Letters to the Editor, August 26, 2014

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2014, 4:35am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2014, 5:12am

Superficial platitudes on waste

In his letter ("Government serious about tackling waste", August 18), Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection, seeks once again to convince the Hong Kong public that the government has a plan to tackle our waste problems. As with his many previous letters he fails entirely.

This time he seems to be saying that because, unlike Denmark, Germany, Sweden, South Korea and Taiwan, he and his colleagues at the Environmental Protection Department have been negligent in adequately planning and implementing adequate waste-to-energy facilities coupled with adequate landfill space, Hong Kong should not invest significantly in the recycling industry because we do not have adequate landfill space to handle waste that cannot be further reduced or recycled.

With only HK$1 billion of support for recycling, out of the HK$30 billion for waste recycling and waste treatment facilities, most of which is set aside for a large incinerator on land that has yet to be formed close to Shek Kwu Chau, Mr Au seems to accept that we can continue to dump large amounts of waste that could and should be recycled into our limited landfill capacity while we wait for the incinerator to save the day. This is strange logic.

Little wonder, then, that the Hong Kong public have absolutely no faith in Mr Au or his colleagues to be able to solve Hong Kong's waste management problems.

To convince us that he has everything under control, I repeat my request in my previous letter ("Cost-effective option should be chosen", May 31) that the government's so- called comprehensive plan be subject to a genuinely independent audit.

Please, Mr Au, no more superficial platitudes.

Chan Fung-chun, Sai Wan Ho


Air quality must factor in cancer cases

The report "Gene tests 'critical' for diagnosing lung cancer" (August 21) seems to imply that the rise in lung cancer in Hong Kong is due mainly to genetic factors rather than perhaps also the serious deterioration in the territory's air quality over the past two decades.

I find it strange that Dr James Ho Chung-man focuses his attention on genetics alone and fails to raise questions about or mention Hong Kong's poor air quality. We all know that poor or heavily polluted air does cause lung disease and even pulmonary problems across the board. So why do you not even raise the issue of air quality in your article? Why does Dr Ho, a trained man of science, fail to mention environmental factors in his statement?

Could it be that people with a certain genetic profile (gene markers) are just more susceptible to daily exposure to the increasingly bad air quality in town?

Finally, it would be more informative if the report had contained a few sentences explaining to which gene marker Dr Ho is referring; as well as how this finding was reached.

Daniel Fung, Mid-Levels


Beijing is twisting Basic Law principles

The "hints" from mainland officials telling Hong Kong what it "must" do in introducing universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive in 2017 ("Top official Li Fei drops another hint about Beijing's thinking on 2017 election", August 23), make a mockery of the consultation process.

Why do we waste valuable time and money discussing perfectly viable proposals if we are told we "must" have a certain thing?

The leaders in Beijing are twisting the principles of the Basic Law to suit themselves.

Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po


Textbook price increases are unacceptable

Publishers' prices for textbooks are unreasonably high. Prices go up whenever there is a new edition and this is unfair to students and parents.

These publishers monopolise the textbook market in Hong Kong and raise prices almost every year. Parents have no choice but to pay the increased price. I reckon that the average yearly price rise is around 5 per cent. Publishers usually provide more teaching materials to persuade a school to choose their textbook and then they can charge what they wish.

Many parents have complained about the high prices, which can eat into the family's overall budget. This is a heavy financial burden which they must face every school year.

Another point that affects and troubles students most is the re-publication of new textbook versions.

Some parents may want to save money by purchasing a second-hand textbook, and that can be one way to lessen the financial burden. However, the publishers' greedy and unscrupulous commercial conduct (publishing a new book every two years) places students in a difficult situation and they may have no choice but to purchase the new book.

The government seems to be unable to do anything about this, other than warning publishers about regular price rises. It has also asked them to make textbooks smaller, but to no avail.

I hope something can be done to curb these price rises.

Rainie Kwok, Tseung Kwan O


Government must do more for the poor

I think the government should increase subsidies to poor citizens.

The present subsidies are not enough. Hong Kong is known as one of the wealthiest cities in the world. However, there is a severe wealth disparity between the rich and poor.

Citizens suffer a lot not just because of skyrocketing rents but also the serious levels of inflation. Obviously, the subsidies already provided only help the underprivileged a little. Many poor people have no choice but to live in subdivided flats or cage homes, where there is just enough room to eat and sleep.

Clearly, therefore, the subsidies are insufficient.

Welfare payments should enable the poor in society to improve their standard of living. If these payments are too low, they will fail to help the underprivileged.

The government must research average rents and set the welfare payments accordingly, so even the poor can afford to pay rent.

Officials need to consider the purpose of welfare when determining the sums that will be given out.

The problem of poverty is becoming more serious, with more than 1.3 million citizens being classified as poor.

If this problem is not addressed, we will see more people taking to the streets to protest.

The problem of poverty in Hong Kong has now reached a critical state and the government has to deal with it effectively if it wants to regain the trust of citizens.

It must seek to improve the living standards of poor citizens.

Emily Ho, Sha Tin


Woman entitled to keep placenta

The distressing issue of Melissa Grenham should not be an issue at all ("Mother-to-be fights to keep placenta", August 24).

As a man I find it very strange that any mother would want to keep the placenta, let alone ingest it, and I imagine most women would feel the same. But who am I, or anyone else, to say that she cannot? It is, indisputably, hers.

It does not belong to the hospital, the doctor, the midwife, or any other member of the medical profession; it is hers.

This case highlights an endemic weakness in the authorities, professionals and tradespeople in Hong Kong: the inability to deal with anything which is a little unusual.

Although this case is unusual, it should not be difficult. While there is little or no evidence to support claims that ingesting the placenta is beneficial, nor is there evidence to the contrary.

Why does not the Hospital Authority advise her against keeping the placenta and ask her to sign a form acknowledging their advice and indemnifying them of any responsibility regarding it?

I imagine Ms Grenham would sign; in fact, she would be acting unreasonably if she refused to sign.

Childbirth can be a very stressful time; medical professionals, surely, should try their best to reduce such stress, not add to it.

Peter Robertson, Sai Kung


Locals should accept cultural differences

I am writing about press reports that well-off mainlanders are pushing up prices at Hong Kong's elite clubs.

Apparently, investors from north of the border are looking for a solid return on their investments by buying and then selling memberships at these clubs. In some cases, prices have more than doubled in the last six years at some of these clubs.

I do not think it is just elite clubs that are affected. Prices have gone up in other areas and this has led to tensions and misunderstandings between some local people and mainland visitors.

Conflicts can arise because of cultural differences.

Hong Kong citizens can get angry when they think that mainland visitors are responsible for the increase in the prices of basic necessities and sometimes shortages of these necessities, such as milk formula.

Local citizens can also feel resentful if well-off mainlanders decide to flaunt their wealth in Hong Kong by purchasing luxury goods.

The government should try its best to alleviate tensions.

Hongkongers also need to try to be more tolerant and accept the cultural differences that exist.

Katie Leung Ka-ki, Tseung Kwan O