Letters to the Editor, June 8, 2017
Electronic cigarettes do have merit
I recently saw a government advert on television which compared electronic cigarettes to ordinary brands and said they could be hazardous to health.
Many experts have argued that e-cigarettes contain fewer harmful substances than traditional tobacco products and that they can help smokers to quit.
One study has shown that, if the regulations are too tight, e-cigarettes may be less effective in helping people to give up smoking.
Technology has developed rapidly in recent years. Government officials in Hong Kong often make speeches in support of technological innovation and their ambition to build a smart city, but so far not much has been achieved.
Worse still, the administration appears to be reluctant to update legislation so that the city can catch up with technological developments.
The latest electronic payment systems, autonomous driving and e-cigarettes are convenient for citizens and they can contribute to social progress.
Institutional obstacles must be removed to create an environment that is favourable to the introduction and application of new technology.
Alternatives to traditional cigarettes, including e-cigarettes, have been accepted by governments in the UK, Switzerland, Italy and Japan.
In those countries, they can be purchased legally and are controlled under a sensible regulatory system instead of being banned. Should our officials simply say no to these products?
If the government decides to ban the sale of e-cigartettes, not only will smokers be deprived of the opportunities to switch to possibly healthier alternatives, it will also reflect badly on the administration. It will suggest that we have a government which is dominated by bureaucracy. That we have officials who would rather do nothing than allow a regulated product to be put on the market which could help with the well-being of some of its citizens, in this case, smokers who are trying to give up and eventually lead healthier lives.
Chan Chung-tik, Quarry Bay
End bigotry and beef up gay rights
In a landmark case, Taiwan’s constitutional court has ruled that gay marriages should be legalised.
The issue of gay rights has been the subject of heated debate there, in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the world, with views often being polarised.
For example, many religious groups oppose legalising same-sex marriage under any conditions. Such marriages should be legalised and the rights of gay people must be respected. The criticism of the gay community by some groups can border on hatred and this is wrong.
All citizens should be treated equally. However, I do not think that, in Hong Kong, there is adequate protection of gay people from discrimination.
More concrete action must be taken to ensure that legislation outlawing such discrimination is put in place. I would hope that one day we will live in a world where such bigotry no longer exists.
Wong Chun-Hin, Po Lam
Urgent action needed to beat phone scams
Online smartphone scams are escalating in Hong Kong. Last month, police revealed a new tactic employed by cybercriminals who ask victims to download computer software that enables the thieves to steal from online bank accounts.
This is a serious social problem, and, if action is not taken swiftly, the number of victims will increase.
The government has to try to raise public awareness. It should put up adverts online explaining to people what they should do when they get a suspicious call. It could also hold public meetings and explain these scams to residents and how they can avoid being conned.
Teachers in primary and secondary schools should also talk about this kind of crime in the classroom so that students are more aware of the risks they face when they are online.
May Lo Mei-hang, Yau Yat Chuen
Waste levy scheme will face resistance
I think the government could face some problems if it introduces its proposed waste collection charge.
The relevant government department will provide bags which households and companies will pay for and into which they will put their refuse.
Obviously, the less waste that is generated, the less people will have to pay.
A lot of citizens will be opposed to the scheme and will resent paying for these plastic bags, even though the purpose of the levy is to reduce the huge volumes of municipal solid waste ending up in our landfills.
I am also concerned that the policy will require a lot of manpower and the government will not have enough officers to make sure the scheme is implemented successfully.
It will be difficult to check that all housing estates are complying with the law.
The government should be looking at how other countries have reduced waste and ensuring that the policies it implements are effective.
Daniel Hui, Hang Hau
Country parks too precious for housing
The government is allowing the Housing Society to look into the feasibility of building flats on the edges of two country parks. I do not agree with this proposal.
Our country parks are not suitable for housing projects, because of their location and their make-up. Much of the land has mountains and it would be logistically very difficult to build extensively there. I think there might a risk of landslides with some of the structures.
Some ecosystems would be vulnerable as well. In order to make way for a new housing estate, a lot of trees would have to be felled. Wildlife would be displaced if their habitats were destroyed by these development projects.
There have also been calls for land reclamation, to provide more land, but this would put marine ecosystems at risk.
The government should be trying to redevelop older buildings. A lot of flats for citizens on low incomes could be constructed in these buildings and there would be no need to go near our precious country parks or coastal areas.
Thomas Wong, Tseung Kwan O
Crack down on factories, plant more trees
The problem of air pollution has become serious in Hong Kong and there are various causes, including toxic emissions from factories over the border.
The authorities and relevant environmental agencies have to do more to control these emissions. Factory owners can install devices which can reduce or eliminate the worst pollutants. While regulations are important, they must also be enforced.
There must also be a far more comprehensive tree-planting programme put in place in the city. Green groups keep calling for more planting programmes and yet, so often instead, trees are felled to make way for various projects.
The government must try to raise levels of awareness among the public so that we all try to do more to protect the environment. Governments and individuals cannot just pay lip service to this problem.
Tam Ming-yuet, Yau Yat Chuen