Letters to the Editor, May 2, 2014
Ban smoking in all public places
At first glance, the ban on smoking in restaurants and indoor public places in Hong Kong and Macau (except for parts of its casinos) would seem like a godsend to their citizens. And it would seem a direct contradiction to the mainland, where one enjoys an appetiser of tobacco smoke free of charge with every meal, massage and haircut.
The smoker's attitude seems to be, "why not? It doesn't hurt anyone."
However, despite their bans, Macau and Hong Kong still have much to achieve in protecting those who do not smoke - especially infants and children - from those who light up out of unconscious habit.
Even though protected from smoke indoors, non-smokers are engulfed by a toxic cloud of cigarette smoke the moment they set foot outside a restaurant.
This results from not only the population density in both cities, but also the fact that the establishment's smoking customers and employees tend to loiter on the pavement outside the business, exhaling smoke from cigarettes. A Japanese restaurant near my flat in Macau is infamous for its chain-smoking chefs who dot the pavement near the entrance; it is impossible to walk by and not see one of them smoking.
Add to this the problem of smokers lighting up in toilets, stairwells and restaurant kitchens, and of smoke blowing into business premises from people smoking close to entrances, and you begin to wonder if the ban on smoking in public does anything at all.
On the narrow pavements and paths in Macau and Hong Kong, if you find yourself walking behind a smoker, you are often forced to inhale their second-hand smoke. If the authorities truly want to protect residents and visitors, why not ban smoking in all public places, including outside?
This is the only viable solution for protecting non-smokers from those who inconsiderately blow smoke into their faces.
And if lawmakers refuse to implement tougher restrictions for smokers, well, there's always the alternative of self defence in the form of a water gun. If someone's cigarette smoke blows in your face, you have the right to put out his cigarette. Why not? A little water never hurt anyone.
Darren Dillman, Macau
Code clear on escape routes of ferries
I refer to the letter of Patrick Gilbert ("Nowhere to store luggage on ferry", April 28).
The Marine Department would like to thank Mr Gilbert for bringing the matter to our attention.
The High Speed Craft Code specifies requirements for emergency exits and escape routes of vessels and these should not be obstructed at any time.
Since the ferry to which he referred is registered in the mainland and under the jurisdiction of the China Maritime Safety Administration, the Marine Department will bring this matter to the attention of the mainland authority for its follow-up action.
We will, in the course of our port state control inspections in relation to high-speed craft, monitor whether there are situations involving obstruction of escape routes by luggage onboard the high-speed craft concerned and take enforcement action as appropriate.
As regards life rafts, they are arranged for hydrostatic release and will be operated by crew members in case of emergency.
Passengers are advised to follow the instructions of crew members as required.
Patrick Tso, general manager/ship safety branch, Marine Department
Incinerator benefits must be explained
I agree with Lucas Tong concerning the need for incinerators ("Multipurpose incinerator good for city", April 16).
With the government, I have doubts in my mind about who makes those decisions concerning important matters for the benefit of the public.
Over 25 years ago I went with a group of fellow urban councillors on a visit to Singapore and Japan to see the newest kind of incinerator.
We noticed that useful materials were siphoned off for use, while the smoke from the chimneys was minimal.
We returned from our trip and reported to the council that we were greatly impressed and expressed the hope that Hong Kong would immediately take action to help to solve the growing problem of rubbish dumping in landfills.
The government had sent us there and paid for our expenses and we examined and reported all we saw.
Why did the government of that time waste money as well as our time on something it had no intention of putting into action? Was it a sheer lack of care? Who knows? But the fact is that nothing more was mentioned about the proposals. Now we are left in a mess, with complaints by those who do not realise the benefits of installing incinerators.
How much longer will it be? It has already been a quarter of a century at least since that recommendation was made.
Will another half century be required while we talk?
Can the public be told of those benefits and could those who talk only politics look harder into the realities?
Elsie Tu, Kwun Tong
Landfill expansion the only option
I am sure officials must have realised that the proposal to expand the Tseung Kwan O landfill would prove to be controversial.
However, they put it forward to lawmakers because they recognise that our landfills are close to saturation and they cannot see any alternative to expansion.
They argue that if we do not go ahead with the proposal for Tseung Kwan O the problem of waste disposal in Hong Kong will only get worse and it will become even more difficult to find a solution.
Landfills that are full to capacity will produce more methane, which is bad for the environment.
Developers will avoid using any available land near the site and this will affect the property market.
I appreciate that local residents are opposed to expansion plans, but they and their representatives have to appreciate that we have a refuse disposal problem.
I back the plan to expand this landfill, and think it is up to the environment secretary to allay those residents' and district councillors' fears and ensure proper management of expanded landfill sites.
I hope these councillors will think not just about their constituents, but about the needs of Hong Kong residents.
I also think the residents have to try not to focus just on their own interests.
If officials fail with this plan, then they will meet with opposition from residents to future waste management proposals in other parts of Hong Kong.
Sandy Chung, Kwai Chung
Passenger loads placing strain on MTR
The disruption to services on Sunday on the East Rail Line is part of an increasing trend of technical problems with the MTR Corporation's services.
This time it was due to problems with "the train tracking system" ("MTR line stops as control centre 'loses' trains", April 28).
The delay lasted for around 30 minutes. As I said, this is not an isolated occasion and the number of incidents when there is a breakdown in part of the network has reached an unacceptable level.
I think this is caused by the MTR network being overloaded. I believe that the East Rail Line cannot cope with the passenger load during its busiest periods. The demands placed on the line are more than any transportation service could cope with.
A delay of 36 minutes, which is what happened on Sunday, affects a great many people, including those who have to get to work. Measures must be taken by the government to alleviate the overcrowding problem. Hong Kong people expect to be provided with efficient and stable public transport services.
Measures must be taken to try to divert passengers to other forms of transport. The government should review KMB's fares. It will struggle to survive and provide bus routes without being allowed a reasonable fare increase.
A rationalisation and loss of some routes will decrease the transport choices of citizens and the overcrowding on MTR trains will only get worse.
Regarding the incident on Sunday, the MTR must take the blame for the delay of almost 30 minutes before the public was told about the problem. Passengers should have been informed before government officials.
Shirley Sham Wing-yin, Kowloon Tong
Government should help improve MTR
When services were suspended on the East Rail Line on Sunday, passengers were initially told the delay would be for five to 10 minutes, but it turned out to be 36 minutes.
The problem with the MTR Corporation is not just to do with service problems, but also with integrity.
It is difficult for passengers to trust the MTR Corp to provide a stable service. Passengers are also now starting to doubt the reliability of front-line staff and senior management. The company's reputation is at stake and this must damage staff morale.
Citizens are also not happy with the way the government has dealt with the problems the MTR is facing.
I hope the government and MTR Corp will look into the problems the network faces and solve them as soon as possible.
Eleanor Lui Lok-ching, Lai Chi Kok