Letters to the Editor, April 27, 2014

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 April, 2014, 5:19am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 April, 2014, 5:19am

Retail focus limits tourism industry

Hong Kong is renowned as a shopping and food paradise capable of offering every tourist  a unique experience. However, this increasingly appears not to be the case as more tourists visit Hong Kong solely to shop at large malls or spend their days at amusement parks.

While tourism is one of Hong Kong’s main sources of GDP, and the bulk of mainland tourists enjoy visiting large malls to purchase luxury goods, it appears that, through plans for further land resumption and development of larger shopping malls, the government is focusing too heavily on the expansion of retail-based tourism at the expense of all other options. 

Hong Kong has many cultural and heritage sites that it could proudly promote to visitors from all around the world, particularly those from outside mainland China.

In the past, many buildings of historical significance in Hong Kong have simply been redeveloped rather than renovated and turned into  tourist attractions.

Although it is ultimately the visitor’s decision how they spend their time in Hong Kong, the government  has a responsibility to keep all attractions in good condition and to actively promote them to  tourists, offering them an alternative experience.

By devoting all resources to the development of retail services, the government is limiting the sustainability and longevity of the tourism industry and creating an over dependence on retail-based tourism.

What happens when other major Asian cities such as Shanghai, Singapore and Seoul catch up with Hong Kong’s retail services and build their own Disneyland?

The only long-term solution is for the government to recognise the extent of the problem and make full use of the city’s unique assets to create a sustainable tourism industry and to provide tourists with an unforgettable Hong Kong experience. Furthermore, developed cultural and heritage sites will  benefit locals more than large shopping malls, providing the public with an opportunity to learn about the city’s past.

Ryan Tse, Wilhemina Shih, North Point


Smaller classes raise teaching standards

I refer to the letter by Cherrie Wan (“Small classes essential for learning”, April 19). 

Most Hong Kong students are educated under the large-class teaching system, which prevents teachers from giving all the students in a class the attention they need. To develop a better learning environment for students, the introduction of small-class teaching is essential.

Smaller classes allow teachers to focus more attention on each student, which helps to raise the standard of those students. In addition, teachers are better able to see and address their students’ weaknesses. Moreover, when students experience difficulties, they can get help immediately during lessons, preventing them from falling behind. Small-class teaching not only helps to improve teaching standards and student results, but also helps to create a more varied and interesting learning experience for both teachers and students.

Agnes Tsoi, Tseung Kwan O


Transparent energy policy needed

Hong Kong is facing various environmental problems, whose urgency largely stems from procrastination over how best to tackle them. 

This is not surprising given the lack of trust between the Hong Kong people and the government (or its two energy giants). The government has failed to provide sufficient information about the impact on tariffs of the energy supply options of buying more from the mainland or using more natural gas. But, it seems to me that, in the pursuit of political support, affordability is not as much an issue as perceived economic fairness.

Consider an energy tariff hike for using a cleaner fuel mix. If we use more natural gas, production costs of local electricity firms will increase, resulting in price increases. This would be unlikely to receive public support because under the scheme of control Hong Kong’s two electricity companies already earn an enviable guaranteed profit every year. Perhaps what people care about is not affordability, which can be relieved through adjusting and streamlining  electricity consumption;  perhaps we are happy to pay higher energy tariffs to help protect the environment. What makes us uncomfortable is the lack of financial transparency of our two energy giants.

It is understandable that every investment in energy infrastructure has an expected payback period – to be fair to investors, a certain amount of profit has to be made annually to fulfil that expectation. However, without knowing the financial expectations of our two energy giants, we are uncertain of how much of the guaranteed profit is made to serve investors, and how much to serve the managers.

If the guaranteed profit has already exceeded the expected returns, why do they not express their corporate social responsibility by simply bearing the higher cost of cleaner fuel? We are not willing to pay higher energy tariffs just to continue to increase their profits.

Guaranteed profit is already a privilege in a free market like Hong Kong. We need more transparency in setting our energy tariffs. We demand more reassurance and  fairness in our energy policy.

Keith Chan, Taikoo Shing


No benefit to copyright extension

I refer to Jake van der Kamp’s column (“We must not change our tune for the copyright trolls”, April 13). 

I agree with him that it would be bad for society (although good for companies like Disney) to extend Hong Kong’s copyright protection term from the current 50 years after an author’s death.

I have carried out an academic study, using data from multiple countries, and found that the extension of copyright protection term had no significant effect on the production of movies.

Before citing Singapore as an example, it is important to appreciate that Singapore extended its copyright term under pressure from the United States when establishing a free-trade agreement.

Most egregious of all, the extension of the copyright term that the US is advocating is retrospective. The fact that it applies to existing creations makes it clear that proponents are really only concerned with getting richer, not stimulating new creative work.

Ivan Png, distinguished professor, National University of Singapore


Reduce waste by disposable tableware ban

In this fast-paced world, the convenience of eating takeaway food and using single-use tableware is proving increasingly appealing to many. However, non-degradable, styrofoam food containers are associated with “white pollution” and are a major contributor to Hong Kong’s solid waste.

A ban on the use of disposable tableware in some fast-food restaurants would reduce the amount of waste produced, ease pressure on landfills and help promote public awareness of environmental protection.

Rachel Tam Hiu-lam, Sha Tin