Letters to the Editor, March 6, 2014
Time limit will get people back to work
The government's document for its public consultation on future population policy included forecasts for demographic changes in the next 30 years.
It emphasised the importance of recognising the financial pressure that our ageing population will place on Hong Kong's health care and social welfare systems.
We need to explore ways to address the problem of having a shrinking workforce and contain social welfare costs.
Before any decision is made to import more labour, the government should exhaust all efforts to improve the labour participation rate.
It is important to motivate social welfare recipients who are still economically active to rejoin the labour market.
In order to do this, the government should revamp the existing social welfare system by setting a time limit for those claimants who are seeking assistance on the grounds of being unemployed.
Meanwhile, those recipients who are waiting for employment matching by the Labour Department should be deployed to carry out voluntary services in designated community centres, so that they can maintain their social and working skills.
The Social Welfare Department should also step up its enforcement action against any abuse of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance system.
Stanley Ip, Tseung Kwan O
Tobacco duty hike was not high enough
I have never seen the point of people smoking, given the health problems it brings.
Also, it can affect other people in the street, through second-hand smoking.
Therefore, I agreed with the decision of the financial secretary in his budget to increase the tax on tobacco.
In the run-up to his speech there was a heated debate about whether there should be an increase.
Obviously, smokers were unhappy, because it would increase the financial burden they already face from purchasing packets of cigarettes.
However, those who are unable to kick the habit, will have to put up with the higher prices.
I think those worse affected will be people from low-income families and some may turn to purchasing illegal cigarettes that have been smuggled into Hong Kong.
This also creates other social problems.
I do understand why some people from the grass roots smoke.
They find it gives them some relief after a long day doing a job that is probably physically and mentally exhausting.
On the other hand, those groups which called for a tax hike will feel it was not high enough. The 20-cent increase per cigarette came to HK$4 for a pack of 20.
This raises the retail price per pack from an average of HK$50 to about HK$54.
It has to be asked if this HK$4 increase help ameliorate the problems that are caused by smoking in our society.
I think the financial secretary should have announced a higher increase in his budget.
I also think more can be done to reduce the number of people in Hong Kong who smoke or are thinking of starting.
The key to getting to the root of the problem, and successfully targeting young people, is education. Schools need to educate youngsters about the health and financial disadvantages from smoking.
Hopefully this can lead to more youngsters deciding not to start.
The government can also get the message across to the public through adverts, as part of a campaign to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Jeff Ma, Sha Tin
City does need visitors from mainland
While protests are a normal way for people to express their feelings in Hong Kong, during the march against the influx of mainland visitors, which was held in Tsim Sha Tsui last month, people used offensive language against the tourists. This left these people shocked.
I understand the protesters' feelings as the behaviour of some of these visitors is unacceptable, such as refusing to join queues. But it is not fair to say that about all mainlanders who come to the city. And any problems that do exist are not going to be solved by being offensive.
We rely on these visitors as tourism is one of Hong Kong's pillar economies so we should not stop them coming here. But I would back a limit being set on the numbers allowed in.
Susanna Chung, Kowloon Tong
Why should we be grateful to tourists?
I refer to the letter by Fion Sy Hoi-ki ("Arrival tax would hurt HK's economy", March 4).
I am frequently bemused by the assertion that we should be grateful to mainland tourists who helped to resuscitate Hong Kong's economy after the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003. We should bear in mind that it was a mainland doctor who was responsible for introducing Sars to Hong Kong in the first place.
This reality is a clue as to why Hong Kong is straining under the sheer weight of the mainland influx. It was the Hong Kong government which identified the mysterious syndrome.
It was the free press of Hong Kong which stayed ahead of the curve and openly publicised the fact that Sars was in the community when the government resolutely insisted it was still confined to hospitals. Our mainland visitors are voting with their feet and are eager to sample the benefits of a city that has food safety standards, a free press and rule of law.
When we can have faith in Guangdong's guarantees that its poultry is free of bird flu, the mainland torrent will become a trickle.
Deborah Warton, Fanling
Angered by top official's arrogance
The condescending letter from Christine Loh Kung-wai, undersecretary for the environment ("Green group wrong about bad air days", March 3), shows her disdain for anyone who questions her, that she ends the letter "air science is complicated" reflects her attitude.
The only complication in Hong Kong's filthy air is the ineptitude of her department and its failure to curb roadside, shipping and other pollutants that require nothing more than enforcement. But why risk losing your job by being effective when, after all, playing politics "is complicated"?
Mark Peaker, The Peak
Welfare of Filipinos monitored
The Philippine consulate in Hong Kong refers to the letter of secretary for labour and welfare, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, on the Hong Kong government's hotlines for foreign household service workers ("Hotline is available to all workers", February 11).
We would like to thank the Hong Kong government for being a partner in protecting the rights and welfare of Filipinos here.
Mr Cheung's letter was also posted on the consulate's Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pcghk) and has received positive feedback from the Filipino community in Hong Kong.
The Philippine consulate would also like to reassure the Filipino community that it is closely monitoring the welfare of Filipinos in Hong Kong and is ready to assist them through its assistance-to-nationals section.
The consulate may be contacted by phone (2823-8500) or fax (2866-9885). You may also e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For hotline numbers for emergency cases during the night, Fridays, Saturdays and holidays, call or SMS - 9155-4023 (consular assistance - assistance-to-nationals); 6080-8323 (labour issues); 6345-9324 (overseas workers welfare administration).
Rosanna Villamor Voogel, acting head of consular post, Philippine consulate in Hong Kong
Do not take freedom for granted
The chopper attack on former chief editor of Ming Pao, Kevin Lau Chun-to, has provoked a public outcry over freedom of speech.
Some people believe the attack was provoked by something that may have appeared in the newspaper and was ordered as an act of revenge. I agree with those who see it as an attack on freedom of speech.
Police failed to find the perpetrators of similar assaults on journalists, and I hope this time they succeed in finding who did it. If they fail to do so, they will come under heavy public criticism.
I am proud that Hong Kong is a diverse society where all citizens are free to express their own opinions.
Although freedom of speech is protected by the Basic Law, citizens must not become complacent.
The media must continue to reveal the truth to the public.
Journalists must not be intimidated or pressurised in any way into concealing these truths.
Also Hongkongers have a responsibility not to distort the facts or circulate groundless rumours.
Instead we should work with the government to ensure our precious freedom is upheld.
Edmond Koon, Sha Tin