Letters to the Editor, April 29, 2014

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2014, 4:21am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2014, 4:21am

URA can be kiss of death for old districts

I strongly support the views of British designer Thomas Heatherwick who urges a "human-scale architecture rather than gigantic identical buildings" ("Don't give up green 'theatre' for flats", April 26).

These views align with those clearly expressed in the letter by Hoyin Lee and Lynne DiStefano ("Real conservation can enhance the way our city develops", April 14) as successful cities develop organically and do not adhere to rigid master plans. These intelligent and professional views on development could also be applied to your "Life" articles of April 11 "Backs to the mall" and "A blot to be desired".

The Urban Renewal Authority and its tycoon joint venture partners normally wrap up their plans with the label "revitalisation".

However, planners' relentless drive towards gentrification spells trouble for established local communities, with long-term residents decanted to inconvenient far-off locations to make way for property investors, who bring nothing to the local society. Rather than rejuvenation, the involvement of the URA is often the kiss of death for old districts.

Diversity, in all its aspects is the key to successful development, as it mirrors the natural world. Kowloon Walled City was a jungle with a cacophony of space solutions that adapted to living needs.

Compare that to the URA's and developer tycoons' monotonous walls and towers. It is like comparing a forest with a plantation.

The same old developers with the same old architects equates to a boring lack of ideas and creativity.

What can the URA do to improve the redevelopment process? Instead of amalgamating sites to favour the tycoons, split sites into many small-size lots and step away from telling architects what they must design and build (like the walled city).

Guarantee the original owners the right of return to a living area of the same size and location.

The URA will doubtless protest that such a development structure is not financially viable. To the contrary, the "Wedding Card" Street H15 project [The Avenue] has shown that the profits for the URA and their private partners are normally obscene compared to the minimal amounts that they paid to compulsorily evacuate the original owners.

Frank Lee, Wan Chai


Meeting in Shanghai was not fruitful

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said in her column ("Pan-democrats must engage", April 27), that the pan-democrats didn't make full use of the "milestone" of the meeting with officials in Shanghai.

However, from certain pan-dem legislators who did attend and with whom I have discussed this visit, the meeting was not a "dialogue". The pan-democrats put their views and questions to the officials, but unfortunately they were met with silence or a response that it was not their responsibility.

Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po


Opposed to Anson Chan's political vision

Anson Chan Fang On-sang is naive and misinformed.

The world is not watching Hong Kong's "fight for democracy". It has other far more important concerns to worry about. ("World is watching the outcome of Hong Kong's democracy fight", April 24).

I do wish Mrs Chan would stop trying to rewrite history with her irritating and false claim that the Joint Declaration promised Western-style democracy. Basically "No change for 50 years" was what we were told all along, that's all. Not a new system of government elected by conniving, scheming and grandstanding political parties, which the British for some 150 years never afforded Hong Kong.

And why, Mrs Chan, are you so naive to even believe that your vision of democracy has been so successful in the West? The wealth gap in your worshipped countries (the US and UK) is now worse than it has ever been since the first world war. Youth unemployment and under-employment in many parts of Europe are at their highest since the 1930s and the war-mongering Nato partnership, also comprised of the countries she so admires, has not only destabilised and destroyed nations in the Middle East but also now threatens Eastern Europe.

Many of us do not want what she seeks. Only the colonial-flag-waving and banana- and egg-throwing anarchists and other misfits form the base of her support. Please retire from public life gracefully.

P. A. Crush, Sha Tin


Nations in EU suspicious of each other

Europe is nowhere close to achieving its lofty aims of sustainable growth, cohesion, sound governance, and broadly supported legitimacy. The euro crisis is far from over.

Northern and southern Economic and Monetary Union states of the EU are suspicious of each other. They do not see eye to eye on who will foot which bills. Insiders fear the asset reviews and stress tests at the banks. Meanwhile, populist parties seem headed for massive gains at the European elections next month.

In short, Europe has weakened owing to economic pressures and political constraints. It has become more introverted, inequality is increasing, and reforms are erratic.

For the moment, Europe will have to make do with stopgaps, which are adjusted in incremental steps. Admittedly, this approach has kept the euro zone afloat in past years.

Two factors lead me to believe the euro zone and EU may manage to keep their heads above water, via reforms on the back of new crises. First, many Europeans are sceptical about Brussels but most are even more fearful of the alternative - no euro/EU.

Anxiety could be the glue that keeps Europe together. This is how one scholar sees the 2005 referendums in the Netherlands and France on the European Constitution.

Voters could easily reject the treaty because this did not have any direct negative implications; nothing really happened.

Yet, should a referendum take place on the survival of the euro or EU membership, something tangible is at stake.

Voting will no longer be non-committal so fewer people will be prepared to take high risks. Fear may well win the day.

Second, demography could contribute to Europe's long-term continued existence: young people are more pro-European than their elders.

The biggest danger is that the European elite will not pay heed to the electorate and use artifice to push through reforms.

If governments ignore voters, instead of involving them, sooner or later the European project will run aground.

Most people know what is required to create a strong united Europe that flourishes economically. Europe is unlikely to give up the ghost but there will be a lot of water under the bridge before it implements necessary reforms under pressure from the markets.

Andy Langenkamp, senior political analyst, ECR Research and ICC, Utrecht, Netherlands


Department is ignoring evidence

I refer to the letter by Raymond Chan Kin-sek, of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers ("Artificial island near Shek Kwu Chau best site for incinerator", April 23).

Is anyone in the least surprised by Mr Chan's statement that the "Hong Kong Institute of Engineers generally supports the government's proposed environmental infrastructure projects"?

Similarly, your recent Insight articles by the American and Swedish chambers of commerce exhibit self-interest in bolstering the government's irrational plans for a mass-burn moving-grate incinerator on an artificial island at pristine Shek Kwu Chau.

In this context, the small-circle functional constituencies in Legco normally apply the "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" approach, rather than aligning with policies that benefit the community at large.

I strongly agree with your editorial ("Move quick or be left behind", April 22) The Environmental Protection Department's handling of the serious waste issues in Hong Kong is so far behind the views of an interested population and particularly organisations such as the Clear the Air and the New Territories Concern Group that its credibility is vanishing.

The new Ombudsman has stated that she wishes to be more proactive so perhaps she should study how the department's obduracy has ignored long-stated evidence that other options are cheaper, cleaner and faster to install, and will limit the need for additional landfill facilities.

It is well-known that Hong Kong's engineers love reclamation projects, so perhaps this is why the department is so adamant on the Shek Kwu Chau site?

Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels


We must all try to save our precious earth

I think Hong Kong's environmental problems are very serious, with air, water, light and sound pollution threatening our health.

Hong Kong is an international city and people have seen their standard of living improve. However, as it has advanced economically, there has been more pollution.

Take, for example, light pollution. Now, you can barely see a star in the night sky.

We all have a responsibility to try and save the earth.

People should not replace electronic appliances unless they really need to.

I would also like to see more citizens getting involved in tree-planting drives. Also, when people go shopping, they should remember to bring their own bags rather than purchasing plastic bags in the store. Finally, we should all use public transport where possible rather than driving cars.

Amy Lau Mei-yin, Kwai Chung




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