Letters to the Editor, September 12, 2015

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 September, 2015, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 September, 2015, 4:00pm

Wait for new bypass to ease congestion

I am a former long-time permanent resident of Hong Kong.

I visit the city several times a year and each time I usually enjoy a trip on a tram. It is one of the best things for a visitor to do.

Where else in the world can one still ride double-decker trams? When I do, it always takes me back to my childhood in the 1940s in Birmingham.

I read in your paper about the proposal to remove the trams from Central to reduce congestion. But the government - that is, the taxpayer, of which I am still one - is spending billions of dollars on the Central-Wan Chai bypass. And the people of Hong Kong have had to put up with the current congestion caused by its complicated construction for a number of years.

The clue is in the title - Central-Wan Chai bypass. The current congestion in Central will surely be removed when the new bypass opens.

The people of Hong Kong, and visitors alike, can then continue to enjoy the trams and the wonderful form of transport they provide.

Please don't close them down just when the solution to the congestion is about to be solved anyway.

David Gem, Macclesfield, England

Time to get rid of trams in Central

The trams have been in Hong Kong since 1904 and started operating to cope with increased demand.

With an upsurge in population from the early 1880s, horse-driven carriages and rickshaws could not cope with the needs of residents on Hong Kong Island. So the Legislative Council cleared the way for trams to be allowed on the roads.

Over the decades traffic patterns change and mature. Consequently the number of passengers using the trams has dropped.

A retired government planner has called on the tram system to be axed between Central and Admiralty to relieve congestion problems in Central.

He points to the opening of the MTR's West Island Line in December which means there is no need for the trams on that route.

I agree that the trams on this part of the route should be cancelled, because I think it will improve traffic conditions.

There are enough public transport options available to people, including the MTR, buses and minibuses. They go to the same locations as the trams.

With the trams removed, more efficient use can be made of the available land and, as I said, I believe we would see an improvement in the difficult traffic conditions in Central.

Chloe Chan, Tseung Kwan O 

Gridlock due to weak law enforcement

Doing away with the trams is of course nonsense.

They are one of the few remaining constants in a city that has far too late acknowledged its eroded heritage. Whereas many cities plagued by congestion lament the loss of their tramways Hong Kong has assiduously hung on to the old world charm of its tram system ever since its inception in 1904.

The tram remains an affordable mode of conveyance for locals and a more than worthwhile experience for visitors.

If trams cannot stray from their designated route then how can the tramways be responsible for causing congestion throughout Hong Kong and in areas they do not even traverse?

The culprits are those motorists who flagrantly ignore the yellow-box junctions because of weak law enforcement. This in turn causes cacophonous honking - also outlawed - yet nothing is done about that either.

Save the "ding-ding".

Frank Fischbeck, Central

Fines not enough for illegal parking

I could not agree more with the article by Yonden Lhatoo ("Slap a HK$2,500 fine on drivers who park illegally", September 4).

However, even a hefty fine may not be enough as many of these drivers work for tycoons who have no problem paying the fines for their personal convenience. Besides, it will be their companies paying.

Perhaps, a more effective deterrent would be to have a points system that is "three strikes and you are out" by suspending the driver's driving licence. For repeat offenders, we should also consider impounding the vehicles.

I hope the authorities will have the gumption to take the necessary action to resolve this problem once and for all.

Many elderly and wheelchair-bound residents face considerable difficulties disembarking and getting into vehicles such as taxis and shuttle buses.

Peck How, Mid-Levels

Punishing mobile misuse makes sense

Melody Seto is wrong to say that "we cannot infringe the right of people to use their phones" ("Education key to curb phone nuisance", September 6).

In the UK, parliament hasn't hesitated to do so where safety is concerned (cars) or the interests of justice require it (law courts). Use of a hand-held mobile while driving is also illegal in Hong Kong.

Does safety require such legislation? Whether it would work is not a true answer to that question. Your editorial of September 8 talked of the ineffectiveness of parking fines ("Take action on illegal parking"). It rightly concludes the answer is to raise the fine rather than to suggest the law should not exist.

The use of mobile phones in congested roads and pavements presents a far greater risk to public safety, both of the user and the non-user. The parking laws are really only designed to promote the efficient movement of vehicles in Hong Kong.

This week I was almost nudged towards the edge of a very busy pavement in Hong Kong by a young lady entirely focused upon her electronic device and oblivious to those and the world around her. What about the risk to her own safety? What if she had also been wearing headphones?

I agree that "if they are charged or prosecuted because of these actions, many would feel furious at the injustice".

In the UK many drivers respond angrily when caught on their mobiles. But this is an instinctive reaction.

Once it sinks in, they invariably think about the risks created by their behaviour and this educates them towards change.

On-the-spot fines akin to littering would be the right way forward. It would be proportionate and perhaps, just perhaps, would result in the very education which your correspondents promote - by word of mouth (or smartphone) of those who have been fined.

Jonathan Lewis, Bath, England

Sex education in schools needs revamp

I am concerned about cases of sexual offences and alleged offences involving underage children.

I think these cases highlight some social problems in Hong Kong.

There have been changes in society, with children facing greater exposure in the mass media and online to material on sexual matters. Western cultural influences also come into play here. This makes teenagers even more curious about sex and without the right guidance they may have distorted ideas.

In schools there is insufficient sex education. In local schools too much emphasis is placed on academic performance, and some head teachers may neglect the importance of sex education.

Also, the sex education that does exist may be too conservative with teenagers given only basic information. Sensitive social and moral issues, for example, promiscuity, and abortion, are often avoided. This makes it difficult for teenagers to develop the right value systems.

The government should allocate more resources to schools for sex education.

And officials should make it clear the lessons should be wide-ranging, including sensitive topics.

Parents must also be willing to talk about sex education with their children.

Cheng Nga-yan, Cheung Sha Wan 

Mainland Christians still suffering

The disappearance of Chinese lawyer Zhang Kai raises further questions about Beijing's repressive human rights policies in Zhejiang province.

What is particularly disturbing is the government's anti-church campaign and its attempt to silence lawyers working on behalf of Christians in Wenzhou . The campaign to topple rooftop crosses and demolish church buildings has shown little evidence of diminishing, under President Xi Jinping's crackdown on mainland Christians.

On my visit to Hong Kong nearly 50 years ago, a faculty member at New Asia College in Hong Kong told me she had fled Beijing. She was among scores of other Christian expatriates living in the British colony who recalled those fateful years under Mao Zedong and the millions who perished in the famine caused by the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961).

The plight of Zhang Kai is a stark reminder that little has changed. The White House can ill-afford to leave the case of the respected rights lawyer unmentioned when Mr Xi comes to the US-China summit in Washington later this month.

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil," said German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Brian Stuckey, Denver, Colorado, US