Letters to the Editor, April 17, 2015
Hotel project site unsuitable for housing
I refer to the article by Matthew Scott Ibarra ("Losing authority", April 10) with respect to his misunderstandings about the Urban Renewal Authority's plan for a hotel project in Tai Kok Tsui.
As a public body with an objective to improve the built environment of Hong Kong, the URA strives to identify and determine the most compatible use for all of its redevelopment projects.
In planning the future use for the Tai Kok Tsui project, which was started in 2008, the URA took into consideration the constraints of the site configuration and its surroundings. Located adjacent to the West Kowloon Corridor, the Anchor Street/Fuk Tsun Street site is exposed to excessive traffic noise. Residential use relying on openable windows for ventilation is considered not suitable for this site.
The Town Planning Board considered that the rezoning to "other specified uses" annotated "hotel" zone would not create adverse traffic, visual, environmental and drainage impacts and the rezoning was subsequently approved by the board in 2009.
The board also approved the development parameters proposed by the URA, including a maximum plot ratio of nine, which was exactly the same as that in the previous "residential (group A)" zone, and no extra gross floor area has been obtained.
A maximum plot ratio of 12 is normally permitted for sites designated for hotel use.
Angela Tang, general manager, external relations department, Urban Renewal Authority
Elderly poor need bigger helping hand
Walking along the city's streets, I often see elderly people pushing trolleys, scavenging for material they can sell for recycling, such as newspapers, plastic bottles and cardboard.
I think the number of old folk scratching a living this way has increased.
Most of them are elderly and after they have retired, they get little financial help from the government. Given the cost of living and inflation the allowances they are entitled to can barely pay for daily necessities.
Therefore, they spend long hours on the streets for a pittance. This highlights that the government must either increase the pension they get or provide decent welfare services.
I have also noticed that the scavengers are getting younger and I have seen some who are middle-aged. Obviously the problem of poverty in our society is getting worse and there is a need for real action by the government.
Hong Kong is a prosperous city. The government must do more to help these people or the city's image abroad will be tarnished.
Ashley Chung, Kwun Tong
Plastic bag levy good for environment
One side-effect of Hong Kong enjoying greater prosperity is that its waste problem has got worse.
Citizens have developed bad and wasteful habits which do a great deal of harm to the environment.
Therefore I back the expansion of the plastic bag levy as it can raise people's awareness about the need for all of us to generate less waste.
For a long time, Hongkongers have used far too many plastic bags. We need to start cherishing our environment and curb such overuse.
Since the levy was introduced in 2009, there has been a reduction in the number of these bags ending up in landfills, so it is clearly working.
We must all learn to lead more frugal lives.
Fung King-ho, Yau Tong
Small classes can benefit students
Many schools in Hong Kong have adopted small-class teaching and there has been a lot of debate about whether or not it should be extended.
I think it is beneficial because teachers can spend more time with each student, with smaller numbers in the classroom.
They are able to recognise a problem with a student and have more time to deal with it and to help that individual. Being able to act promptly with this youngster can make a big difference. Switching to a small-class system requires major logistical changes for a school. Teachers and pupils have to learn to adapt to the new working conditions with smaller numbers.
If any school is considering making the switch, it must discuss the matter in detail first and consult all stakeholders, including students and parents, before going ahead with a small-class teaching system.
Wendy Leung, Sau Mau Ping
One-visit visas won't solve trader issue
I have grave concerns about the decision of the Shenzhen authorities to allow its permanent residents to apply for only one-visit-per-week permits instead of the visas that were launched in 2009 allowing unlimited trips.
This means the overwhelming majority of multiple-entry permit holders must confine their trips to once a week.
Some people will assert that as this will limit the number of mainland visitors, we will see far fewer parallel traders and therefore a reduction in the severe social problems they have caused.
However, many of these traders are Hong Kong citizens and so will not be affected by the new restriction. They will continue to snap up daily necessities in pharmacies which lead to shortages in some parts of the New Territories. Therefore the new measure is not getting to the root of the problem.
On top of this visa restriction, the government must come up with policies which satisfy the demands of mainland visitors and Hong Kong citizens.
Mainlanders do not trust products made across the border, which is why they come here.
They want to buy products in bulk that they know are safe to consume. That is a quite understandable and they should be allowed to purchase these goods.
The government should shift the areas where these parallel traders operate away from where they are at present, causing serious congestion problems, and move them up to the border. This would be a perfect location for them to conduct their business.
The priority for the government should be to make sure that parallel traders are not doing their business near people's homes and therefore causing disruption to residents.
A shopping centre should be opened that caters to the demands of mainlanders. Officials should ensure mainlanders and locals are happy with the new arrangement.
These are new measures which should be implemented promptly.
Fion Sy Hoi-ki, Yau Yat Chuen
Shopping mall the answer for mainlanders
There has been a substantial drop in the number of mainland tourists visiting Hong Kong since the new one-visit-per-week measure was introduced.
As a consequence, prices of goods have dropped and many shops have less business.
This shows that when mainland tourist numbers decline, it does have an effect on Hong Kong. I wonder if locals who protested over the influx of tourists gave much thought to why they come here and buy such large quantities of daily necessities.
They do so because the quality of these products sold here is so much better than it is on the mainland. Obviously this led to higher prices in Hong Kong and resentment by local residents having to pay these prices.
Conflicts have also been caused by the cultural differences between the two groups. There appeared times when some people would rather encourage these differences than resolve them and so relationships deteriorated.
However, we must always remember that the arrival of so many mainland tourists has led to an improvement in Hong Kong's economy and has especially been a major boost for the tourism, retail and catering sectors.
The government should build a large shopping mall in an area in the northern New Territories, such as Sheung Shui, which is geared to mainland tourists.
Their presence will then cause much less disruption to those worst-affected parts of the New Territories that resulted in tensions.
Desmond Chan Chun-fai, Tseung Kwan O
Hongkongers will fill the trading gap
I object to the new policy introduced by the Shenzhen authorities to switch the multi-entry permit into a weekly permit for its permanent residents visiting Hong Kong.
I think it will encourage more Hongkongers to take part in parallel trading.
This trading practice has disrupted the daily lives of local citizens, but it needs to be pointed out that many of these parallel traders are not mainlanders but Hong Kong citizens. That will become evident when we see the effects of the new visa measure.
Another problem with the new policy is that it will cause resentment among some mainlanders who will feel they are being discriminated against. Some netizens north of the border have said in online forums they will not travel to Hong Kong as they think the new policy is discrimination.
If this is a common perception, it could damage the city's reputation.
Helen Wong Yan-lam, Kowloon Tong