Letters to the Editor, May 14, 2015
Elderly living in poverty need help
I refer to reports on the 73-year-old man who was sentenced to four months in prison for using a fake identity card.
He did this to hide his age so he could continue working past the mandatory retirement age for security guards.
One of your reports also focused on an 85-year-old lady who takes part-time cleaning jobs ("Too old to work, too poor not to", May 7). Both these cases again shed light on the miserable lives that many of our older population must bear.
The jailed man, Shih Chiao-jen, has given up appealing against his sentence in order to prevent further stress on himself and his wife.
This state of affairs is a terrible indictment of our government for its abject failure to take steps to alleviate the wretched conditions suffered by so many of our older folk. How long must we wait until talks on a universal pension scheme are revived? The budget promised two months' extra old age and disability allowances, but this just adds insult to injury.
Shih is to be greatly admired for refusing to accept Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), preferring to work for a living.
The 85-year-old lady, Wong Siu-ying, makes a pittance collecting and selling cardboard and rubbish. She also is not on CSSA. It would be interesting to learn the reason why, she obviously needs it.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his officials need to tackle this despicable situation.
John Wilson, Tsim Sha Tsui
No need for four-month jail term
I refer to the case of the 73-year-old man who was sentenced to four months in prison for using a fake identity card to reduce his age, and obtain employment.
Many old and fit people find it hard to get employment. It is very unfortunate that the magistrate, Li Wai-chi, who sentenced Shih Chiao-jen, could not relate to this and simply insisted the law is the law. An unconditional discharge would have been more appropriate.
The judiciary is responsible for prosecutions. Its policy is the older an offender, the more reluctant to prosecute, and would the offender be likely to offend again. In this case the answer is no.
John Fleming, Mong Kok
Visits to shrine far more than tasteless
I refer to the article by Klaus Segbers ("Past abusers", May 9).
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his supporters' visits to the Yasukuni Shrine ("honouring Japanese war victims"), as well as coercion of publishers to whitewash Japan's history in textbooks, are far more than merely tasteless acts. They have rightly brought Abe universal opprobrium.
They are calculated and cruel acts to scar the memories of Japan's war crime victims.
The purpose is to send the message that although it had to surrender, industrialised Japan does not see itself as having been defeated by its agrarian neighbours. And 70 years on Japan is still able to do by intimidation and coercion what Abe's grandfather and his cohorts did by military force.
W. L. Chang, Discovery Bay
Bag tax leaves some shoppers confused
The limited plastic bag levy was expanded from April 1.
The aim of the charge is to reduce the volume of plastic waste in Hong Kong.
However, I do not think the policy gets to the root of the waste problem.
Some companies do not want to charge customers for bags so they have replaced their plastic bags with paper ones. However, this just means that there is an increased volume of paper waste. This is a loophole in the regulation which needs to be addressed by the administration.
Also, I think the new regulations on the plastic bag charge, including what is and is not given an exemption, are confusing people. This may lead to needless arguments between customers and staff at retail outlets. I would also like to see greater cooperation from fast-food chains like McDonald's and KFC. They could set up a recycling area and ask customers to put leftover food there.
McDonald's restaurants in Korea have adopted such a recycling scheme. Getting customers to show self-discipline is worthwhile and environmentally friendly.
Manufacturers can also take a greener approach by using less packaging and helping to recycle it.
Last year for the Mid-Autumn Festival Maxim's sold some mooncakes in boxes that decomposed in four months.
In the long-term the best way to change people's wasteful habits is through education.
When citizens are more aware of the need to protect the environment the government will not have to keep implementing new legislation to make people reduce waste.
Joey Li, Sai Kung
Clarity on heritage sites is so important
I refer to the report ("Hong Kong developers 'disadvantaged' by lack of a clear conservation policy", May 4).
There will be always be arguments between those advocating urban development and those wanting heritage sites preserved.
Lau Ming-wai, chairman and CEO of Chinese Estates Holdings, expressed concern over the fairness of government policy on heritage conservation.
Many historic buildings have disappeared in Hong Kong. It is good to now see the government placing more importance on cultural preservation. But as Mr Lau pointed out a comprehensive conservation policy is lacking and this creates difficulties for developers.
It can also lead to heightened tensions between them and those individuals and groups wanting to preserve certain heritage sites.
Urban development and heritage preservation should been seen as equally important in Hong Kong. But in order to strike the right balance the government must improve clarity when it comes to its conservation strategy.
There will always be a debate when the focus is on an old building, about whether to demolish it and free the land for development or to save it. Many Hongkongers care deeply about our heritage.
Saving every historic building would not be a feasible goal.
The value and importance of each structure must be carefully considered before a decision is made.
Sometimes it will be decided that it would be better for society to go ahead with a proposed development project.
However, Lau is right that developers need greater clarity from the government.
If that happens then there is a better chance that vulnerable sites will be saved and properly preserved.
Pinky Wong Ka-pik, Yau Yat Chuen
Police lethargic about illegal parking
The news that the HK$320 fixed penalty for illegal parking could be raised for the first time in 21 years, possibly to HK$448, as part of measures authorities are considering to tackle road congestion, is laughable.
Our police and traffic wardens take a lethargic attitude when it comes to imposing existing laws that prohibit illegal parking.
This complete lack of enforcement makes a mockery of any revision to the actual cost of the infringement.
If the Transport and Housing Bureau really wishes to improve congestion on our roads, it needs to demand that our traffic laws are enforced, that police officers who meekly appear subservient to tycoon drivers don't simply wave the offending car on only for it to reappear once it has driven around the block.
Also, those drivers who reoffend should lose points from their licence.
Hong Kong deserves better than the car park it has become and our citizens deserve the right to walk on pavements free of obstruction.
The cost of the fine is irrelevant; it is the lack of police enforcement that is the issue.
Mark Peaker, The Peak
Crack down hard on corruption
I agree with those who argue that Hong Kong people must stay vigilant against corruption.
I used to think that I lived in an honest and clean city, but some recent cases have raised doubts about this.
The latest annual survey of public perceptions of corruption shows that Hong Kong people were disappointed in the performance of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
However, while doubts might be raised about levels of dishonesty I still love Hong Kong and I still trust the ICAC.
If it ceased to exist there would be more corruption in the city.
To ensure Hong Kong maintains a sound law-abiding image, a stronger anti-graft set-up is needed.
There must be constant reviews of measures adopted to ensure they are effective at cracking down on dishonest citizens. We can learn from Singapore and how it tackles corruption.
A review of the relevant legislation is needed.
The government must then decide if new laws are needed and the present ones need amending, including tougher punishment.
The punishment meted out by the courts for corruption must act as an effective deterrent to those individuals in Hong Kong who are considering dishonest actions.
They need to know they will pay for their greed if they end up in court and are convicted.
Pamela Tse, Tai Po