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  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 12:00pm

Letters to the Editor, April 10, 2014

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 April, 2014, 5:16am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 April, 2014, 5:16am

Terminal decline in city's taxi ranking

Hundreds of passengers who disembarked from the Queen Mary 2 at the new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal on April 2 will disagree with your story regarding the Urban Mobility Index's number-one ranking of Hong Kong's public transport system ("HK 'best city in world for commuters'", April 3).

They were let down badly, with many people waiting hours for taxis to take them to destinations within Hong Kong.

The chaos began before 9am as the ship, carrying 2,600 passengers, docked as part of a round-the-world cruise; visitors with their huge suitcases headed off to hotels in Hong Kong or other destinations.

Fearing a three-hour wait for a taxi, my wife and I tried an alternative; the shuttle-bus service. We realised if we could take it to a central business district taxi rank, we could hire a cab from there to take us to our Nathan Road hotel. After paying HK$100 each for the bus, we arrived at the central district an hour after leaving the ship. Using the first of five taxis waiting at the rank, we were at our hotel by 10.30am.

I pity those who hung on and waited for a taxi; some arrived at our hotel after noon.

I have to ask: was there any co-ordination between Cunard cruises, the cruise terminal management, port authority, Hong Kong Tourist Association and taxi companies?

Did a message go out over the two-way radio networks of the taxi companies saying "Queen Mary 2 arrives at 8am. Hundreds of passengers disembarking. Require 100 taxis at the cruise terminal by 8.30am"?

Graham Davis, Scarborough, Australia


Putonghuaa barrier to global goals

Despite its economic might, China's soft-power permeation will continue to be limited by the entrenched dominance of English as the lingua franca that increasingly connects a globally linked audience.

Tech-savvy consumers can rapidly download cultural products from across the world at the click of a mouse from a reliable internet connection. But the more easily digestible and, therefore, most accessed films and e-publications will be in English - the most frequently studied second language in the non-Anglophone world.

These cultural offerings are easier to understand and enjoy without the interposition of subtitles, or a Google translation. Economic domination - objectified by enumerated and universally understood trends in global gross domestic product across the 21stcentury - does not translate into cross-national cultural affinity because the latter relies on the dynamic of spoken or written language.

I cannot see Putonghua supplanting English in its supreme role as the means of international communication for business, education, culture and travel. Having learned both languages in tandem as a child, I, like many others, have found Putonghua far harder to learn and maintain than English; that will prove a perpetual hindrance to China's ambitions.

Dr Joseph Y.S. Ting, Brisbane, Australia


Tourism fails to accentuate the positive

I read with interest the letter by Clive Noffke ("Net benefit of tourism must match impact", March 14), which says tourism contributes a miserly 1 per cent positive effect to Hong Kong's GDP, not the 4.5 per cent claimed by the government.

I would go further and say that, if a better analysis were undertaken on cost benefits and social returns on investment, the outcome would likely be negative, not positive.

For example, a true balance sheet of the impact that tourism brings should include:

  • The cost of supporting the tourism bureaucracy and marketing;
  • The cost of extra immigration checkpoints;
  • A portion of the cost of infrastructural projects related to tourism, such as the third runway, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, high-speed railway and the West Kowloon Cultural District; and
  • The increased direct load on our transport system.

There are also the intangible costs to citizens of battling overcrowded streets, transport, restaurants and all the civilised amenities of living here.

Yet even that is not the end. There are also lost-opportunity costs, meaning the things we could have done for our own citizens with the money spent.

However, instead of dwelling on this, it would be far more useful to understand the processes used to evaluate policies, decisions and capital investments that would increase the wealth - in its broadest sense - of all people of the community, and not meaningless numbers such as "GDP" and shallow concepts like "the economy".

Could a knowledgeable and independent economist please oblige?

S.P. Li, Lantau


Raise volume for visually impaired

As a person with a visual impairment, I wish to express my concern about the dangers that I face - along with others with the same problem, when crossing the road at night or early in the morning because of the unacceptably low volume of audible signals at traffic lights.

It has been a common practice that the audible signals are turned down from 11pm to 7am for the sake of the tranquillity of the residents nearby. While that is totally understandable, my concern is that they are now too low and hardly audible.

This poses several problems: firstly, the main purpose of the audible signals is to let visually impaired pedestrians know when we can cross. So now we either have to stand and wait until a passer-by offers us help, or risk our lives and cross when we hear no traffic. But at night or in the early morning, when few people are on the streets, the consequence of risking our lives could be tragic.

Secondly, as visually impaired pedestrians depend on the signals to locate the traffic lights, the low volume makes it difficult, if not impossible, for us to do so.

Thirdly, when we cross, we rely on the signals to make sure we are walking in the right direction. With low-volume signals, we are more likely to bump into a rail on the opposite side, or even walk into the adjacent road with traffic on it.

In view of the situation, the government must do something to address the problem.

The volume of the audible signals should be turned up to a level that enables visually impaired pedestrians to cross safely. The Transport Department should liaise with organisations of visually impaired people and collect information on where these unsatisfactory traffic lights are, and improve them without further delay.

I hope my suggestions will be considered and prompt action taken before a tragedy occurs.

Billy Yau, Shek Kip Mei


Modesty helps businesses to peak in China

I thoroughly agree with Edward Tse's article that companies that do not succeed in China often do so because of arrogance ("Multinational companies must lose their arrogance to succeed in China", April 8).

I've heard far too many gripes that "the playing field isn't level"; China is a sovereign country and has the right to make its own rules.

In many respects, China is far more open to foreign companies than many other nations. If you've tried to secure a work permit for a foreigner in the United States, produce cars in Japan as a foreign company, or sell Chinese-made electric bikes in Germany, you know what I mean.

There are unique challenges in China. Yes, the playing field is not always level. But if the mountaineer asks the mountain to change its slope, what is that, but arrogance?

Christian Kober, Shanghai


Manufacturing woes of Pearl River's making

Your article "Dongguan anxious to turn on the red lights" (April 7), has made me rethink my plan to invest in business or property in the Pearl River Delta's newly established free trade zones, such as Qianhai or Hengqin .

Trucks full of iPads and other goods from the delta were once loaded onto cargo planes to be flown abroad. Now airline companies complain about the increased cost of flying inland to pick up cargo for export.

The delta's former manufacturing hubs, such as Dongguan , must examine the true reasons they are losing factory work, not only to places in other parts of China, but also other countries in Asia.

Saying they "need" the prostitution industry to help sustain their economies may seem like some sort of "sophisticated" argument, but it is simplistic, lazy and immoral.

Karen So, Discovery Bay


Nan Fung bossout of touch in his ivory tower

The interview with Donald Choi, of Nan Fung Development (Nan Fung mulls ways to keep profit margins, April 2), reveals the developer's astonishing lack of humanity.

He had the audacity to suggest that young Hongkongers should move out of the SAR if they cannot find affordable housing here. This is heartless.

I was also shocked by Choi's suggestion that working people are being "materialistic"; it shows a lack of knowledge about basic human rights.

Developers would do well to abandon greed and confront what their civic duties may be.

Renee Thorpe, Discovery Bay


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This article is now closed to comments

@Graham Davis

At least one big part of the problem is that Hong Kong has not issued any new taxi licences since 1994.

This is hard to believe, given the enormous increase in tourists, population growth and the development of new areas across the territory. Any or all of these would warrant the issuance of at least a low single-digit percentage of new taxi licenses every year.

But no. We had 15-thousand-odd urban taxis in 1994. And we have exactly the same number 20 years later.

Your experience is unfortunately not rare. At many other times, it is a virtually impossible to find a taxi in Hong Kong. Like... when it rains in rush hour.

Perhaps you then think that this stubborn refusal to issue more licences is part of some clever Hong Kong transport master plan to reduce our reliance on road transport? Well, that is a flattering suggestion, but no again: it is simply due to the unique combination of incompetence and cronyism that characterises the Hong Kong government.
Due to the limited supply in the face of soaring demand, a single Hong Kong taxi licence is now worth over HKD 7m, up manyfold from its 1994 level. This suits the small elite that owns them very well, and those are precisely the people our government is construed to serve first and foremost. The general public pays the bill, tangibly and intangibly.

Welcome to Hong Kong. I hope the rest of your stay was more pleasant.
@"Terminal decline in city's taxi ranking"
Continuing complaints from tourists about the lack of public transport at the new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal should be ringing alarm bells in the Governments top offices. This is a multi- billion dollar infrastructure investment doomed to failure because of poor transport planning.
Time for some fire-fighting ! A modern light rail /electric tram system could be laid down and running in about 24 months if a contract was awarded right now to a single international company to build and operate the system for 30 years. Part of the deal would have to include a promise that all red tape issuing from stubborn and inflexible Government departments would be stamped upon from the top.
Hong Kong has witnessed such an arrangement before when Disneyland was built. Government bureaucrats were warned to back off and just sign the paperwork, even before on-site compliance inspections were concluded.
@Billy Yau: the government keeps crossing signal sounds at a low level because they know people with visual impairments have a highly developed sense of hearing or need to further develop that sense of hearing! You should be thanking them, not grumbling...
one for SP Li
A comprehensive reassessment of the business case for the expansion of Heathrow Airport.
Using Social Return on Investment principles & updated data, this report finds that a third runway would leave society £5 billion worse off.'


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