Letters to the Editor, March 28, 2014

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 3:54am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 3:54am

Restrictions on trans-fats protect health

Local experts suggest that restrictions on harmful trans-fats in food should be stricter ("HK 'should follow US and mull trans-fats ban'", March 24).

The government should consider this idea, to protect the health of the next generation.

The percentage of students who are obese has risen over the last decade and this brings with it health problems.

One of the reasons for the rising obesity rate is that often youngsters prefer Western food to traditional Chinese dishes. These Western meals contain more fat and oil. Therefore, it is necessary to impose some restrictions on the use of trans-fats in Hong Kong. If our young people grow up facing increased health risks such as heart disease, this could hamper the future development of society.

More young adults getting ill from preventable diseases will place a greater burden on Hong Kong's welfare and health services. We do not want to see an unhealthy workforce.

Critics of restricted use of trans-fats say it would lead to higher production costs and therefore higher food prices. They argue that the people who will suffer will be those from the grass roots in society.

However, substitutes are available and using them in the production process should not lead to increased prices in food. If there is any rise and low-income families struggle then the government could give more financial aid to food banks to ensure that all citizens are able to enjoy healthier food.

Chan Tak-yung, Ma On Shan


Problem with popular local delicacies

As an intern at a local hospital, I am glad you continue to publicise the harmful effects of trans-fat in our diet ("HK 'should consider a ban on trans-fats'", March 24).

On the issue of trans-fat in infant formula, the Hong Kong Medical Journal reported last month that locally available infant formula contained no added trans-fat in its manufacture but inevitably, trans-fat naturally exists in miniscule quantities in untreated cow's milk.

Trans-fat is also present in human breast milk, the level of which is dependent on the mother's diet. I advise mothers to reduce their dietary trans-fat intake. The trans-fat content in infant formula must be declared in Hong Kong, but there is no legislative restriction nor official guideline. Low levels are generally allowed to be declared as zero; infants on formula are fed several times a day for months. Hong Kong's lax control compares unfavourably with that of many developed countries.

The comment by Leo Yuen Chun-on, founding chairman of the Hong Kong Food Science and Technology Association that "the intake of trans-fats among Chinese people is generally lower" ("HK 'should follow US and mull trans-fats ban'", March 24) contradicts repeated advice from the Consumer Council. It has warned against significant trans-fat content in many common local Hong Kong delicacies, including Swiss rolls and egg tarts.

Without legislation to protect the public from excessive trans-fat consumption, the most we can do is raise awareness and advise people to read nutrition labels and avoid trans-fat-laden foods. It should be made clear to the public that trans-fat is even more harmful to arteries than saturated fats such as butter and lard.

Alexander Siu, Tsuen Wan


Public needs reassurance of airline safety

Cathay Pacific and other airlines will be carrying thousands of Hong Kong residents across the Pacific Ocean during the coming summer months.

Most will be carried on Boeing 777s of which much has been heard recently.

The eastbound route beyond Japan covers vast expanses of ocean with landfall hundreds of miles from many flight paths.

I ask Cathay, our "national carrier", through these columns, to explain how its 777s are linked to potential help on these Pacific routes. Is it more sophisticated than Malaysia Airlines? It would be reassuring to hear full particulars including whether Cathay cockpit crew talk to other aircraft in front of them on a given flight path.

Hopefully Cathay and other airlines will be pleased to provide the fullest details as a public service to their passengers.

Brian Hughes, Sheung Wan


Give shopfront traders time to meet new rules

I refer to the letter by Lui Wai-ki ("Proposed fine will act as deterrent", March 24), about the government's proposal to introduce a spot fine of HK$1,500 for shopkeepers who extend their business to the pavement.

Supporters of the plan say something must be done to tackle this problem and this fine will act as a deterrent to businesses.

I see Mong Kok shops putting out plants and Yuen Long restaurants placing tables on pavements and agree this is an inconvenience to pedestrians. It is clearly a problem, which is why the Home Affairs Department has launched a public consultation on its proposal to tackle illegal shopfront extensions.

However, if it is introduced, front-line staff may have difficulty enforcing it, because of differences between neighbourhoods in the city.

I think district councils will have to be allowed to use their discretion in some instances.

For example, Mong Kok has a long history of shops putting their wares on the pavement. It would be unfair if a new penalty system harmed these small businesses.

Before it is introduced there should be a transition period so that the merchants can be prepared for the new regulations.

Also, councils and chambers of commerce will have to work together to reach a consensus.

Rainie Kwok Sze-yu, Tseung Kwan O


Tobacco tax hike should be annual event

There are still many smokers in Hong Kong. This is a serious health issue, because their habit does not just harm them, but affects others through secondary smoking.

There are also financial issues to consider as smokers have a greater chance of respiratory illnesses, putting pressure on our public hospitals.

It is important to try and get more people to stop smoking and deter others from starting. The government can help through the tobacco tax. In this year's budget the levy was raised and from now on I would like this to be done each year.

It may lead to more smokers buying smuggled cigarettes, but an annual tax hike is still justified.

Rheneas Choi, Yau Ma Tei


Definition of who can vote is already clear

Hong Kong people love to get lost in the minutiae of the rules and spend a great deal of time poring over the text.

It's an excuse for inactivity and a way of avoiding actually doing something for which they might thereby accrue responsibility.

Legislative councillors are adept at this activity, spending as much - or more - time agonising over interpretations of what they think they might be allowed to do instead of getting on with anything useful. If responsibility needs to be avoided or a decision slowed down, call for a public consultation.

Where universal suffrage is concerned, there is very little wiggle room available in the definitions department.

My dictionary describes universal as "relating to or done by all people or things; applicable to all cases" and defines suffrage as "the right to vote in political elections". So no problem there. Universal suffrage means that everyone is allowed to vote in political elections.

It couldn't be simpler. Make that phrase particular to Hong Kong, and it means that everyone aged 18 or over and in possession of a permanent identity card can roll up at a polling station and vote.

It's as simple as that, and there is no sense in trying to further complicate the issue. Anything else would not be, de facto, universal suffrage.

Guy Nowell, Sai Kung


Removal of art is evidence of a closed mindset

It came as no surprise that the mosaics in Hong Kong of French street artist Invader were speedily removed once discovered.

While private property should be respected, the removal of the works (on or around infrastructure) because of "safety" is bogus. I find it ironic because some of the mosaics were in areas where there is other graffiti. For example, the ones in Queensway (near the Bank of China) were metres away from a large roadside mural; another work was located opposite the police headquarters on a footbridge where the pillars are adorned with colourful paintings.

Even after front-page news stories and citizens' concerns were sounded, more of Invader's artwork was removed by the government. These included one that has been in Lyndhurst Terrace for years. This is a strong sign that Hong Kong cannot cope with things outside of an institutional framework. It's a shame that art, of all things, should fall victim to this mindset.

Art isn't only for children or welfare groups. Art isn't encouraged just by pouring a concrete cultural monolith in West Kowloon. It is our government's rigidity and intolerance of out-of-the-box thinking that stunts creativity in our society.

Lawrence Cheung, Mid-Levels