Q Is it fair to charge mainlanders more for maternity services?
Much has been said against the increasing number of mainland pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong. The criticisms have been centred upon two concerns - the unfairness to local people in depriving them of speedy access to local hospital maternity services, and imposing on them a steep bill for maternity care and future education and social welfare expenses.
However, I wish to point out the benefits of this development, in economic and national terms, that seem to have been neglected. Hong Kong is experiencing a manpower crisis. Drawing from Japan's experience, the local ageing problem, associated with the low birth rate, may well bring this place to another economic recession in the near future.
Aren't these mainland pregnant women offering us an immediate solution? It makes no difference in financial terms if our intended bigger young generation is to be achieved with the help of our mainland relatives. There is, in fact, an added advantage: their babies will grow up with good connections with the mainland.
There is also a benefit to the country. Hong Kong has been reunited with the mainland for nearly 10 years, but there are still some major discrepancies in the way of life or culture between people on the two sides of the Lo Wu border. Annoyingly, it is still common to hear some Hongkongers calling mainlanders 'uncivilised' and 'unruly', although many of us do not appear less so. The pregnant mothers are going to make a contribution towards national harmony as their babies will grow up with a better understanding and sympathy of the two regions.
Now, what about the unfairness and the steep bill? Simple! It's just a matter of money. It is worthwhile to spend more resources to expand existing hospital maternity services to cater for increased demand. We should not forget that we have just been rescued by the central government from economic bankruptcy. Isn't it too much to complain against something that will serve the interests of our country and those of our own as well?
Andrew Mui, HKU Space
Q What do you think of the proposed new sewage charges?
Three cheers for the government and Environment Secretary Sarah Liao proposing new wastewater treatment facilities. It is high time we did something for the environment that is within our control. Asking users to pay according to the polluter-pays principle is fair, especially if the Democrats' proposed relief packages for the needy are practical.
The restaurateurs threatening to make staff bear the brunt of the charge have a low unemployment rate to keep them in check. I look forward to taking part in the next cross-harbour swim.
Jeff Bent, Happy Valley
Q How can we promote responsible pet ownership?
The government and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) gave out two conflicting messages. It has a Responsible Pet Ownership campaign that is so grossly underfunded that few people hear its message. It also has a vastly expensive killing machine which encourages people to view pets as disposable.
Their so-called Animal Management Centres - at great expense to the taxpayers - round up and kill more than 2,000 companion animals each month. Anyone who wishes to dispose of their cat or dog just has to make a phone call to the AFCD and they will send someone to take it away and kill it.
With a few simple administrative measures, AFCD could easily control the supply of these animals and therefore make their disposal unnecessary. If importing, breeding and selling of pets was controlled so that the number of animals coming onto the market was equal to or below the numbers of potential homes, then there would be no surplus of animals. This is the essence of the 'no kill policy' that we are advocating. This is another example of the government needing to listen to the people.
John Wedderburn, chairman, Hong Kong No Kill City Forum
Q How can food safety be improved?
In the past, food equalled energy, now good equals poison. There are Sudan red eggs, malachite green fish. They are all from the mainland. Not only do they threaten our health, but they also reveal the Hong Kong government's inefficiency.
The government has been acting slowly and cannot stop those contaminated foods from invading Hong Kong since it takes action long after something bad has occurred.
To really deal with the problem thoroughly, the government can invest a sum of money on the mainland and build a place specially for farming and manufacturing food which is healthy and harmless to humans.
Strict quality control would be practised with the help of well-trained food inspectors. Since there is a trend that Hong Kong people are yearning for organic food, growing healthy and well-inspected organic food would be a way to give them confidence in food from the mainland and at the same time make a huge profit.
Kevin Fung, Mid-Levels
On other matters ...
As a Shouson Hill resident, I am constantly bombarded with whatever festival Ocean Park has on the go at any one time. From blasting loudspeakers to flashing lights, I am always reminded that I live right next door.
Now, however, they seem to think that it is acceptable to continue their construction work through to the wee hours of the night, 11.30pm the last time I checked. Along with this letter, I have filed a police complaint and sent a letter to Ocean Park themselves. It will be interesting to see, if any, the response I get.
Koert Tulleners, Shouson Hill
Contaminated food products are not the only harmful items imported into Hong Kong. There is clothing and bedding material which is highly flammable and would be banned in most countries. There have been many children's toys found not to comply with regulations and some of which are lethal, such as a child's whistle painted with lead-based paint ('Parents told to watch for unsafe toys', City, December 22, 2005).
I bought an iron from Fortress (Kenwood - made in China) that had no instructions in English. This is from a store that has a Hong Kong tourism 'Quality Shop' recommendation.
Many products from China would not be permitted to be sent elsewhere. Hong Kong has become something of a dumping ground for these products.
G. Dykes, Tung Chung