Letters to the Editor, April 23, 2014
City now has so much to offer tourists
On recent business trips to Hong Kong I was impressed with the city's tourism products and the quality of service in general.
The change from when I lived in the city in the 1990s is noticeable. In those anxious days leading up to 1997, and shortly thereafter, I routinely struggled to be understood in either English or Putonghua. Beyond The Peak, the Star Ferry and Lan Kwai Fong, there seemed to be little to explore or show to visiting friends and relatives; and rushed, bad-tempered sales staff were the standard rather than the exception.
Fast-forward to 2014. There is no shortage of friendly, approachable, multilingual staff at hotels, cafes and restaurants. Many taxi drivers are not only content to pick up a short, HK$20 fare, but show courtesy and will point out one's destination and share other tips without prompting.
The streets are dotted with planter boxes and heritage trail markers. Reluctantly, I followed a few friends to Hong Kong Disneyland, only to find a smart and sophisticated visitor crowd from mainland China mixing with tourists from all over the region.
Unlike in the past, when it was normal for a "vegetable salad" to contain ham or other meat, it is now not uncommon to see restaurant food labelled with coloured stickers indicating "no pork", "no meat", "no nuts" and other dietary options. At Disneyland, several restaurants now offer Muslim patrons good-quality food certified as halal.
With hundreds of thousands of visitors from the Middle East already spending their annual holidays in Malaysia and Indonesia, it shouldn't be long before they make a Hong Kong stopover a regular feature in their itinerary.
All of these good practices and small touches were minor revelations to me.
The Hong Kong tourism sector and its many partners and stakeholders have clearly done their homework and are once again ready to compete with the best in Asia and the world. I wish them well-deserved success.
Martin Kralik, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Modify visitor scheme to deal with influx
The influx of mainlanders has been increasing since the launch of the individual visit scheme in 2003.
The scheme helped restore Hong Kong's economy after Sars, but with a substantial increase in the number of visitors from north of the border, conflicts between them and Hongkongers have broken out.
I have no doubt their presence can continue to help our economy. There is greater demand for retail outlets, hotels and travel agencies, and this brings more job opportunities in the service sector and on infrastructure projects.
However, the right balance has to be struck between the city's economic development and use of local resources.
As more mainland visitors come to Hong Kong, they use more resources. They put pressure on transportation services and there is greater demand for daily necessities.
One example of this was the rush on tins of baby formula as mainland parents came here to purchase them.
This led to local parents often not being able to get enough tins for their babies.
If this trend continues in other areas of retailing, Hong Kong citizens will suffer. This can only lead to feelings of greater discontent against mainland visitors.
This feeling of dissatisfaction will lead to more confrontations between the two sides and we will continue to see protests and demonstrations against mainlanders.
I hope the Hong Kong and central governments can work together and agree to modify the individual visit scheme in order to implement a better arrangement that reduces tensions and benefits Hong Kong.
Leanna Lui Yan-yee, Tsing Yi
Jackie Chan will be perfect narrator
It was with great pleasure that I read the report ("Could Jackie Chan join the HK Philharmonic's pack?" April 18).
As a friend of Jackie for almost 30 years and having done a number of charitable projects with him, my short answer is "definitely".
Among many charitable deeds, Jackie founded a foundation dedicated to better education and well-being of children. He established the "WEO Jackie Chan Children's Eye Centre" in Chengdu in 2009 and asked his son to compose the World Eye Organisation's theme song, A Brighter Journey, which Jackie sang.
Besides, Jackie is childlike and would indeed be an ideal narrator of Peter and the Wolf, even more so in his native Cantonese, cheering up the needy ones at home.
Professor Dominic Lam Man-kit, chairman, World Eye Organisation
No summons for careless drivers
I am disappointed by the results of the citywide safe-cycling campaign from April 9 to 15.
The police issued 865 summonses to cyclists, but none to drivers who endanger cyclists.
The most recent (2012) accident statistics published by the Transport Department show that, of the 2,757 bicycles involved in accidents, 85 per cent were manoeuvring "straight ahead (with priority)"; only 800 (31 per cent) listed "careless cycling" as a contributory factor.
Of the nine cycling fatalities, only one listed "careless cycling" as a contributory factor. Therefore, cyclists are mostly injured or killed while proceeding safely along the highway by the actions of other road users.
For an effective safe-cycling campaign, the police must include motor vehicle driver awareness of cyclists.
Allan Dyer, Wong Chuk Hang
Good reason to be optimistic after meeting
I think the meeting in Shanghai between some pan-democrats and senior mainland officials to discuss political reforms in Hong Kong was a big step forward.
The more discussions that take place, the better the chance of the two sides understanding each other's viewpoints. Before this meeting there had been little dialogue between them. This improves the chances of a plan being put forward that is acceptable to Beijing and most Hong Kong citizens.
I think we have to accept that the dream of universal suffrage will be realised step by step.
Rowina Lo Wing-nga, Kowloon Tong
Not enough being done about bad air
The dramatic storm in Hong Kong on March 30 with giant hailstones served as a warning and the Observatory has indicated we can expect more extreme weather in the future.
This is proof that Hong Kong is affected by global warming and climate change, and I think our air pollution is an important factor.
The Environmental Protection Department's measures are still failing to deal with our bad air.
For example, the time it has scheduled to phase out pre-Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles [to be finally banned by 2020] is too long. This reduces the effectiveness of such a policy.
As the Air Quality Health Index is often high, there is clearly more officials must do to try and solve our air pollution problems.
Leo Wong Chun-shing, Tseung Kwan O