New housing policies are a mixed bag
Last week, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced a series of measures to increase housing supply in the short and medium term.
The 10 measures put forward will not create an immediate solution to the supply shortage. His decision to scrap the rental option of the My Home Purchase Plan will have no impact since it has been in the pipeline for years. The market has been expecting this.
In the medium term, Mr Leung intends to convert 36 vacant government and community sites to residential use, to provide about 11,900 public and private flats. But this move requires a prolonged consultation process and changes to town-plan zoning. It will take years to go through all the necessary procedures.
When it comes to the "flats for Hong Kong people" proposal, Mr Leung has no timetable. Given the lack of administrative backing, I foresee that the drafting of new terms for land sales that would require developers to sell the flats only to Hongkongers will take years to complete.
The measure that I hope will have an impact is the decision to set up a steering committee to assess the housing needs of different sectors of the community and form long-term land and housing policies to meet their needs. I hope it will consider removing the resale restriction for existing Home Ownership Scheme flats without the need to pay the premium to the Housing Authority.
All existing HOS owners should have the incentive to sell their flats to increase the housing supply as soon as possible.
James Tsui Siu-lung, Kowloon Tong
Officials must note strong opposition
I refer to the report on national education ("C.Y.'s visit doesn't impress student group", September 1).
The government should not insist on the implementation of national education in schools. Officials should take note of the complaints people have made about this subject. Even if the administration stands by its claim that it is not tantamount to brainwashing, it should not ignore the voices of what I consider to be the majority of Hong Kong students.
If students cannot have a say in how Hong Kong's education system can be improved, how can we ensure that schooling for future generations will be free and open? Hong Kong citizens appreciate the courage and determination shown by those people on hunger strike. We are able to follow the protests on various social networks.
Officials should recognise the strength of feeling and appreciate that if we do not take to the streets in a mass demonstration, this does not represent tacit approval of the implementation of national education.
I am not opposed to students learning more about their homeland, but there should not be guidelines judging how much we love our country.
Chan Ka-man, Kwun Tong
Hoping for lively debates in classroom
It seems to me that the introduction of national education provides Hong Kong schools with an excellent opportunity to offer students some practice in critical thinking.
As teachers and students have free access here to all kinds of information, they will be able to judge the merits and weaknesses in the programme for themselves.
Ultimately, parents are free to give their personal view on matters and offer their children alternative sources to get a more balanced perspective.
This will spark lively debate in the classroom. A radical rejection and the scrapping of the programme would rob students of such a valuable experience.
Josephine Bersee, Happy Valley
Act now to curb mainland mine tragedies
The news of the rising death toll in the explosion at the Xiaojiawan coal mine in Sichuan province last week was tragic, as so many lives were lost ("Safety rules flouted in Sichuan tragedy", September 3).
We keep reading about accidents killing workers at various mines throughout the mainland.
This has become a controversial topic, with questions being raised about lack of safety and calls for standards to be raised as soon as possible.
Some of these mines are among the most dangerous in the world and there is an urgent need for the central government to come up with policies to deal with the problem.
It must regard this matter as a priority and ensure that miners are offered sufficient protection.
Whatever safety policies are needed, they should be implemented as soon as possible, to save lives.
Chau Wai-chuen, Sau Mau Ping
Power firms need more competition
I refer to the claims made by the "government's new energy adviser" ("City 'stuck with outdated power deal'", August 27).
There has been public discontent over rising electricity tariffs imposed by the power firms. It might seem as though Hong Kong is stuck with outmoded rules until the agreement with these firms expires in 2018.
First of all, the present scheme of control agreement, signed with CLP Power and Hongkong Electric in 2008, is not in the public interest. Their "permitted rate of return" is 9.9 per cent for net fixed assets and 11 per cent for renewable energy.
Under this agreement, they can still raise fees if they are within the maximum profit allowed.
Also, with the scheme of control, the power firms have a tariff stabilisation fund, but there is no mention of how much should be included in the fund and electricity tariffs continue to go up.
However, I do not agree with the government's new energy adviser, Raymond So Wai-man, that a revamp is impossible before the expiry of the agreement.
The government would be free to invite more power firms to become involved in the Hong Kong market.
This would increase the level of competition and hopefully Hongkongers would not have to face big tariff increases any longer.
The agreement signed with the power firms has loopholes that need to be plugged by the administration.
Before signing future agreements with power companies, officials must take into account the public interest.
Candice Yu, Sheung Shui
Make sure idling engine ban obeyed
The government's ban on idling engines is effective only if Hong Kong drivers adhere to the law.
This will occur only when our police commence enforcing the law.
The ridiculous "three minutes per hour" wording in the December 2011 ordinance must be removed and no leeway should be allowed to drivers who do nothing but add to Hong Kong's air pollution.
Fines should be imposed on the spot and should be far in excess of the present HK$320. A more aggressive policing policy must be implemented. If Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is true in his desire to clean Hong Kong's air, then he needs to do more than sit idly by.
Mark Peaker, The Peak