Letters to the Editor, February 13, 2014

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 3:54am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 3:54am

Vision for Lantau based on ignorance

I refer to the report ("'Build in Lantau's country parks'", February 10), which gave us an insight into Franklin Lam Fan-keung's vision of the future for Hong Kong's largest island.

What worries me about this report is that Mr Lam is a government adviser. He apparently believes that few people visited Lantau before the airport was built. Even if true, Mr Lam fails to explain why this should have any relevance today, with around two million people a year visiting the island's two main parks.

There aren't many trees there, he says, presumably reducing its ecological value in his eyes.

Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of geography might point out that Lantau's steep mountain slopes are naturally only thinly covered with soil, so it stands to reason they aren't forested, though this fact in no way diminishes their ecological value. Still, there are plenty of trees in the island's lower reaches and valleys - precisely the location for Mr Lam's proposed homes for 300,000 people, presumably.

Without offering any evidence, he claims Lantau's marine environment holds greater value than the land. The marine environment is already being devastated by the airport, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project, and at risk from proposed projects such as the third runway and waste incinerator.

Fantastically, Mr Lam says Tung Chung might be transformed into the "centre of the Pearl River Delta", thus relegating the rest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzhen to the sidelines. In fact, Tung Chung is already an anomaly, given that most advanced administrations avoid building urban centres near airports, because of high levels of air and noise pollution.

To suggest expanding Tung Chung and creating a metropolis around the airport, which is set to get even bigger and more polluting, is absurd. But most absurd of all is Mr Lam's belief that urban development will "upgrade" Lantau's environment "millions of times". Please explain, Mr Lam.

Mark Regan, Lamma


Two-week rule is unfair to foreign helpers

The case of the abuse of Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih allegedly at the hands of her employer, has damaged Hong Kong's reputation abroad.

There have been other cases of abuse [some alleged and some proved] by employers of helpers. The government must ensure the human rights of these employees are protected.

First, it must have tighter regulation of employment agencies. If a domestic helper complains of abuse, the agency should phone the police. Also, it is important that rights of foreign domestic helpers are clearly explained to them.

Helpers are often reluctant to quit their jobs, even if they are victims of abuse, because they are only given two weeks to find another job before they have to leave Hong Kong. This is too short a period. The government should expand it to one month.

Employers need to realise that domestic helpers are not slaves, and must be treated with respect.

Betty Chow, Kwai Chung


Right time for cigarette tax increase

It is rumoured that the government is considering raising the tax on tobacco in this month's budget, in the hope it will lead to a sharp reduction in the number of smokers in Hong Kong.

News vendors argue a higher levy could force them out of business. While this may be the case, the disadvantages they face through such a tax hike are outweighed by the advantages that accrue to society.

If more people are persuaded to quit smoking, then they will feel physically better. They will have a greater disposable income, which can raise their standard of living and hence their quality of life. Also, if a lot of smokers kick the habit, this can lower the government's health-care costs.

I accept there is a downside, with fears more smokers will turn to the black market where prices are lower. But I am confident the Customs and Excise Department can curb the influx of smuggled tobacco.

The news vendors can try to adapt. Although cigarette sales make up a lot of their present revenue, they can diversify, selling other products such as snacks and soft drinks.

Chan Tak-yung, Ma On Shan


Minimising disruption to playground

I refer to the letters by Helen Ma ("Public space abused for private profit", December 28) and Frank Lee ("Pleasant sitting-out area has gone", January 7) regarding the management of public open spaces by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

Kennedy Road playground is next to a private redevelopment project on Kennedy Road. In view of their close proximity, the basketball court was temporarily closed from December 2 to January 2, as a precautionary measure to guard against potential danger the project might pose to the public.

We appreciate that the basketball court is a popular community facility. We monitored the project's progress closely and arranged for a partial reopening of the court from December 24. It was fully reopened as scheduled on January 3.

Southorn playground will be affected by the construction of a new subway under it. The subway will link MTR Wan Chai station's concourse to the basement level of the Urban Renewal Authority's H15 project to improve pedestrian connectivity. To minimise disruption of public services, we have worked with the MTR Corporation so that three basketball courts will remain open at any one time throughout the works period from This month to November 2016. All affected facilities will be reinstated and returned to the department after completion of the works.

As for the Amoy Street sitting-out area which has been temporarily closed since July 2013 to facilitate the H15 project, upon the project's completion by January 2015, the area will be re-provisioned with new facilities and returned to the department. It will not become an entrance and exit for the subway.

In the course of planning for these projects, the local district councils have been consulted and briefed on their impact on the provision of facilities, as well as the mitigation and re-provisioning arrangements. Both Central and Western and Wan Chai district councils supported the projects after giving due consideration to all relevant factors, including public safety and the resulting community benefits.

We will continue to work closely with the project proponents with a view to minimising the disturbance and inconvenience caused to the users of the public open spaces.

Olivia Chan, assistant director (leisure services), Leisure and Cultural Services Department


Elites can choose best candidates

I refer to the letter from Doug Miller ("Labour opts for nominated candidates", February 5) and the article by Professor Michael Davis ("Government commitment to Basic Law text can't be selective", February 5).

Mr Miller referred to media reports that the leader of Britain's Labour Party, Ed Miliband, is proposing a democratisation of leadership elections by allowing only members of the party, on a one-man, one-vote basis, to directly elect the leaders.

But the only candidates they will be able to vote for will be those who have been nominated by a committee consisting solely of MPs and MEPs.

The moral there must be that the nominees would be elites and choosing from a pool of elites offers the best chance of netting a competent and conscientious leader, which is what I suggested in the letter ("Choosing leader from a pool of elites", December 21).

Our aim must be to net a competent and conscientious leader, and not to show what a good copycat we are of the Westminster or Capitol Hill system.

This is what Professor Davis was trying to get us to do by rehashing all the old-hat arguments, some dubious, fielded over the years by the pan-democrats, at the risk of not seeing the wood for the trees.

And let's not beat about the bush - the screening process is to keep out the many secessionists among us; a handful of them can be easily identified.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan


Sanctions against Manila hypocritical

It is a sad situation that many people still want to punish the Philippines and its people for the bus hostage tragedy in Manila in 2010.

For those who feel this way, I wonder if they might reflect on the following point. If this had happened in America or in Beijing, would the same people be asking President Barack Obama or President Xi Jinping to apologise?

If not, why should President Benigno Aquino say sorry?

I would suggest neither the American nor Chinese leader would be asked to do this.

I would hope, but doubt it will happen, that those individuals (and the government) who support these visa and possibly further sanctions might see the hypocrisy in such a position.

I believe this is happening because there are many here who sadly feel the Philippines and Filipinos are inferior and not due the same respect as they would want for themselves.

Finally, can anyone justify the black travel warning still being in place? It should never have been implemented in the first place, let alone still be there.

More hypocrisy? I think so.

Terry Scott, Sha Tin