Letters to the Editor, March 1, 2014

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 March, 2014, 4:35am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 March, 2014, 4:35am

An energeticheart beats idle thoughts

Your columnist Alvin Sallay ("When running hurts your health", February 23) provides a limited and rather unscientific view of the topic and mistakenly implies a sedentary lifestyle poses less risk than exercising in Hong Kong's polluted air.

He totally negates the beneficial effects of habitual exercise, even in polluted air (providing it is not extreme).

Scientific evidence shows that airborne pollution, especially fine particulates, can be hazardous to health. But so is a sedentary lifestyle, and Sallay has to breathe some of Hong Kong's polluted air even while in his armchair (over 24 hours, the recommended dose of 30minutes of daily moderate exercise adds only about 17 per cent more pulmonary ventilation than being totally inactive).

It is impossible to define a single threshold between the risks and benefits of exercising in polluted air; it depends on the precise levels of pollution in the place of exercise, especially the ultrafine particulates.

However, in 2007, public health researchers at the University of Hong Kong published evidence that performing habitual exercise in Hong Kong may actually prevent premature death attributable to air pollution.

A 2010 article from the Netherlands also showed that if motorists changed to cycling to work among the traffic-generated pollution, the potential effects (estimated as gain/loss in days of life) from cycling were nine times more beneficial compared with the combined risks associated with breathing traffic pollution and cycling-related accidents.

This was the case even when the most hazardous estimates of air pollution and traffic accident rates were compared with the lowest physical activity benefits; the benefit and risk ratio was still 2:1 in favour of physical activity.

Whether this Dutch study is transferable to the levels of pollution that are typically found in Hong Kong is debatable. At some stage, exercising on the days of extreme pollution that are often reported in major mainland cities is clearly likely to tip the benefit and risk ratio in favour of avoiding activity.

However, there is some limited scientific evidence to suggest that the estimated benefits of being regularly physically active probably outweigh the dangers even in some large (moderately?) polluted cities.

So Sallay should get off his couch and do some activity.

Dr Duncan Macfarlane, exercise physiologist, Pok Fu Lam


Inactivity over refuse will be waste of time

Wong Kam-sing, secretary for the environment, has given us fair warning that the problems of waste management in Hong Kong are "an urgent issue and action is needed now" ("Burning issue gets a cool response", February 25).

Could it mean the Environmental Protection Department will finally wake from its torpor and put real measures in place to cut the amount of waste at source and help us recover and recycle more?

With all the means at its disposal, it's really not that difficult; it's good to hear the minister confirming that action is needed.

So, can he please let us know what immediate actions his department proposes taking?

Or is the department just going to hang on for another month running the risk of a further setback in its wasteful plans for a giant incinerator?

Michael Pratt, Living Islands Movement


Mainlanders should learn how to behave

Anti-mainlander sentiments have increased in Hong Kong, with teenagers also joining in protests against these tourists.

Teenagers were among the protesters in Tsim Sha Tsui on Sunday, February 16, who confronted mainland shoppers and told them to go home.

Local people have complained about the behaviour of some of these visitors, such as not joining queues and speaking loudly in public areas.

Hongkongers have also been upset about parallel trading, which has led to the cost of daily necessities rising rapidly.

I do not condone the actions of the February 16 protesters; actually, I think those who took part went for the wrong target. Instead, they should be urging the central government to ensure that mainland citizens are taught how to behave properly when coming to our city.

Lui Ho-on, Ma On Shan


School campus closure idea short-sighted

I refer to the report ("International Montessori School's future in doubt again over lease", February 14).

It is disheartening to read Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim's comment offering assistance to find another temporary campus for students of the International Montessori School.

I cannot understand the logic of displacing 350 children who have happily settled into, and are thriving in, the Tin Hau campus. This government land is earmarked to be used for educational purposes, so why is it possible, or sensible for that matter, to suddenly change the terms? This well-established, excellent and popular bilingual school is positively contributing to our community.

As a parent whose son is studying at the school's kindergarten, it is worrying to think there may not be a place for him to continue at primary level owing to a shortage of space caused by the closure of the Tin Hau campus. Are Education Bureau officials and the government oblivious to the current shortage of spaces in top-rated schools in Hong Kong, or is it that they are not concerned?

I urge Mr Ng to offer assistance and support by helping to extend the lease on a long-term basis as soon as possible.

Please end this anxiety and uncertainty that this unnecessary situation has created, and do what is right for the children, the parents, the school and Hong Kong's education system.

Jane Chan, Mid-Levels


No time for sticking point on food labels

It is essential that labels on food products are legible. This enables consumers to be fully informed about what the food contains. After all, if you cannot read the label, what is the point of having a food-labelling law?

I get suspicious when I see a label on food packaging that I can barely read. Is the manufacturer trying to hide something?

I think food producers have been able to get away with it because few Hongkongers pay that much attention to labels.

This is clearly a grey area in the legislation, which must be addressed by the government.

There must be more education about food so that consumers recognise the importance of examining labels.

Fion Leung Ka-ying, Fanling


US must rejecttrade-off over human rights

The case of Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo , reveals further evidence of China's dismal human rights record ("Jailed Nobel laureate's wife in hospital", February 21).

Liu Xia, who suffers from heart problems, had "been admitted to a Beijing hospital after police refused to let her seek medical help overseas". Although she has not been convicted of any crime, she has been under house arrest since her husband was sentenced to 11 years in prison on "subversion charges".

Sadly, there is little evidence that the plight of Liu Xia has ignited a firestorm of protest from the White House.

What would seemingly be a matter of serious concern to China's trade partners in the US and Europe - China's notorious record on human rights - has apparently been dismissed as Beijing's internal affairs.

Meanwhile, Liu Xia and many fellow compatriots are under house arrest, or languish in prisons, including her brother, real estate executive Liu Hui.

The civilised world can ill-afford to be silent in the face of China's repression of religious and democratic freedom.

That Chinese Christians and human-rights advocates have suffered untold persecution since the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949 should be a matter of paramount concern to the US, but the facts would suggest otherwise.

Brian Stuckey, Denver, Colorado, US


Residents feel squeeze over policy failings

Philip Bowring makes some valid points in his column ("Rage at officials, not the visitors", February 23), but his assertion that mainland visitors occupy only 5 per cent of public transport is misleading.

It may be valid if you take into consideration, for example, every single bus, train, tram, ferry in the whole of Hong Kong throughout the day, but during the rush hour on the East Rail Line it's more like 50 per cent, and at any time of day it's over 5 per cent; not to mention the fact that all day trippers bring with them large bags and suitcases that block the carriages, leaving little room for commuters.

It is no surprise that this causes frustration and makes commuting more stressful than it already is.

Increasingly, ordinary Hong Kong citizens are bearing the brunt of policymakers' bad decisions and lack of vision for Hong Kong.

While it may not be possible to restrict immigrant numbers at present, I welcome the recent proposal to build shopping and other facilities (like schools and clinics) at Sha Tau Kok/Lok Ma Chau Loop or other border areas.

Cecilia Li, Fanling