Letters to the Editor, August 1, 2014
West Kowloon plan ignores majority view
I was shocked to read the report "West Kowloon park: 'it's about the arts not trees'", (July 29).
It is clear that the proposal for a cultural green park which had the overwhelming support of the Hong Kong public from the middle of the last decade, has been hijacked by some developers who were waiting in the wings.
The Hong Kong government responded to strong public sentiment by inviting internationally renowned architects to submit creative concepts for the West Kowloon Cultural District.
Norman Foster's plan for trees and trails in the middle of the concrete jungle of urban Hong Kong complemented the arts hub. With its panoramic view of the harbour, it would have been a popular green oasis for locals and visitors.
But some developers kept lobbying for a residential/office complex on the 42 hectares, in contrast to open parkland.
They appear to have benefited from the fact that the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority is in a state of continual disarray. They have gone against the original mandate by talking about "the arts not trees".
The Hong Kong Alternatives, a citizen advocacy group, has worked tirelessly for a "property development free" cultural district as a pure cultural green park.
This new plan is totally unacceptable, especially since the vast majority of citizens have already said what they want.
Echoing the ongoing outcry about the scandalous cost overrun of the current status of the cultural district, we are working on some creative recommendations and would like to have them submitted to the authorities concerned.
However, the government seems to have blocked all channels for the submission of public opinions.
Would the chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority let us know, through these columns, if the people of Hong Kong will still get their cultural green park?
K. N. Wai, on behalf of the Hong Kong Alternatives
Civil servants could choose retirement age
A proposal to allow civil servants to work to 65 has proved to be a controversial topic in town.
Some civil servants could be lucky enough to enjoy having longer years of service while some will be concerned they may not be able to benefit from the scheme if it is too restrictive. Every policy has its pros and cons, but in this case there should be a degree of flexibility to cater to the different needs of the civil service.
The government should consider a scheme that offers a wider range of options to civil servants with at least 20 years of service.
They should be allowed to choose to retire between the ages of 52 and 65.
There are two advantages to this flexible approach.
At present, with a compulsory retirement age of 60, too many experienced civil servants leave at the same time and this creates a shortage of skilled personnel in the workforce.
With my suggested scheme, if some people retire earlier, there will be more promotion prospects for younger civil servants. I think this scheme would satisfy everyone's needs.
Barry Kwok, Wong Tai Sin
Impose speed restrictions to protect cattle
The feral cattle in Lantau are part of a larger ecosystem. Their existence is of the utmost importance to maintain a balance in the environment, as is the case with all beings.
The government, local council and Lantau residents and visitors need to be proactive in protecting the feral cattle that are endangered by irresponsible driving.
Respecting the environment is the duty of all, for the benefit of the future of the human race.
Some measures to ensure the safety of cattle, other animals, and even children would be to increase awareness of speeding and dangerous driving, install more speed cameras and officially reduce the speed limit of roads that are frequently occupied by these animals. Also, speed limiters should be added to Lantau- registered cars and there should be a greater police presence.
These measures can ensure a safe environment for humans and animals alike.
Taher Kesuri, Lantau
Omitting facts about Hamas' provocation
Jack Muir's vilification of Israel ("March was against Israeli war crimes", July 30), including the distortions and omissions in his so-called "facts on the ground", mirrors propaganda by Hamas.
Hamas is designated a terrorist organisation by the European Union, Canada, Australia and the US. It started the current war by indiscriminately firing more than 100 rockets daily at Israel with the goal of killing Israeli civilians.
While Israel does everything possible to protect its citizens from these attacks, Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as human shields. This includes launching rockets from civilian areas such as mosques, schools, hospitals and refugee centres. German television has documented Hamas' obstruction of Palestinian civilians seeking to flee, directing them to become "martyrs".
Regarding the tragic Palestinian civilian deaths, Colonel Richard Kemp, former British armed forces commander in Afghanistan, said: "I believe that on the basis of everything that I've seen, that everything the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] does to protect civilians and to stop the death of innocent civilians is a great deal more than any other army, and it's more than the British and the American armies."
Mr Muir baselessly accuses Rabbi Asher C. Oser ("Some in Hong Kong not immune to anti-Jewish racism", July 24) of "trying to turn this into a religious war". The Hamas Charter's Article XIII states that peace "initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions ... are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their jihad." As readers know, jihad is a holy war.
In recent protests against Israel in Europe, some posters and chants of protesters have been virulently and even violently anti-Semitic. Rabbi Oser expressed in his letter the hope that such hatred does not surface in Hong Kong.
One wonders if Mr Muir ever organised a protest against Hamas. How about the murder of 120,000 Syrians and the many other conflicts where civilian deaths far exceed those in Gaza?
Finally, like most Israelis and Jews, I fully support a two-state solution for both Israelis and Palestinians. Hamas does not. Does Mr Muir?
Glen Steinman, Mid-Levels
Israeli actions don't seem like self-defence
I refer to the letter by Rabbi Rabbi Asher C. Oser ("Some in Hong Kong not immune to anti-Jewish racism", July 24).
Surely a member of the clergy should not be siding with one party in a conflict. He must be aware that the majority of global public opinion is against the actions of the Israeli government in Gaza.
Israel claims that it is acting in self-defence, but let's look at some of these so-called acts of self-defence.
It is preventing Palestinians from working on their own farms and fishing in their own waters.
It is not allowing them to move freely in their own land so that in every aspect of their lives they feel caged in.
On top of these policies, Israel now occupies the Gaza Strip to ensure future military domination.
It would have been more appropriate for your correspondent, as a rabbi, to exhort both the parties to stop fighting and live side by side in peace and to urge the Israeli government to be more cooperative with the Palestinians.
Peace in the Middle East will only come about if the world's most powerful nations stop meddling.
There must be a change of attitude by Israel's leaders. They must shed their arrogant attitude and recognise the need for Israelis to see Palestinians as equals.
Also, Palestinians must not initiate a war. They should only fight if they need to defend themselves and should not be the aggressors.
Mohammad Ishaque, Chai Wan
Lessons to be learned from MTR delays
It has been reported in the press, including your paper, that all five of the MTR Corporation's major works projects are now delayed.
I think this is a ridiculous state of affairs. Although the MTR Corp is a big company, launching five major projects is taking on too much.
Before tendering for and agreeing to start a new line, it should look at all aspects of the work it will need to do. For example, it should have enough manpower, have the necessary machinery in place and have sufficient funds.
Because it clearly failed to do this important preparatory work, it now faces problems with all five projects. This causes delays and additional costs which will prove costly to Hong Kong taxpayers.
Areas where lines are being built will have to put up with pollution such as noise for longer periods and this will have an adverse effect on nearby residents' lives.
I hope the MTR Corp has learned some lessons from what has happened when it comes to bidding for future projects.
Michelle Chan, Tsing Yi