Letters to the Editor, December 28, 2016

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 4:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 4:14pm

We must deal now with ageing society

Our ageing population is a serious issue in Hong Kong and is creating many problems for our society.

It will place a financial burden on the government. As the number of the elderly keeps increasing, there will be more single elderly citizens. As they get older, many will have to stop work and some will be dependent on allowances from the government. They will need help from welfare schemes such as the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). The government’s expenditure on such payments will increase as this ageing population grows in size.

With more elderly people and a low birth rate, the city’s competitiveness could be adversely affected. We could see a decline in the workforce with not enough young people to fill all the vacancies on the job market, jobs that Hong Kong needs. The government will have to consider recruitment drives to attract people with the necessary training and talent from overseas to come and work here.

The increase in the number of elderly will also place an additional burden on our public ­hospitals. More patients will ­require treatment for chronic conditions.

Many elderly people will choose public over private ­hospitals, because they are a lot cheaper. If they are recipients of CSSA, the government will have to pay their bill at the public ­hospital.

The administration has to do more in the way of planning so that it can deal effectively with the problems linked to an ageing population. It needs to start planning its strategy.

Suki Lee, Hang Hau

Spare thought for the victims of conflict

The tumultuous times in which we live today bring to mind how apt the opening words of Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities are to the present.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”.

The worst and the best of times are encapsulated in the experiences of a seven-year old girl, from the besieged and devastated city of Aleppo, who ­before she got out sent tweets describing her desperate predicament. In one tweet, she said, “I am afraid. How are you? I am on the run now… Please save us. Thank you”. By then the various armed forces were engaged in heavy conflict.

Eventually an NGO reported that she and her mother had been able to get out of the ruined city.

In the scheme of things, it may appear an irrelevant and unimportant incident. But for the seven-year-old girl and her family, it was virtually a Christmas ­miracle.

And every day when I pick up newspapers, listen to the news or watch it on TV, I read, hear, and see “the worst of times”, “the age of foolishness” and “the season of Darkness”.

The reality of my situation is that most of my fellow countrymen live in a reasonably stable society, free of the strife and ­conflict afflicting so much of the world, even though we may not claim to have fully reached the age of wisdom.

We are free to celebrate Christmas, the end of Ramadan, Wesak Day or Deepavali, a fundamental freedom that is something to be thankful for and, indeed, something to ­cherish in its own right.

We were able to celebrate the great festival of Christmas with our families and all our friends from different ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic groups.

Let’s spare a thought for those caught up in the “worst of times”, especially the children, the old and the sick, the women, the deprived, the oppressed and the downtrodden and at the same time giving practical help, in the true Christmas tradition, to all in their hour of need.

Ang Lai Soon, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Exodus from air pollution makes sense

With the smog that has shrouded Beijing, many citizens have escaped the city and gone to southern provinces and cities such as Yunnan (雲南) and Guilin ( 桂林), where the pollution is not as serious.

Officials have had to declare red alerts in the capital and other cities in the north of the country, the worst pollution level on the mainland’s four-tier system.

The fine particles which are especially hazardous to human health soared to more than 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre in some locations. It exceeds the annual average recommended by the World Health Organisation by more than 100 times.

The red alert triggers limits on the use of cars as well as school and factory closures. This level of air pollution brings tremendous harm to the health of citizens. I can understand why so many of them fled south.

This state of affairs can no longer be tolerated in northern cities. The central government continues to see economic development as a priority over environmental protection. This policy has to change and urgent action is needed to remedy the problems associated with air pollution before it is too late.

Chloe Hung Yee-ching, Kowloon Tong

Costa Rica sets example with green policies

With greater economic development globally, there has been an increase in greenhouse gases which envelop the planet.

As a consequence, average temperatures are rising and there are more extreme weather conditions.

Hong Kong has not done enough to tackle global warming, unlike Costa Rica. Costa Rica, like many other countries, has seen temperatures rise and is experiencing drier weather conditions. However, it is now taking action to try and deal with the effects of climate change. It has already declared that it aims to be carbon neutral by 2021 and already is a global leader in the sustainable use of energy.

Most of its energy comes from renewable sources, a mix of hydro, geothermal, wind and solar energy. That means it is possible to generate energy without burning fossil fuels like oil and coal.

Costa Rica is also trying to stop deforestation. It recognises that its trees play an important role in reducing carbon in the atmosphere. It compensates landowners in a scheme to encourage reforestation.

Tourists visiting the country are invited to make a donation to reforestation projects. In the last decade, Costa Rica has already increased its forested area by 10 per cent.

Hong Kong can learn from Costa Rica’s example and do more to alleviate the ­effects of climate change.

Hebe Ng Yik-huen, Tseung Kwan O

Waste is still a real problem during festivals

We are living in an age of consumerism and a lot of businesses try to cash in during festivals such as Christmas.

As a result, consumers fall prey to a culture of unnecessary spending, which adds to the problem of waste in Hong Kong.

A lot of wrapping paper ends up in landfills. In future, people should ask themselves if they need to give physical gifts, when they could give gift cards and digital Christmas cards.

What is needed is a wholesale change of culture at this time of the year, not just in Hong Kong, but globally.

During festive celebrations, we must be aware of the continuing need to protect the environment.

As we enter a new year, we should all have the goal to be less wasteful. Even little steps by ­individuals can make a difference, as no change is too small.

Anina Law, Tai Po