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  • Nov 27, 2014
  • Updated: 2:37am

Letters to the Editor, July 9, 2014

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2014, 5:07am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2014, 5:07am

Rare bird at risk from forest project

I am writing regarding the reforestation scheme currently being carried out by Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden ("Growing back to its roots: Tai Mo Shan's reforestation", July 2).

I believe we need to step back from believing that more forest in Hong Kong is necessarily good.

Tai Mo Shan supports one of Hong Kong's most threatened bird species, the globally endangered Chinese grassbird, which is confined to hill-slope grassland.

In view of ongoing, territory-wide vegetative succession from grassland through shrubland to forest, the area of suitable habitat for this species is declining year by year.

Reforestation is a kind of development, albeit rather different in nature to construction of new towns.

The latter requires an ecological impact assessment to be carried out to assess the impact on flora and fauna. Did Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden carry out an assessment of the potential impact on the Chinese grassbird, as well as other potentially rare and restricted species such as butterflies, of its reforestation scheme?

Ecological impact assessments of development projects require vetting and approval by the government, and I would hope, especially as the reforestation areas presumably lie within Tai Mo Shan Country Park, that the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department would have made some assessment of its impact in the context of a declining area of grassland habitat in Hong Kong.

The return to forest in many parts of Hong Kong is one that I welcome, broadly speaking.

However, it is likely that the same anthropogenic influence that denuded Hong Kong hills of forests also removed lowland grassland habitats that supported the Chinese grassbird, and it now faces a second wave of threat from vegetation succession.

It seems to me that we should be assessing such reforestation schemes in a holistic manner, and according the fauna and flora of upland grassland rather more importance and consideration than is currently the case.

It would be an easy thing to do, given that the vast majority of this habitat lies within country parks.

Geoff Carey, Sai Kung


Tax on empty flats long overdue

The letter by Jeffry Kuperus ("Put homeless in speculators' empty flats", June 24) unveiled an unpleasant truth to Hongkongers who have been struggling to deal with skyrocketing property prices.

In some developed nations, taxes are levied on owners of empty flats. However, this does not happen in Hong Kong. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of apartments and it leads to property speculation and offers an incentive to developers to make financial gains.

A tax on vacant properties helps to deter property speculators, who distort the property market and generate the illusion of an inadequate supply of flats.

The government should be taking action to regulate this overheated market in order to curb unscrupulous trade tactics employed by developers and property agents.

Apartments should be built for people to live in, not for people to make excessive profits from.

Citizens have a right to a place to live. That right should not be compromised by people with vested interests.

Gravis Cheng, Yuen Long


Politicians are playing with fire in city

I have long been of the opinion that Occupy Central would need to happen in August.

The obvious reasons are that the activists behind the movement depend so much on students who they have been manipulating to fulfil their own political agenda and the students will be free during the summer break.

I hope the parents of these young people will guide them away from being used as tools by politicians, who are acting in an irresponsible manner.

Occupy Central will definitely lead to serious riots (just look at the violent incidents we witnessed around Legco).

Intervention by the central government will be looked at then as something that is unavoidable because of the problems that have been created by the so-called democrats in the SAR. Social order will not be restored without a powerful external force.

Those politicians who are playing with fire will only have themselves to blame for what happens by refusing to adhere to the relevant articles of the Basic Law.

There are sections of the local media which have also made things worse.

S. Yam, North Point


Nobody listens to people stuck in the middle

As someone who is Chinese, I am ashamed of the human rights situation on the mainland.

Take, for example, the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo . He is a patriot whose legitimate aspirations are suppressed because of some remote threat being perceived to the Communist Party's monopoly on state power. That is appalling, but the home detention of his wife, without trial or for any reason, is criminal.

I am not saying that everything the party does is wrong. And, when it comes to Hong Kong, I deplore the way the pan-democrats have resorted to scaremongering to mislead the public about the contents of Beijing's white paper on the implementation of "one country, two systems" in the SAR.

I dislike Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and some of the tactics he has employed. But that does not mean the pan-democrats should try to obstruct all his administration's initiatives, some of which will benefit Hong Kong, for example, on housing and refuse disposal.

We should give credit to the administration, if not Leung personally, for trying to find long-overdue solutions. The pan-democrats are as hypocritical as Leung when they, on the one hand, fault him for not honouring election pledges, but on the other hand, find all sorts of populist excuses to frustrate his administration's efforts. People like me are, sadly, stuck in the middle. Politicians and the media are not interested in our opinions because we are neither outright pro-establishment nor outright pro-opposition.

Where I must choose in situations where my views count, I would have no hesitation siding with those who can at least occasionally do public good for Hong Kong rather than those who are capable of doing nothing but complaining, obstructing and creating animosity.

Ng Hon-wah, Pok Fu Lam


Peaceful alliance gets little coverage

I have become more and more disturbed by the extensive coverage which is being given to the radical elements of Hong Kong society under the movement Occupy Central.

Now we have a group which promotes peace and democracy, within the legal framework of the Basic Law, and is against violence.

It is high time that the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, which represents reasonable debate and sensible compromise over universal suffrage, was given equal media coverage.

This should be done before the radical elements destroy one of the most efficient, most free and most safe societies in the world.

Martin Clinch, Mid-Levels


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This article is now closed to comments

Taxing empty flats may not be the ideal solution as most speculators rent out their flats. With rental ranging from 4-6% return versus less than 1% in a savings account, it is difficult to deter investors from this sector. Stamp duties is already a form of tax to prevent high frequency of changing hands. Hong Kong people are bull market operators, they chase as the market goes up and shy away when the market comes down. If one examines the liquidity between 1997 to 2003, many people had the opportunity to purchase affordable flats but they stayed on the sideline. If we advocate for a free society, then we have to also respect the free market. Too much government intervention is not healthy for Hong Kong.
Tax on emply flats: My question is, are most of these empty flats within a size range that most locals are looking for? If a significant portion of flats between the 500-1000 sq ft range are being left empty, then I can agree with this tax. One of the problems that many flat owners face is the extra cost and hassle of renting out their flats. Having to worry about good tenants, maintenance and taxes (income on property can be a hassle) can sometimes make it easier to just leave it empty.
Most people cannot afford apartments over a certain size (I would guess 1500 sq ft) anyway, so a tax on those apartments will not have the desired effect.
Enforcement will be an issue tho.
Please don't use the "E" word. It scares officials and police and forces them to be proactive and get off their butts
Tax on empty flats:
I agree to put a penalty on owners of flats who keep it empty for speculative purposes. When introducing such penalty we need also a regulation that new flats need to be finished without delay. Otherwise the developers will not finish flats and say they cannot sell/rent them because they are not finished.
On a separate topic, has anyone noticed the increasing prevalence of Mainland registered (blue plate) dual-licenced vehicles on HK roads. In China, blue plates were for mainland citizens and black plates were reserved for foreign nationals, until it was decided that was discriminatory. So mainland cars are now issued blue plates, but if the car is owned by a foreign national, then the letter/number sequence is different. The older black plates are still issued to dual-use vehicles, i.e. those registered in both Mainland China and Hong Kong or Macau. So, what's with China blue plate vehicles appearing in Hong Kong, with dual registration. Is this the start of something?


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