Letters to the Editor, July 24, 2015

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 July, 2015, 5:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 July, 2015, 5:55pm

No detailed budget for new tech bureau

Wrangling over the establishment of an innovation and technology bureau has been going on for three years.

There will now be further delays thanks to the latest filibusters by some legislators. However, the government must accept most of the blame for the delays, because it has failed to make a convincing case for its proposal.

I do not think the sum quoted for setting up the new bureau, HK$35 million, should be seen as an issue when you compare that with the cost of the third runway or the over-budget high-speed rail link to Guangzhou.

However, when asked to justify in detail to legislators why this bureau is needed, the government has been short on substance.

It has failed to provide sufficient information about what it expects will be the returns in quantitative terms from setting up this bureau.

I do agree with those who argue it is high time Hong Kong established a dedicated bureau overseeing innovation and technology to stop us falling behind other cities and countries in the region. But the public needs to see strong arguments from the government with projections of growth in job opportunities and gross domestic product if this bureau is to be established.

If solid data is presented, there is likely to be public support for it.

The government needs to come up with a detailed budget proposal for the bureau that includes projected figures.

Man Lo, Tuen Mun

Lead testing of taps might find the answer

The government has expanded tests on lead levels in water to more public housing estates.

Officials seem convinced that the most probable cause of lead contamination in drinking water is the lead found in soldering materials used in pipe joints. This hypothesis appears to be the basis for the work that has been done to date and the possible plans to replace pipes at the worst-affected public estates.

Although officials have said water taps in individual housing units could also be a source of lead, they have not been able to prove (or disprove) this.

It should be a relatively simple matter to test water samples obtained from the currently vacant housing units, or even occupied flats, where excessive lead levels have been found.

First, samples should be obtained from the existing taps when the tap is turned on for the first time in the morning. Then there should be tests of the water after the taps have been removed the following morning. If there is a significant difference in lead content between the tests, it is almost certain that the tap is responsible. If not, then the soldered joints, which are located some distance from the tap, are the most likely cause.

TV footage I have seen of public housing estates since the crisis began suggests to me the kitchen water taps are cheap and of questionable quality.

If the government carries, out the tests I have suggested, it might simply be a case of replacing substandard taps to resolve the problem.

It surprises me that these tests have not already been carried out by the administration. It seems to have the wrong set of priorities.

Chan Wing-keung, Pok Fu Lam

Delays over exchange rate unacceptable

I read with interest the letter from Albert Chan, from Toronto ("One bank showed caring; HSBC didn't", July 18) and have to agree that HSBC's policies are all about them with customer service way down the list.

On two afternoons last week I went into the main branch in Queen's Road Central to transfer money from my Hong Kong to my UK account. This involved exchanging dollars to pounds here and making the telegraphic transfer to the UK.

On both occasions it took more than 40 minutes for HSBC to come up with a rate of exchange. The teller had to keep deferring to a lady at the back of the section. The first time the deadline for transfer that day was missed. When asked why it took so long, I was told to ask the dealers. HSBC very conveniently held on to my funds overnight.

On the second day I began the process at 3pm. We eventually agreed a rate, but before the teller could get it down on paper, he told me the rate had just gone up. When I angrily said no, we just agreed that rate, he immediately brought it back down.

This went on and on until the cut-off time for the transfer to go that day was very close, it was now 3.55pm. Only after I got very angry and said this wasn't going to happen again did anything start moving. The transfer did go that day.

There is no way it takes more than 40 minutes to obtain an exchange rate. During this process I called a broker in London for a rate to compare. My call lasted less than one minute.

I gave the bank and ladies involved the benefit of the doubt the first day, but it appears HSBC's policy is to delay transfers as much as possible. Perhaps HSBC would also like to explain the tardiness of its brokers.

S. Davie, Pok Fu Lam

Give teens more help to map out future

I refer to the letter by Winky Chan ("Better career guidance for all students", July 6).

I agree with her call for schools to provide more counselling and advice to help students map out their future. With the present education system being exam-oriented, schools often neglect the importance of offering guidance to students to help them make the right career choices.

If they have a clearer idea of what career they want to follow, it is easier for them to set their goals and pursue their objectives. They can then organise their studies more effectively.

Having good career guidance is particularly important for those teenagers who decide not to do further studies after sitting for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.

It is my understanding that the Education Bureau provides funds to schools so they can organise activities connected to career planning. But it would appear that the bureau has to do more, as few local schools are providing sufficient support when it comes to career guidance. Schools need to organise things like career-choice workshops and careers days.

They also need to start offering advice as early as Form Three. This is because most schools stream students into maths and arts classes at the end of Form Three.

For example, in my school, Form Three students are able to listen to alumni talking about the jobs they do, during a careers day.

Rosalind Chan, Sha Tin

China's cities could meet to discuss bad air

A survey showing Hong Kong having the best quality of living of all Chinese cities was hardly surprising. One of the reasons for this will be air pollution.

The air pollution problems in the capital are worse than here. When the smog is particularly bad, citizens have to go out wearing masks. Many of them have complained about this problem.

I know the government here wants to reduce air pollution levels, but we must always take into account regional factors, in other words, high pollution levels over the border with emissions from factories.

Hong Kong has discussed possible solutions with the authorities in Guangzhou, but any measures taken have had little effect. Maybe a conference should be organised with representatives from all of China's cities, to discuss how they can lower pollution levels such as better monitoring, especially of industries, and penalties for companies that pollute.

I am worried about the deteriorating quality of Hong Kong's air and fear for the future. We may see more construction projects, especially with further land reclamation and if areas of country parks are used to build homes. Our green belts could vanish. I hope these environmental problems can be addressed by the government.

I believe that real efforts must be made to improve air quality if Hong Kong is to remain competitive.

I would like to see a reduction in vehicle emissions with better urban planning in congested urban areas such as Mong Kok and Causeway Bay.

Michelle Wong, Hung Hom 

HKU Council clear about wanting delay

I refer to the report about the appointment of a pro-vice-chancellor for the University of Hong Kong ("'Don't delay over new HKU manager'", July 21).

"Liberal scholar" Johannes Chan Man-mun was recommended for the post.

However, last month the HKU Council, the university's governing body, voted to defer discussion on Professor Chan "until a supervisory post was filled". This is the post of provost, who will "give 'input' to the selection of pro-vice-chancellor".

The majority vote of the council was two to one. Clearly the recommendation to appoint Professor Chan was at least considered as not having been adequately thought through. It might even have been considered a wrong recommendation.

Vice-chancellor Professor Peter Mathieson thinks that without a pro-vice-chancellor in place, the needs of HKU are not being met. If that is the case, he could surely have someone selected as an interim appointment.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan