News Review looks back on past events that once made the headlines. We can gain much insight from what people have said and done.
Portly passengers decry seat-belt 'bias'
The Government has come under fire after it was found that a new seat-belt law for taxi passengers makes life harder for the 'horizontally challenged'.
Rear-seat passengers now face a $5,000 fine and a three-month jail sentence if they fail to belt up in taxis equipped with the safety devices.
The Sunday Morning Post , however, has discovered that seat belts in many Hong Kong cabs are not wide enough for larger-than-average people.
The latest concern comes just days after fears were expressed by safety organisations that the belts might be too long for children and might cause them neck injuries.
Taxi drivers and passengers fear that the stringent new law will deter larger people, including many tourists, from using taxis.
The law, which was introduced on January 1 and comes years after wearing seat belts in front seats was made compulsory, was subject to a two-week grace period, but police can now prosecute rear-seat passengers.
Pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions have been told they could be exempt if they write to the Transport Commissioner.
It is not clear, however, what will happen to larger people.
Ng Kwok-hung, a spokesman for the Taxi Associations Federation, said: 'I will have to make some inquiries with the Transport Department as it has not instructed us what to do in this situation - the current law has not made any provisions on such a front.
'But I personally think overweight persons who cannot be fitted with seat belts should be exempted from the new rule. It is ridiculous their rights to hire a taxi are taken away because of this.'
Police said they were able to show discretion, but many taxi drivers are sceptical about what this will mean in practice.
David Leung Shiu-cheong, chairman of the Taxi Operators Association, said: 'If they are stopped by police, both the taxi drivers and passengers must try to reason with the officers, who will still have the power to decide whether enforcement action should be taken.'
Ian Watson, a PR consultant and Hong Kong resident, has suffered the embarrassment of being unable to fit into his seat belt.
'I have been in many taxis since the new law came into being and invariably the seat belts do not fit me,' he said.
'What am I supposed to do? I don't see why I should receive a fine simply because the belts are too small and I am horizontally challenged.'
(SCMP, January 21, 2001)
equip (v) to provide the necessary supplies
stringent (adj) requiring strict attention to rules or details
compulsory (adj) required by regulation or law
discretion (n) freedom or authority to make a judgment
sceptical (adj) doubtful of commonly accepted beliefs
embarrassment (n) a feeling of shyness, shame or guilt
Should seat belts be made to fit larger people?
Is it unfair for a larger person to be fined if he or she cannot put on their seat belt?
Edited by Catherine Chisholm