Letters to the Editor, February 14, 2014

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 3:36am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 3:36am

Cutting tourist numbers won't solve problem

Some political parties have suggested an arrival tax on non-Hong Kong residents who enter the city by land.

The aim is to reduce the number of mainland visitors, and especially parallel-goods traders, who disrupt the supply of some commodities such as formula milk in the city.

It is argued that the number of these tourists would fall, but critics say it would harm Hong Kong's economy.

International markets are still recovering from the financial tsunami in 2008.

Hong Kong relies to a great extent on tourism and the service industry for economic growth. Therefore, I fail to see how it would benefit from a reduction in the number of mainland tourists.

To eliminate the problems created by parallel-goods traders, the government should ask suppliers of formula milk for babies to ensure there is enough to meet the demand of Hong Kong mothers.

Officials should also do more to promote the advantages to young mothers of breastfeeding over use of milk powder. If this is effective, then demand for tins of formula will decrease.

On a related matter, some Hongkongers complain about visitors from over the border discarding a lot of refuse and making the urban environment very unhygienic. This problem can be solved by having cleaning contractors employ more staff so that the streets are cleaned more frequently.

Chan Tak-yung, Ma On Shan


Well-being of athletes must come first

My heart goes out to Hong Kong's sole competitor at the Winter Olympics, speed skater Barton Lui Pan-to ("Olympian slams lack of medical support", February 12).

Lui's success, including the honour of representing Hong Kong at Sochi, has been despite the lack of open support from the SAR government. It is therefore yet another insult that the seven-strong Hong Kong delegation did not include a team doctor to provide the necessary support to Lui.

As the figurehead for sports and culture in Hong Kong, Timothy Fok Tsun-ting might have earned his place on the delegation. However, questions must be asked as to whether the presence of the other six delegates was absolutely necessary and whether they should have taken precedence over direct support personnel for Lui.

It would be sad and demoralising for Hong Kong's athletes and citizens if taxpayer-funded delegates enjoyed jollies to exotic locales at the cost of the well-being and possible success of our hard-working athletes.

Helen Cheung, Ho Man Tin


Clouding the issue of water fluoridation

I appreciate the response from David Wong, of the Water Supplies Department ("Fluoridation of drinking water protects teeth", February 8), in reply to my letter ("Orwellian practice must end in HK", January 27) regarding fluoridation of Hong Kong's public drinking water.

Mr Wong's standard response informs us that "a low level of fluoride in water protects against dental caries", (which is highly debatable) and therefore "fluoridation of drinking water remains the most socially equitable means of achieving community wide exposure". But the fact is that this is our water we are talking about. People drink it, they make tea and cook with it, and occasionally grow food with it.

Athletes, or people living and working in hot conditions in general may drink more; boiling water for tea (or worse, baby formula) concentrates the chemical and who is to know how much fluoride we are getting in our bodies as a result? Certainly not equitable amounts.

Let's call this practice what it is: it is mass-medication of the entire population of Hong Kong, whether individuals want it or not.

I don't want it, but am given no choice in the matter, and even though Mr Wong assures me that "there is no conclusive evidence of any health hazard" there is indeed much doubt, and as a result of that doubt I wonder what gives a government the right to force every man woman and child to - often unknowingly - ingest a medication which supposedly protects teeth.

Anyone can Google for themselves to see the mass of controversy on the issue. There is huge doubt. Scientists and governments have been wrong before about many things, and the fact remains, if in doubt then at least give people freedom to choose.

Otherwise it smacks of something more sinister. For anyone who wants it, there is ample fluoride in toothpaste and other dental products. We don't need to drink it too.

G. Holloway, Lantau


Don't let festive food leftovers go to waste

So much food was wasted during Lunar New Year. Most people will have left some festive food untouched and thousands of citrus plants will have ended up in our landfills.

I feel the waste problem is getting worse and this could be prevented by adopting the right attitude. People should try and think more carefully about how much festive food they need to cook and try and think of ways to turn leftover food into tasty meals.

Schools need to teach children about the importance of reducing volumes of waste.

Extending landfills is only a short-term solution.

Lee Po-yan, Kwai Chung


Show some horse sense on lai see packets

Giving red lai see packets as gifts has become obligatory during the Lunar New Year.

It is a Chinese tradition during this period to give these packets to a number of people, including those who are unmarried. But, the way that this tradition is practised in Hong Kong is proving not to be environmentally friendly.

Given that this is the Year of the Horse, many packets are printed with pictures or messages linked to horses. Therefore, these packets cannot be recycled and used next year, the Year of the Goat. Also, they cannot be used for giving lai see for a wedding and birthday.

It would be a greener option for the makers of these packets to print the Chinese character which means good fortune and happiness. The packets could then be reused as they would be suitable for all occasions when you give away a lai see envelope.

Also, there are times when, in order to reduce waste, you could choose a different gift, such as chocolates or cookies, that will be eaten and not wasted.

Smiley Wong, Hung Hom


Maid agency fees should be shared

I am glad you brought attention to the high agency fees that domestic workers from Myanmar may have to pay to work in Hong Kong ("Steep fee for Myanmar maids fuels abuse fear", February 6).

This fee should be shared more equitably between employees and employers whose household income is required by law to be at least HK$15,000 per month to recruit a domestic helper. These employers are therefore in a position to pay.

It is unfair that workers earning as little as HK$4,000 per month would have to pay HK$16,000 in agency fees, especially as research shows that workers who are debt-bound and who have insufficient or no support networks are more vulnerable to exploitation by employers.

High-profile court cases involving the exploitation and abuse of domestic helpers in Hong Kong have brought the victim's side of the story to the fore.

Unfortunately the media has fallen short in highlighting the government's failure to comply with international law and adequately monitor the activities of overseas recruitment agencies and local placement firms.

The rising number of domestic workers in the city implies an increase in the number of employers, and they too should be aware of and bound to their obligations towards their employees.

The double income-earning households that contribute significantly to Hong Kong's prosperity and the care of many of the city's elderly would not be possible without domestic helpers, and we should start valuing them.

Helena Lim, programme manager, Global Institute for Tomorrow


Xi's war on graft gives people hope

The spotlight has fallen on corruption on the mainland following the investigation into former security chief Zhou Yongkang. I think the fight against corruption is gaining a lot of public support.

When he became president, Xi Jinping pledged to take down those individuals who were found guilty of corruption. It is certainly a serious problem as it clearly involves high and low-level officials.

If he fails to make the necessary improvements and act effectively against dishonest individuals, Xi will lose the support of the Chinese people. But if his anti-graft campaign continues to yield results, it will help to consolidate his power base in the party.

I hope the inquiry into Zhou will serve as a warning that even the highest-ranking party officials are not immune from investigation.

Katherine Ng Tsz-ying, Kowloon Bay