Letters to the editor, January 12, 2016

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 January, 2016, 3:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 January, 2016, 3:33pm

Rejection of car-free plan is dispiriting

I could not agree more with Y. K. Leung (“Freedom is a fundamental pillar of our Hong Kong system”, January 5) and Paul Serfaty (“Obsession with consensus only a symptom”, January 7). Inertia has become institutionalised and “the government’s closed-mindedness to outside views and to risk-taking are the obstructions” to performance legitimacy.

We now have a classic example of why thinking and responsible citizens are losing complete faith in the administration and the governance system: “Minister rejects idea of car-free zone in Central” (January 7) is appalling and depressing news. Transport minister Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung appears totally out of touch with the public spirit for improving our cityscape.

Where was he during the Occupy Central protests when it was a pleasure to walk through Des Voeux Road? Whereas now it is an unpleasant hassle for tourists as well as locals.

The citizens’ initiative would bring considerable commercial benefits and boost the revitalisation of Central Market, which would become the focal point of this scheme. Professor Cheung’s excuse for rejecting this imaginative proposal by green groups is that it would cause congestion nearby. To my mind, congestion of private cars is not a priority as long as the public transport trams and buses flow freely.

In any case, Professor Cheung has announced to the public that electronic road pricing will be applied to Central. What an opportunity to plan the pedestrian zones to mesh into the pricing scheme.

The Planning Department has required these green groups to professionally assess the traffic impact and their proposal to the Town Planning Board was deferred to allow this. The board is an independent statutory body with a remit to adjudicate in the public interest. It appears that the Transport Department is pre-empting the board, in a bid to keep public initiatives away from its “turf”.

The final sentence of my letter, “Car-free road has so many advantages” (December 19), was a premonition: “The Executive Council must take the lead because if we wait for the Transport Department to get on board, this plan will never happen.”

Government inertia on improvement schemes makes people dispirited. What of Kong’s “can-do spirit”? It is a myth and pre-1997 history.

Frank Lee, Wan Chai

Don’t leave needy elderly in the lurch

I refer to the article by Mike Rowse, wherein he has proposed an entirely different approach to the problem of retirement pension (“Let’s employ a little creativity in Hong Kong pension reform”, January 3).

It seems to be a very sensible alternative scheme. But what will happen to those of 65-75 years of age who are presently receiving the Old Age Living Allowance? Will they stop receiving the payment when the new scheme, if accepted, comes into force? In such a case, they would strongly resent the scheme.

An option would be to let those receiving the Old Age Living Allowance to continue receiving it at the same rate till the age of 75, but the Social Welfare Department should stop accepting fresh applications from elderly people below 75 years of age. So the burden on the government coffers will remain frozen at the present rate, though more people will retire year after year.

Thereafter, all permanent residents of Hong Kong over the age of 75, irrespective of rich or poor, will become eligible to receive a decent sum of HK$6,000 per month. In this respect, it becomes a “uniform pension scheme”, but only after 75 years of age.

According to the secretary for financial services, there are now 15 people over 65 years of age for every 100 people (“Tax rises ‘unavoidable’ if everyone over 60 gets a pension, warns Hong Kong treasury chief”, January 3).

Those over 75 will be a very minuscule number. Let them enjoy the twilight years of their lives comfortably.

Dr B. K. Avasthi, Discovery Bay

No time to lose to help Syria’s hungry people

How is it that, at the click of a button, bombs can be dropped anywhere in Syria, yet when it comes to supplying food aid and medicines, month after month of talks are needed?

Clearly it’s all a lying charade. The United States, Russia, Britain, or any other country for that matter, could this very minute drop tonnes of food into any area of Syria.

There is no need for this debacle. It’s a shame and a sham. Yes, some of the foodstuff would fall into the “wrong hands”, but so what? The point is, all of those skinny kids and elderly people would get something to eat on these freezing winter days when our supermarkets are overflowing with goods (“Eating grass to survive: Besieged Syrian villages desperately short of food, medicine”, January 6).

There is no need for this situation. Concerned citizens of all countries need to make their voices heard.

Tony Henderson, Humanist Association of Hong Kong

Unfair to curb freedom with vague law

The great majority of people in Hong Kong society do not agree with the proposal to impose copyright restrictions on the internet. This infringes people’s freedom of expression.

Today, many posts, articles and essays on the web are anonymously written. The popular ones are shared and reposted. With the amended law, such acts may now be illegal.

People today like to express their feelings on the internet, but now they may be sued for doing so.

Even though the government has claimed that it won’t arrest people who were merely sharing their personal feelings, it is not clear to us where the line lies. When is a posting merely expressing personal feelings and when is it not?

How can people trust the government when such a rule leaves them open to being arrested one day?

The government should consider all these before demanding Hong Kong citizens support this “Article 23 of the internet”.

All of us should take an interest as it affects us all.

Ella Ng Ka Ki, Tsing Yi