantaged children join extracurricular activities.
As a secondary student, I welcome this focus on education. The grant will mean that more teenagers will be able to study as undergraduates over the border. This is important, given that there are only a limited number of places at universities in Hong Kong.
But while the policy address will aid low-income families, it should have also offered policies to help the middle class.
Tam Ching-man, Kwai Chung
Fluoridation of drinking water protects teeth
I refer to the letter by G. Holloway ("Orwellian practice must end in HK", January 27) concerning fluoridation of public water supply in Hong Kong.
According to the advice of the World Health Organisation, a low level of fluoride in drinking water provides protection against dental caries. Its "Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality (2011)" has reaffirmed the health-based value of drinking water that contains 1.5 milligrams of fluoride per litre after an extensive review of scientific studies and literature.
A systematic review of scientific literature on the efficacy and safety of fluoridation published in 2008 also concluded that fluoridation of drinking water remains the most effective and socially equitable means of achieving community-wide exposure to the caries-preventing qualities of fluoride.
A large number of epidemiological studies have been conducted in many countries concerning the effects of long-term exposure to fluoride. There is so far no conclusive scientific evidence of any health hazard from long-term exposure to a very low amount of fluoride in drinking water.
Fluoridation of the water supply in Hong Kong is implemented in accordance with the advice of the Department of Health as a preventive measure to reduce dental decay.
The average fluoride content in treated water supplied by the Water Supplies Department was 0.49 mg/L during the period from October 2012 to September 2013, which is below both the Department of Health and the WHO's recommended levels. The need to add fluoride to drinking water depends on the concentration of naturally occurring fluoride in the water sources.
According to the information from the WHO, traces of fluorides are present in much water, with higher concentrations often associated with groundwater.
High fluoride concentrations can be found in China and in many parts of the world, particularly in parts of India, Central Africa and South America. Thus, it is not suitable to directly compare the practices in other areas.
The Water Supplies and Health departments will continue to monitor closely the fluoride content in the drinking water supply in Hong Kong and the latest scientific developments on the subject.
David Wong, senior engineer/public relations, Water Supplies Department
Young people afraid to chase their dreams
I think many Hong Kong teenagers don't have the courage to follow their dreams.
They find themselves under so much pressure from society that they look for security and often end up working in an office when they had once harboured more adventurous aspirations.
Often they opt for a career which they do not necessarily want, but which will earn them a good income.
The reason why teenagers are willing to accept the prospect of a rather dull life is because of Hong Kong's education system.
They are educated to be practical and aim for a stable and safe way of life. Most do not dare to be different.
Parents and teachers emphasise the importance of the public exam. For them, there is nothing more important than the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.
It is a pity that teenagers in our city are losing their dreams.
When forming education policies, the government should not only pay attention to this exam. It should be thinking about ways in which schools can help students focus on areas outside the exam that really interest them.
Private enterprise could also play a role here, helping young people explore a career path that may be a bit different.
Michelle Yeung, Tsing Yi
Stroll in the sun spoiled by parking tickets
Traffic police have found a relatively easy way to discharge their duties, or, some might say, fill their monthly quota, by issuing parking tickets to motorists parked at the entrance of Tai Tam Country Park, on Tai Tam Reservoir Road.
The police officer issuing the tickets on Sunday, February 2, had a field day and took maximum advantage of the glorious weather and the unsuspecting motorists who had come out in droves to enjoy their holiday in one of our most beautiful country parks. It is very popular with families pushing babies in strollers and with hikers.
They park their cars with half the car on the pavement and the other half on the road. This is the norm in Hong Kong and it in no way impedes or obstructs the pedestrians, nor the flow of traffic to the Parkview Estate. The only parking facility is for short periods and has around six spaces.
To add insult to injury, there are no signs or yellow lines to warn you that the whole area is a no-parking zone.
How is an unsuspecting motorist to know whether parking in this area is legal or not? Do we stop visiting our country parks?
I wish traffic police could show some understanding and common sense.
They should set up warning signs in all areas of Hong Kong where it is an offence to park your vehicle. This is what happens in other cities.
I would also recommend that the police officer who issued the tickets be reassigned to the Queen's Road Central area, where he and other officers are needed to crack down on illegal double parking.
Ata Malik, Pok Fu Lam
Street food stalls create litter problem
The street vendors in Sham Shui Po with their food stalls are very popular.
When Hongkongers eat at this mini-night market it brings back childhood memories when there were so many dai pai dong in the city.
However, the littering problem in this area is very serious and the streets where the vendors set up their stalls become crowded and dirty with discarded refuse.
The people eating there and the vendors need to practise some self-discipline. After all, ensuring we have a clean city creates a good impression with tourists.
Hong Kong is famous around the world for its food, and the street vendors are a part of the city's culture.
The government should not abandon these people, because their stalls are popular with visitors. It should try to help them operate in night markets and establish more of them.
If we did have more of these food stalls in Hong Kong, it would help people from the grass roots find work.
Kathy Au Yeung, Wong Tai Sin