Letters to the Editor, December 29, 2016

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 December, 2016, 5:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 December, 2016, 5:03pm

Underground spaces good for city’s economy

The government wants citizens to express their views on a proposal to build underground spaces in some urban areas.

It is proposing to develop underground areas in very busy urban locations, namely, Tsim Sha Tsui, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley and Admiralty-Wan Chai.

I agree that there is potential to develop underground spaces. I think these projects would bring a lot of advantages.

At ground level, it would ­help to improve flow of traffic with less congestion and so we would see a better living environment for nearby residents. It would free up space which could be allocated for community use and it would help to boost tourism.

With more visitors and local residents enjoying a better quality of life, we would likely see an improvement in Hong Kong’s economy.

Some critics of this proposal have questioned the feasibility of building underground shopping malls, but examples have already been set in Japan, which has well-developed underground malls. They have proved to be very popular with Japanese shoppers.

I am sure we could have a network of these shopping malls in the designated underground spaces.

Samuel Yu, Tseung Kwan O

American veto helps Israel’s enemies

The vexing Israeli-Palestinian problem predates by many ­decades the establishment of settlements in the West Bank. Only ignorance of the relevant history gives credence to the ­fiction that settlements are the stumbling block to peace.

At the beginning of President Barack Obama’s first term, he requested a halt to settlement construction so he could work his Nobel Peace Prize magic on the two parties; Israel complied, the Palestinian Authority did not. Instead of joining Israel at the negotiating table, it relied on the mistaken belief that the Obama administration would impose a peace agreement on Israel.

After almost a year of ­futile waiting for a negotiating partner, Israel resumed its activity.

America’s abstention on the UN resolution declaring settlements illegal under international law, even declaring Jewish presence in the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem illegal, is a paroxysm of presidential pique. It is not leading from ­behind, Obama’s preferred global strategy which has rendered America all but irrelevant internationally, but rather withdrawing and serving those who counsel elimination rather than peace with Israel.

I’m sure the significance of the timing has escaped the president, but abandoning Israel during Hanukkah, a celebration of ­Jewish survival, carries a symbolism Mr Obama surely never intended.

Paul Bloustein, Cincinnati, Ohio, US

Higher charge will not curb overcrowding

There has been a great deal of discussion about overcrowding in public hospitals, especially in accident and emergency (A&E) departments.

To try and alleviate this problem, the Hospital Authority wants to raise A&E charges from HK$100 to HK$220. General outpatient and rehabilitation bed charges could also go up.

I do not think these price hikes will have the desired effect. Most patients who use A&E departments are on low incomes, many will receive Comprehensive Social Security Assistance and so they will be exempt from these charges and therefore ­unaffected by the increase. This means that the overcrowding problem will persist and many citizens will continue to abuse this service.

Instead of this price hike, the authority should undertake a ­review to get to the bottom of the abuse of the system and implement penalties where there is abuse.

Zoe Chung Ka-man, Po Lam

E-cars are not proving too popular in HK

We see greater awareness about the need to protect the environment globally, and this has led to some in Hong Kong saying ­having more electric vehicles can be the key to cleaning up our air pollution.

The problem is that they are not very popular with motorists in the city who still prefer traditional cars running on petrol. For one thing, they find them inconvenient. It only takes a few minutes to fill up a normal car at a petrol station, but it takes a lot longer to charge an electric ­vehicle at a charging station.

People have fast-paced lives here and do not want delays. Also, there are not many charging stations, which makes it inconvenient when drivers want to recharge their vehicle, especially in more remote areas such as the New Territories.

Unless there are more attractive financial incentives , I think it will be some time before e-cars outnumber traditional vehicles on our roads.

Kaylie Lai, Kwai Chung

Working hours regulations are impractical

A number of correspondents have suggested that the government should introduce a ­standard working hours law, to curb the practice of some bosses requiring employees to work long hours, including unpaid ­overtime.

I can understand the negative impact on people who are forced to spend a lot of time in the office.

They have less time to relax with their friends and families and in the long term, it can harm their health. However, I have doubts about the feasibility of government officials imposing maximum hours regulations on companies.

Ensuring companies adhered to the regulations would require extensive monitoring and I do not believe the government has the manpower to do this. It would need to hire a lot more staff and this would be very expensive. It is pointless passing legislation that many firms then ignore.

Employers might conclude that such a law would make it difficult for them to be productive and, in some cases, to survive. They might also feel that if their employees were on generous salaries, then they should not ­object to putting in long hours when it was necessary to do so, especially if staff were rewarded when profits went up. Such a regulation could actually ­intensify social ­disharmony.

Companies could establish set maximum working hours if they wished, although some might impose a high limit, such as 50 hours a week.

I do not think that trying to force firms to comply with ­statutory working hours regulations would be feasible in Hong Kong, nor do I think it would have the desired effect.

As I said, without extensive monitoring, it would be very ­difficult to police and ensure all employers were complying with it.

Judy Shek, Tsuen Wan

Long haul from MTR platform to station exits

I agree with correspondents who have been critical of the layout of Ho Man Tin MTR station, which opened in October.

As they pointed out, it is on seven levels. It can be easy for passengers, especially those who are elderly, to get lost. They need to travel on at least three escalators to reach an exit.

At Chung Hau Street exit, there are only two lifts. Therefore, queueing is inevitable and the only alternative for people is to use the stairs. Many elderly citizens live in Ho Man Tin and Oi Man estates and will have to wait for the lifts and sometimes face a long queue.

The station is also quite far from some locations. For example, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to walk from the Chung Hau Street exit to Oi Man mall.

More escalators are needed, and signs clearly indicating exits to stop people from getting lost.

Debby Wong, Tseung Kwan O