Stark omission in air pollution measures
Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai's reassuring letter last week outlining some of the government's plans for air pollution control were lacking one important point: changes to building rules. This simple expedient is a very important low-cost way to reduce emissions from power stations by reducing the demand for electricity.
Space cooling (and heating) consumes the majority of Hong Kong's electricity. By simply mandating that all new domestic premises meet minimum insulation standards, the minimal extra construction costs will quickly be recouped by lower energy bills.
Of course, as long as the government continues to pay people's electricity bills, there is no market force, so beloved of Hong Kong, to incentivise energy conservation.
Another area for mandatory change is the prohibition of open-fronted shops and buildings which allow cold air to escape. Why these almost cost-free changes have not yet been made and were not mentioned in Loh's letter remains a mystery. Perhaps we should be told.
Dr Richard Fielding, School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong
Educated choice based on facts
After a long, heated debate, the spotlight on the implementation of national education seems to have faded. But was the right decision made?
As I understand it, the controversial point is whether to make national education an independent course. Some say the objectives can be achieved within the current curriculum, via subjects such as liberal studies, Putonghua and Chinese history.
Just learning about the language and history may develop in students a deep sense of their nation. Although liberal studies teach students about national issues, it's still inadequate in other ways, so there should be a new, separate subject.
If it is implemented, we should have faith in our teachers. They are mostly Hongkongers and surely do not want to see students being brainwashed. Now, with the government leaving the decision to the schools, it is also allowing them to choose suitable teaching materials. Therefore, no one should be worried that the materials are biased.
It is not an erosion of "one country, two systems". Hong Kong has a totally different culture from the mainland, and this is exactly why the course should be implemented.
Hong Kong belongs to China. We are all Chinese. But patriotism cannot be achieved only by raising the national flag or playing the national anthem during assemblies.
However, the course should match the name. It's a national education, not a party education. Everything should be based on facts. Blind praising of the Communist Party does not benefit students in any aspect. They can learn from both the good and bad sides of China.
The government has already given way. Protesters should think twice before taking any further action. It is time to stop all debates. The course is a good thing for students, Hongkongers and the ties between Hong Kong and China.
Cress Tam, Tsuen Wan
A good move for children in a broken home
I refer to the editorial ("Putting children first in divorce", September 8) regarding the child dispute resolution scheme, which aims to take the welfare of the children into account when parents file for divorce.
A marriage is a promise of much tolerance and unlimited love. Once a couple gets married, they should fulfil the promises they have made - beginning with loving each other regardless of their health condition, money or old age. So why, after making these vows, do they file for divorce?
In recent years, the rate of divorce in Hong Kong has been rising, meaning considerable mental and physical hurt to not only the couples, but also their families. The most significant of the damages is the everlasting scar left in their children's hearts, especially if they are young. They have to see mum and dad arguing with each other in court, saying how much they suffered from the marriage. It's a tragedy that the marriage is just a paper signed and a promise broken.
When custody is involved, the children become weapons to ask for more money. And the most difficult moment is asking the children to choose between staying with mum or dad. One side will lose, indicating that he or she has to leave, but in fact, it's the children who are the biggest losers.
The child dispute resolution scheme is meant to put the children's welfare first and reduce their hurt as much as possible. Though the scheme can't stop the divorce, the opinion of children may also be part of the discussion to protect their rights.
Family means a home with love, tolerance and support. I urge parents to think about your family and your children before causing such terrible hurt. Just remember that no matter how bad the marriage situation might be, keep the children in mind. It's their home, too.
Angelina Wong Tsz-ching, Tsuen Wan
Battleground against the vandals
Where can you find vomit, vandalism, broken bottles, burnt rubber safety matting, rubbish, food leftovers, unidentifiable liquids, used plastic bags containing ketamine and solvent abusers' soiled paper tissues all in one place?
Just walk past our Cheung Chau police station and public hospital and visit the adjoining Tung Wan beach children's playground.
The mess there on Tuesday morning added to the one left by careless people over the holiday weekend.
Can anyone dispute that it is clear we have no law and order enforced around this children's playground?
What else do I need to do to let the Hong Kong government know it has totally let down us citizens? Would you like to have your kids play in a place like this? Can we call the People's Liberation Army to help if local government won't or can't protect our island from such antisocial behaviour?
This must be about my 10th complaint in recent months, and it just gets worse.
Look at the state of the playground facilities. This is not normal wear and tear from young kids at play, but just plain vandalism that our government is helpless to control.
Can anyone at the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, police, leisure department, or any Cheung Chau councillor honestly state they are doing their best to stop this problem?
Who wants to be first to meet me at the playground on Sunday morning?
Hans Wergin, Cheung Chau
Ferry crash a deadly reminder
The deadly ferry crash in Hong Kong on Monday night reminds me of an earlier era, nearly a half century ago, when my ship was anchored at Stonecutter's Island.
Our crew was ferried to and from Fenwick Pier on Hong Kong Island night and day through a maze of sampans and other craft, while ferries traversed constantly between the island and Kowloon. One night the coxswain barely averted a collision with an unlighted buoy as we were going back to the ship with a boatload of sailors.
Monday's tragedy is a stark reminder that traffic in Hong Kong harbour is, at best, a perilous adventure. Besides those whose lives were lost and the bodies recovered, it is a profound loss for the families of the men, women and children who were lost at sea. My heart goes out to them.
Brian Stuckey, Denver, Colorado, US
Safety of babies is paramount
I am the mother of a two-month-old baby.
Recently I bought a pack of Pampers Premium Care medium-sized diapers from ParknShop and found that they had introduced an "upgraded" version with colourful patterns printed on them.
My baby used the diaper as usual, but when I changed the diaper for my baby, I found the printing on the diaper had stained my baby's skin!
The stain left by the diaper was difficult to remove from my baby's skin, and one should know how sensitive and delicate the skin of babies is.
I called the manufacturers Procter & Gamble to express my concern. Ridiculous as it is, they offered me an exchange for another pack of the same diapers.
Knowing that their product had been reported as problematic, shouldn't P&G instead be taking action, say, at least to reduce the use of non-essential chemical colourings on these diapers? And we are talking about products for babies, whose safety should be our utmost concern.
Lillian Lie, Sham Tseng
Protesters call tune in free speech debate
I refer to Cynthia Sze's comments on free speech in Hong Kong ("No unfettered free speech in practice", October 2), where she states that the protesters against national education are "like tone-deaf music aficionados" and suggests that they leave the audience. But if all the protesters leave, there will be no one left to "enjoy the programme".
Mark Medwecki, Clear Water Bay