Letters to the Editor, May 28, 2014
Owners get short shrift from URA
I refer to the report ("Is the URA putting profit before society?" May 23) and it appears obvious that the answer is a resounding "yes".
The persisting perception is that the Urban Renewal Authority only acts as a facilitator for the major tycoon developers, who become their joint venture partners.
The URA gets preferential treatment by government departments, especially Lands (on premiums) and Planning (on plot ratio and building heights), and the Town Planning Board (as rubber stamper).
These benefits are then shared between the URA and the tycoons, and the original owners are ill considered.
Angela Tang, of the URA, protests that its compensation model is fair ("Flat owners get proper compensation", May 7) but doesn't appreciate, or admit, the overriding unfairness of evicting residents by compulsory purchase, and thereby arbitrarily confiscating their redevelopment rights.
The development tycoons are not interested in small sites, therefore it appears that the URA is also not interested.
The URA has a heavy bureaucracy and overheads, which is why it may lose money.
The remit of the URA should be to improve our city, and the massive projects that it foists on local communities do not do this.
If the URA is unwilling to address small sites and a smaller scale of development, it is questionable whether it actually has any positive role to play in the future development of our city.
Frank Lee, Wan Chai
Leung trying to help needy in society
Confrontation is now the order of the day in most countries, whether they are democratic or totalitarian.
In Hong Kong, seldom a day goes by without some politicians, including legislators, making various complaints.
I cannot say whether Leung Chun-ying is a good chief executive or not. However, at least he has tried to provide more housing and help those elderly who are in need. His predecessors failed to introduce any policies like this.
Therefore, I think it is unfair to blame Mr Leung for the problems that Hong Kong is experiencing.
Some legislators have blocked good policies he has tried to introduce, without trying to make constructive suggestions.
Positive policies are being undermined by them.
Isn't it now time for the Legislative Council to reconsider policies before continually blaming the government?
Good rule by an administration cannot be ensured unless there is a spirit of cooperation.
Peter Wei, Kwun Tong
Commuters end up as the main losers
Taxpayers had no choice but to accept the decision of our transport minister and other high-ranking officials to go ahead with the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou.
The China Railway Corporation needs to drum up business for its high-speed rail network and sees Hong Kong as a cash cow.
Officials here were supportive of the link, as they wanted to please their superiors.
The authorities on the mainland want to encourage the MTR Corporation to undertake more rail projects across the border. For example, the MTR Corp has been involved in the development of the Shenzhen Metro.
There were lengthy debates in Legco on the proposed cross-border high-speed rail link and demonstrations against the proposal outside the Legco chamber. By forcing through this project, our senior officials squandered government reserves and the expertise of the MTR Corp. That expertise would have been better utilised with further expansion of lines in Hong Kong. This expensive rail link has gone ahead and the needs of Hong Kong commuters have been ignored.
Consequently, the public here has to endure more delays to projects aimed at ensuring service improvements.
It has been estimated that the delayed completion of the express rail link will cost a further HK$4.4 billion and presumably less money will be available to make the necessary improvements to lines in the SAR. The government must take full responsibility for this state of affairs.
With the unexpected rise in the number of visitors from the mainland, the train network is being regularly overloaded, which reduces the projected lifespan of the MTR Corp's rolling stock.
Some seats have already been removed from carriages to try to alleviate the overcrowding problems and make it easier for passengers to board and alight.
Now some people are proposing that additional seats should be taken out, which will make travelling more inconvenient for the elderly and for families with young children. And, even with more seats removed, we will still have an overcrowding problem on the network. This is a problem that should be addressed by the housing and transport secretary and the chief executive.
New lines are needed at Tsuen Wan, Kwun Tong and Shau Kei Wan, because trains are running at full capacity. Also, platforms have to be lengthened so that more carriages can be added to trains during rush hours.
We have to undertake these measures to cope with the increase in mainland visitors we will see annually.
The MTR Corp has to consider the needs of Hong Kong passengers before committing to any further mainland projects.
A. L. Nanik, Tsim Sha Tsui
More patrols needed on MTR trains
There has been some bizarre behaviour on MTR trains of late.
This is partly due to the large increase in visitors from the mainland, up 17 per cent last year to almost 41 million.
This has led to confrontations between Hongkongers and tourists and it often comes down to cultural differences, for example, a woman and child eating on an MTR train which goes viral on the internet.
Constructive measures are needed to deal with this problem. Greg So Kam-leung, secretary for commerce and economic development, said Hong Kong citizens had to tolerate visitors and this caused public indignation.
What is needed is to strike the right balance, so that Hong Kong citizens' concerns are addressed, but the city's competitiveness is not compromised.
The MTR has by-laws, such as banning eating and drinking on trains. It must have more staff on patrol to ensure they are being obeyed and fine those who flout them. It ought to have more adverts in stations drawing passengers' attention to the by-laws.
Sam Leung, Tuen Mun
Ensuring press freedom is vital in city
I am concerned about the decline of freedom of the press and speech in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has been dropping down a world press freedom index over the past four years.
Freedom of the press is very important for Hong Kong. If it declines, then public confidence in the government will also decrease.
If negative information regarding the administration was not made public for whatever reason, this would make it more difficult for citizens to judge the effectiveness of its policies.
Hong Kong's international prestige could be damaged, which could hinder its economic development.
Freedom of the press and free speech must be protected at all times in Hong Kong.
Rachel Chan Yuen-ting, Tsuen Wan