Letters to the Editor, February 16, 2014

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 3:55am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 3:55am

Radical way to stub out a deadly habit

I refer to your editorial ("For sake of youth, raise tobacco tax", February 9) and the positive views you took of the proposal.

Many years ago a brilliant friend suggested to me the ultimate way to protect our children and future generations from this deadly tobacco dependence and human suffering, was for government to "rule a line in the sand" and legislate to make it illegal for anybody (citizens or visitors) born on or after a prescribed date (for example, January 1, 2010), to buy, own, sell, grow, import, export or use tobacco products.

With strict enforcement, this would effectively phase out tobacco use in a country in one lifetime, although some illegal use by obstinate addicts would remain. It is a radical approach requiring a government's determination to protect the health of future generations at the expense of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue.

Ultimately, I believe eliminating tobacco use will require radical approaches like my friend suggested.

Current government initiatives such as increased taxation, a plethora of polite anti-smoking TV commercials and plain packaging on tobacco products will always play second fiddle to peer pressure and the pleasure from addictive tobacco association.

Of course, it may be hard to find a decisive government that places human health and frailty ahead of tax revenue.

Eric Comino, Yuen Long


Wonderful marine park hard to reach

The only marine park on Hong Kong Island lies at the tip of the Cape D'Aguilar peninsula - Cape D'Aguilar Marine Reserve. It is a natural wonder with rugged panoramas, a sea cave and rock arch as a reward for those who can find their way.

The road down to the reserve and the Swire Institute of Marine Science is blocked by a Civil Aviation Department compound surrounded by chain-link fencing.

Don't expect to find any signs to get to this place, or a proper path to get around the obstruction. Over the Lunar New Year, many people were frustrated by the obstacles, getting lost and retracing their steps. Nevertheless, a steady stream of determined hikers scrambled around the barriers.

According to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department website, marine parks are to be "freely accessed" by visitors, who are expected to follow sensible rules to respect a pristine environment. It's easy to miss the partially overgrown path down to the sea cave, and there are no signs to this or the rock arch, both of which are a photographer's paradise.

The reserve is an amphitheatre of sea and sky, revealing a large slice of the Hong Kong's geological history, carved by nature's forces. All who complete the journey marvel at the extraordinary landscape and ocean's power. I returned feeling a sense of awe and deeper respect for nature. So why is this gem hidden from full public access and enjoyment?

The relevant department could do a lot, at little cost, to improve the current situation.

Steve Garton, Causeway Bay


Singapore has achieved the right balance

I am amused that a "free markets" crusader like Jake van der Kamp should begrudge Singapore's versatility in meeting regional demand for its products and services with snide remarks about its scruples ("Singaporeans not as wealthy as GDP figures suggest", February 4).

A sustainable economy is one that seeks to balance trade, savings, investment, consumption and wealth distribution.

Singapore addresses this in various ways, including the Central Provident Fund - which absorbs up to 36 per cent of a salaried employee's monthly income, capped at S$5,000 (HK$30,000), with substantially higher deposit rates; many of its citizens tap the fund to purchase their homes, in addition to other assets such as stocks and gold.

Its median household income is about twice that of Hong Kong. Singaporeans take about a third of the time needed by Hongkongers to pay off their mortgage.

Most live in relatively spacious and affordable 99-year- leasehold subsidised public flats that yield an average return of S$200,000 when sold in the secondary market after the five-year minimum occupation period.

Sadly, such perks are beyond the reach of many Hong Kong households, especially those who live in rental housing, despite their supposedly "higher" private consumption levels, which by definition includes rents but excludes home purchases and Singapore's sophisticated forced savings- investment pension plan.

As a keen foreign student of capitalism living in Asia's self-proclaimed "world city" of money, van der Kamp's bias towards local investments over foreign ones is amazingly quaint. Good investments, regardless of nationality, have created a variety of jobs for Singaporeans, in both high-end services and advanced manufacturing, as well as supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. And at around two per cent, the Lion City's unemployment rate is the lowest in the developed world.

John Chan, Singapore


Slow progress on fighting discrimination

The controversial issue of same-sex marriage has been a cause for much debate.

While more nations, such as England and Wales, New Zealand, France and Scotland, have legally recognised same-sex marriage, the sexual orientation discrimination ordinance has yet to be passed in Hong Kong. In effect, this means discrimination is allowed in our society because of one's sexuality. We have laws against racism and discrimination on grounds of sex, disability and family status. Why not ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people?

Some of us might feel uncomfortable about same-sex couples since we were taught "a family is formed by a father and a mother" since we were born.

Such a law would not just enable same-sex couples to marry. It would ensure they have the same basic human rights as everyone else protected by law.

I understand that some traditional Chinese values are difficult to change. However, Hong Kong is an international city which should show an open-minded and welcoming image to the world; that can only benefit its economy and help it stay competitive.

Amnesty International's vision is that every person enjoys all of the human rights. LGBT should not be excluded. I call upon the government to let people have same right regardless of their sexuality. It would be a huge step towards a more accepting society.

Stephanie Kong Hiu-ying, Kwai Chung


City's waste problem must be addressed

As with many other developed cities, Hong Kong's volume of waste is growing and the city is rapidly running out of landfill spaces.

Yet, disappointingly, in in his latest policy address, the chief executive did not mention anything about landfills or charging fees for waste at source.

Before the policy address, waste was one of the hottest topics among Hongkongers. According to a survey, a majority of citizens agree to the extension of landfills. However, residents living near the landfills oppose the projects, saying it will affect their lives.

I wonder what policies the government will come up with to solve the landfill problem.

The best solution is for the administration to impose charges at the waste source.

Cathy Fu Yan-yi, Kwai Chung