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Letters to the Editor, March 3, 2014

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 March, 2014, 3:18am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 March, 2014, 3:18am

Green group wrong about bad air days

I wish to correct the report ("Air pollution worst in 18 years in shopping areas", February 24).

Your report was based on research by Friends of the Earth. The group says in 2013 there were 184 days where the roadside air pollution index (API) exceeded 100, and last year was the worst on record. The number of such days was in fact 132.

The number of days with roadside API exceeding 100 in 2010, 2011 and 2012 were 141, 172 and 142 days, respectively.

Having understood Friends of the Earth's methodology, we have explained to it its two errors, and we also issued our own press release for clarification.

The group's first error was that it averaged out the hourly API and counted those days with "daily average" greater than 100. As the API was reported on an hourly basis, it is inappropriate to calculate and use the "daily averages" for determining the number of days with the API exceeding 100.

The second error was that Friends of the Earth added up all individual roadside roadsides' figures to give the overall roadside figure. It overlooked that the API greater than 100 would normally also be observed simultaneously at more than one station and hence adding up all individual stations' figures would double or even triple count some of these daily figures.

We welcome both non-governmental organisations and also reporters to check their calculations with us ahead of time so as to avoid errors. We recognise air science is complicated.

Christine Loh, undersecretary for the environment


Mainland no substitute for country parks

I was astounded by Kaizer Lau Ping-cheung's blithe suggestion last month that Hongkongers could relax on the mainland as an alternative to the territory's country parks.

It reminded me of Marie Antoinette's unfortunate proposal that, in lieu of bread, the poor should "eat cake".

From my flat in Central it takes me half an hour by public transport to reach Lantau. However, it takes me an hour to reach the border, which I need a visa to cross. After half an hour of border formalities, it would take me at least another hour to reach anywhere resembling countryside.

In case you haven't noticed, Mr Lau, the mainland next to the border with Hong Kong is full of people.

For goodness sake, Lantau has been messed with enough. Leave it as it is.

The mainland is simply not an option for a one-day countryside getaway.

Patricia Malone, Central


Officials could consider tourist quota

The anti-mainlander protest on Canton Road on Sunday, February 16, was not the usual behaviour of Hongkongers.

While various top officials lined up to condemn the act of taunting mainlander visitors and using the word "locusts", the underlying issue and reasons behind this protest should not be ignored.

People miss the days when you could enjoy relaxed shopping on the now constantly crowded streets of Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. They are put off going to Ocean Park because of the long queues.

It is no exaggeration to say that most Hongkongers, though condemning the repugnant protest, tacitly share some of the protesters' feelings. It is thus high time the government reviewed its tourism policy.

Last year, the number of mainland visitors jumped to a record high of 41 million, and this will increase substantially. While there is absolutely no need for the kind of offensive language that was used during the protest, local people are entitled to call for change.

Instead of just condemning the protesters, senior officials should try to figure out what forces normally civilised SAR citizens to suddenly express their views in this uncivilised way.

Given that visitor numbers are rising, there is a need to regulate the tourism industry. A pragmatic approach would be to impose a quota on the number of visitors.

This would mean less disruption to the lives of local residents. And visitors would have a better chance of enjoying a quality service.

The government needs to realise that it is time for change if it does not want to see more of these kinds of protests.

James Lung, Sham Shui Po


Good reason to yell at colonial flag-wavers

It was nice to know from Alex Lo's column ("Bubble trouble for the pan-democrats", February 24) that some of the lawmakers that I thought are diehard destructive sticklers are not diehard all. Hong Kong is changing for the better.

For the common good of Hong Kong, I also hope the free-speech rally people ("Victim of HKTV row joins free speech rally", February 24) will understand the freedom of speech is not absolute, which is why even the US ranks 46 in the Reporters Without Frontiers league, and we are not badly off, ranking 61.

I also hope someone will guide Ronald Leung Kam-shing ("'I don't hate mainlanders - just their behaviour'" February 22) to take in Philip Bowring's suggestion ("Rage at the officials, not the visitors", February 24). Hong Kong may not now collapse without the mainland's help but would definitely have gone to the dogs in 2003, had it not been for the introduction of the mainland visitors to the city, suddenly creating many badly needed job opportunities.

Even if they were not such benefactors to us, bad behaviour or not, we must be civilised enough to accommodate them, as we do visitors from elsewhere.

Mr Leung and his British-era flag-waving cohorts were "yelled at" because they had said "we're Hongkongers" at the same time as saying, in effect, "we're not the people of China", meaning Hong Kong is not part of China.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan


Do not rule out further sanctions

I agree with those who argue that Hong Kong must stand firm on visa sanctions so long as the Philippine government refuses to apologise for the Manila bus tragedy.

It has acted irresponsibly and adopted a haughty attitude. The reasons it has given for not saying sorry are illogical. Even if you are a sovereign state you have to apologise if you are wrong.

The police bungled the rescue attempt and it makes Hong Kong people angry that no apology is forthcoming.

If Manila will not say sorry then Hong Kong should announce more sanctions.

Su Yuen-ching, Tsuen Wan


Meeting with Dalai Lama justified

I refer to the report ("Beijing hits out at US over meeting with Dalai Lama", February 23).

First, the US is an independent sovereign country and its president is a democratically elected leader.

He is head of state, of the government and of the armed forces. The point is he can see anybody he pleases.

China asked US President Barack Obama not to see someone. That is rude and clearly amounts to meddling in America's internal affairs. Besides, the Dalai Lama is a religious leader and his influence goes far beyond Tibet and China.

He has said on many occasions, both in speeches and in his writings, that he is not seeking an independent Tibet. Instead he has called for a genuine self-governed Tibet within China.

The central government chooses to put its own words into the mouth of the Dalai Lama and I find this very strange. Of course, there will be some disagreements between the two sides. But, Beijing should be seeking negotiations with the Dalai Lama and not just cut him off.

Last, it should be recognised that the Dalai Lama is not just the leader of Tibet. He is also the head of a religion and is a moral leader. That is how Mr Obama treated him.

The US has never stated that it supports an independent Tibet. Any country should have the right to meet with the Dalai Lama without the prospect of being harassed by China.

John C. M. Lee, Chai Wan


Bicycles on MTR trains unacceptable

It is a common complaint that passengers crowd the entrances of MTR trains without moving inside the carriage thus making it very difficult for others to board.

On Wednesday I travelled by MTR and there was similar crowding, but behind this blockage there was apparent open space in the carriage.

However, on this occasion the crowding at the entrance was not the fault of my fellow passengers but instead the "open space" was occupied by five bicycles. Indeed, the bicycles partially blocked ingress/egress from the opposite door.

I suggest that it is absurd for a very crowded mass transit system to permit the carriage of bicycles but, if it is within the by-laws, question why it is so and whether the MTR Corporation is then liable for any resulting accidents to passengers (ripped and oil-stained clothes must be a high probability) in such overcrowded conditions.

If carriage of so many bicycles is not within the by-laws then the MTR clearly needs to tighten up its controls.

It is not the first time that I have experienced the carriage of numerous bicycles inconveniencing passengers.

Doug Miller, Tai Po


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This article is now closed to comments

Christine Loh - I think the only truth in your letter posted today is ....."We recognise air science is complicated". You make grand statements denouncing the accuracy of the report produced by Friends of the Earths, yet you give no valid reason why. Writing that " it is inappropriate to calculate and use the "daily averages" is just not sufficient for someone occupying such an important post. Why is it inappropriate? What methodology would you consider to be more accurate?
What is totally inappropriate and exceptionally disappointing, is your blatant smoke and mirrors attempt to cloud the discourse of such an important topic.
Christine Loh's letter so so disappointing. The air is terrible and the Bureau's response is nitpicking on number of days?
In response to Mr Miller, perhaps it is time for the MTR to sensibly review its bylaws in respect of bicycles.This review should involve the views of both pedestrian and cyclist passengers
Bicycles are currently permitted if the front wheel is removed (presumably to prevent riding inside MTR premises) but the exposed front forks pose a danger to other MTR users.
The best solution would be for trains on popular cyclist routes to have dedicated baggage/bicycle carriages.
The line to start a trial would most obviously be the East Rai Lineconnecting to Lowu and Lok Ma Chau.
Su Yuen-ching - Clearly you were asleep when the Mayor of Manila apologised for the bus tragedy. Perhaps you should hit the snooze button, roll over and go back to your dreams.
@ "Green group wrong about bad air days"
Christine Lo goes writes at length about Green Groups not doing their maths properly concerning roadside air pollution and proudly announces that we only had only 132 bad air days in 2013. She is short, however, on plans do anything radical for reducing these. Traffic congestion charges should be brought in immediately on health and economic grounds with no more p u ssy-footing about with 'consultations' looking for an unobtainable 'consensus'. And the police should be directed to return to their previous very strict enforcement regime of the 1970s and 1980s when thousands of fixed penalties were issued each day for traffic violations. The pea soup we have to breathe as fresh air would soon clear if you would only get the congestion- causing cars and vans off the roads.
Not to mention her letter made her come off as a patronising bee_otch
Sorry, I fail to understand what Ms. Christina Loh is talking about. Nor do I trust the Green Group with a party line and a not so hidden agenda.
One could easily produce from the data the average of Hong Kong total pollution index(es) for various pollutants as well as the averages for different districts.
Assuming that all the pollution detectors have fixed locations, the idea is to average over all detectors readings at "continuous" times -- small time intervals. An average Hong Kong Form 6er having a little understanding of calculus concepts can easily handle this job. With computers, data collection, compilation and averaging should be a trivial task. From Ms. Loh's letter, I think she should clarify why her meaning of average should be mathematically different.
If anyone wants to dice and splice the data to justify their hidden agendas, we could also easily prove or disprove their skepticisms with customized calculations from the raw data.
If you are not math illiterate, what's so complicated about it?
There already is a bylaw on this. Bicycles must be carried on the first/last carriage of a train only, folded and/or with the front wheel removed insofar possible. Furthermore, MTR staff can refuse bicycles on the train during busy periods like rush hour.

If you don't want to be confronted with bicycles, then simply don't ride the first/last carriage. Ride the other carriages, where you will 'only' be dealing with strollers, luggage, more luggage, backpacks, umbrellas, children and so forth.


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