Letters to the Editor, June 25, 2017

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 June, 2017, 11:33am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 June, 2017, 11:32am

Non-profits denied fair deal by banks

As someone who has volunteered for several non-profits in Hong Kong, I am much ­dismayed by the local banks’ blatant stance against doing business with these organisations, and their refusal to open bank accounts for them.

This has become the norm now, regardless of how legitimate these organisations might be. Without a proper bank ­account, how do these organisations raise funds and sustain their operations? This is a critical issue that has largely gone under the media’s radar.

Banks are given a great deal of privileges to make huge profits in this society: those should come with certain responsibilities. This applies ­regardless of how little profit banks could make from these charities, and how perceivably taxing it might be to deal with these organisations in compliance matters.

Non-profits are the equalisers of society. When properly supported, they can calm social criticisms and address grievances against the government. The government will have much to gain from telling banks not to discriminate against them.

If the banks really do care about society, as they claim in their fancy corporate social ­responsibility campaigns, they should simply return to the basics and serve non-profits like any other customer.

Chung Chin Wai, North Point

High-rise city must heed wake-up call

How tragic it is to watch the news about the horrific Grenfell Tower high-rise fire in London.

As a territory that largely lives in high-rise buildings, our hearts go out to everyone affected in this tragedy.

Given Hong Kong’s many high-rise residential buildings, I would have expected authorities here to immediately announce an “emergency check” throughout the territory.

Your City section on June 16 featured the photo of a mini storage facility in Kwai Chung, refitted to “the ­latest fire safety standards”. But to check residential premises, now that ­London has warned us, is far more important and, I would say, an emergency situation for a place such as Hong Kong.

This government has a massive surplus of funds, and I would have thought that some of those reserves would be used to check all residential properties in Hong Kong to give confidence to the population (as well an example to the world, including mainland China), and demonstrate the way forward in building safety precautions.

Anthony Kirk-Duncan, Lai Chi Kok

Flyers being charged for airport revamp

I refer to the report on the ­upgrade at Hong Kong airport (“HK$7b airport upgrade ahead of third runway”, June 13).

The Airport Authority said that “no extra costs would be directly passed onto passengers” to pay for the construction of the third runway.

This is disingenuous. Since last year, the airport construction fee has been levied on all travellers departing from or in transit through Hong Kong International Airport, at a rate of between HK$70 and HK$180 per passenger. This came about to fund the third runway.

Christopher Ruane, Lantau

Who benefits from electric car tax U-turn?

When then financial secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen removed all duty on wines, he led a movement that made Hong Kong the premier wine trading centre in the world. The resultant financial gains far outweighed the paltry revenue from duty.

When current, and incoming, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po imposed increased import duty on electric cars, he killed a well-advanced customer-driven movement to make Hong Kong a global leader in clean energy usage. Was it a ­desire to stop electric car buyers getting a better deal, or were there vested interests involved?

There have been no electric car sales since his new tax. I know he will say it was removing an exemption. But to my simple mind: if you don’t tax something and then you do, that’s imposing a tax – the result has been that government revenue from electric car sales is zero. Good work, financial secretary.

Peter Mallen, Pok Fu Lam

Obama lacked foresight on climate change

Many believe that US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement means the US is the only nation that denies the effect of man-made climate change and that the decision will be bad for business.

The same meta-hysteria ­surrounded president George W. Bush’s withdrawal from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, shortly after he took office in 2001.

What has happened since the Bush decision? The US has voluntarily reduced carbon emissions more than any other country on the warming planet, not because of an oppressive and very expensive international accord, but because it made sense – and will continue to make sense – to do so. This is free enterprise at work.

Further, any accord requiring the distribution of hundreds of billions of American taxpayer dollars to less developed countries to help them forego fossil fuels in favour of renewable ­energy should have been ­presented to our Senate as a treaty and not signed as an executive order by former president Barack Obama. An executive ­order can be undone by a ­successor, but a treaty cannot be. ­Perhaps Obama was the short-sighted chief executive.

Paul Bloustein, Ohio

Technical skills can counter robot invasion

I refer to the article on advances in artificial intelligence (“What will we do after robots have taken over?” April 28).

As AI develops, it can replace mid-level analysis workers. ­Repetitive data-entry jobs can also go to robotic process automation, as technological advances reduce costs, and improve efficiency and quality control.

The focus on AI has left many workers fearing for their jobs. But I believe more job positions will be created at the same time, such as in constructing and managing robots. So technological education is key, in order to create more skilled workers and professionals in science, mathematics and engineering.

Kassandra Wong Hiu Tung, Tseung Kwan O