Letters to the Editor, June 24, 2014
Protest raises concerns over Legco security
While legislators, Executive Council members and government officials have been quick to condemn the recent "storming" of the Legislative Council, how come nobody has raised questions about how easy it is to penetrate the building?
Instead of condemning the protesters, they should be applauded for revealing how poor design combined with inferior materials has left us with a more than HK$5 billion white elephant that can be prised open by a bunch of activists.
A group of terrorists with machine guns could raze the complex.
Moreover, bearing in mind the proximity to the harbourfront, the incident should have triggered immediate concern regarding the damage a strong typhoon could inflict.
Memories are very short in Hong Kong. Legco members have conveniently forgotten that the complex was opened in a rush in August 2011.
At the time, many questioned the advisability of cutting corners, but then-chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was adamant that the move to Tamar must go ahead.
Shortly after completion of the building, the education secretary was confirmed to have contracted legionnaires' disease.
Legionella was subsequently found in toilets on various floors at the Legco building. Experts in infectious diseases concluded that the bacteria had spread through the water supply system because of insufficient testing of the facilities before staff moved in.
Subsequently stories about the many problems within the complex were leaked. Legislators complained about, and posted images on Facebook, of crooked wall fixtures, stained walls, loose panels, uneven floors, chipped railings, erratic air cons and signboards held up by masking tape.
While the complex was touted as a green government building, we now know that the energy bills are multiples of those paid at the old offices.
There is extensive ongoing construction work at the Legco building. Why is that necessary when it opened less than three years ago?
Instead of all the posturing, taxpayers would like to see demands for a long overdue investigation into Tamar with a focus on whether corners were cut and inferior materials used in order to meet the opening date and budget.
Martin Brinkley, Ma Wan
Add extra pages to full UK passports
The UK government has enacted a range of emergency measures to address the problems caused by the backlog of passport renewals.
It has yet to address the issue of a citizen who still has years of validity left on his passport but who has run out of pages due to constant travel to countries that require visas or stamp passports on entry/exit.
I strongly urge the UK government to address this issue and allow additional pages to be added to an existing valid passport as part of the range of emergency measures introduced to address the renewal backlog issue.
This is contrary to the prevailing policy, but allowing this for a period of time until the backlog issue has been resolved would reduce the stress that citizens like myself are currently enduring.
The British government decided to allow for a 12-month extension for passports that are about to expire. Surely allowing additional pages to be added to a passport with many years of validity is not too much to ask?
Gordon Pirie, Mid-Levels
Improve awareness of mental illness
I refer to Darren Fung's letter ("Education is key to keeping the city safe", June 18) regarding the tragedy where a man was killed by a chair dropped from a building in Mong Kok.
To prevent similar incidents from happening, Mr Fung claimed that stricter laws should be enacted against people who drop objects from buildings, while children should be educated about the danger of this action.
Undoubtedly, these are effective ways to stop people from dropping things out of windows out of convenience or the intention of playing tricks on or even hurting passers-by. However, this is not such a case - the man who allegedly threw the chair from the roof of the building was a mental patient.
More must be done to address the needs of the mentally ill in Hong Kong. More resources should be deployed so patients with mental disorders can have frequent appointments with psychiatrists in public hospitals.
Better education is needed to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness so those affected are more willing to seek help. In such a stressful society like Hong Kong, awareness of mental health should be promoted so that people can learn to cope with pressure.
Billy Yau, Shek Kip Mei
HK roads are too dangerous for cyclists
Cyclists are a common sight on Taiwan's roads, but not in Hong Kong.
Having more cyclists would be environmentally friendly and could help ease air pollution. However, it might cause traffic congestion because cyclists travel more slowly than drivers, forcing motorists to queue and wait for them.
Cycling on roads can be very dangerous, particularly when the roads are not designed to accommodate cyclists.
Hong Kong is a very small place, with limited traffic capacity. Sharing the road with the city's many inconsiderate drivers could cause a lot of accidents.
Encouraging more people to cycle in urban areas is not a good idea unless the government can educate motorists to respect cyclists.
Justin Chan, Hung Hom
US soldiers and diplomats must quit Iraq
Given the present crisis in Iraq, the US should evacuate all personnel from its embassy in Baghdad. All remaining American troops should get out of the country as soon as possible.
This is a religious war that doesn't concern the US. We have to stop fighting someone else's war. The Sunnis and Shiites started this conflict that threatens to affect the entire Middle East region. I hope they see the futility of war and consider a peaceful solution.
I, along with most Americans, say we shouldn't get involved.
Herb Stark, Mooresville, North Carolina, US
Traffic chaos is common on mainland
I recently went on a holiday touring round China and I was taken aback by various traffic systems I encountered.
Roads were crowded with vehicles and pedestrians. Cars were either travelling too slowly or too fast and always too close to the vehicle ahead.
I saw indicators not being used before turning, unsafe overtaking, poor lane discipline and failure to give way.
Bad manners on the roads are common on the mainland.
Drivers pay no heed to pedestrians and vice versa.
I think this is why so many Hongkongers are concerned about the fact that more mainland drivers will be allowed into the SAR.
The World Health Organisation estimated that in 2010 there were more than 275,000 road deaths in China. This is a shocking statistic and the local authorities, drivers and pedestrians must share collective responsibility.
Traffic systems on the mainland must be completely overhauled.
More closed-circuit television cameras must be installed. This will ensure that those who have been driving dangerously can be punished, but also that drivers who are being unfairly singled out can have their rights protected.
More people must be deployed on the roads to ensure that traffic rules are being obeyed.
It is also common to see ignorant jaywalkers. They bolt out into the road, because they feel it is convenient for them to cross at this point. They do not think about the safety of other road users.
Tougher penalties should be imposed on these people and there must be more education about road safety. Also, there must be more pedestrian crossings so that fewer citizens are tempted to jaywalk.
Samuel Lai, Tseung Kwan O
Put homeless in speculators' empty flats
I refer to the letter by Sharon While ("Happy Valley homeless not a problem", June 21) in reply to the letter by Dermot Cooper ("Police need to remove unruly vagrants", June 14), about street sleepers in an underpass near Happy Valley racecourse.
Ms While asks where we should move the homeless to.
It is not that difficult. Move the homeless, those who live in cage-like conditions and those who are waiting for public housing into the 230,000 apartments that are left empty for more then six months by investors.
With land scarcity in Hong Kong, no one should have the right to leave apartments empty for pure financial gain.
If people want to speculate, let them do so on the stock market. Shelter, like food, is one of the first necessities in life and should not be manipulated.
Jeffry Kuperus, Clear Water Bay