Beach went through years of planning
I refer to the report ("Leung angers activists by backing beach plan", October 26), which claimed that the chief executive overruled environment officials on the Tai Po Lung Mei Beach works project.
The Lung Mei Beach works project had gone through years of planning as well as consultations. It was scrutinised and approved in accordance with the statutory procedures by the Advisory Council on the Environment, Town Planning Board and Legislative Council on various aspects of the project.
The government has in fact revised the scale of the project and come up with mitigation measures to minimise the impact that the project may have on the environment.
The government believes that development and conservation can go hand in hand and there is always a win-win solution.
It therefore announced the Ting Kok Coastal Conservation Plan on October 25 to provide a comprehensive and integrated conservation plan for the entire Ting Kok coastline while going ahead with the Lung Mei Beach works project.
There was no question of the chief executive overruling environment officials to take forward the works project.
Nick Au Yeung, assistant director, media, Chief Executive's Office
Once-lovely location has been ruined
I write to fully endorse the views of N.J. Sousa regarding the development of Ngong Ping, Lantau ("Zip-line plan would damage plateau's fragile ecosystem", October 25), and also applaud the decision of the Country and Marine Parks Board to reject the zip-line plan.
When I first visited the area about 20 years ago, I found a tranquil monastery with just a handful of visitors, and a few friendly dai pai dongs. It was a truly lovely location.
Since then I have seen the area steadily decline, to the point where it is now an awful theme park that could perhaps be best described as "Hong Kong Buddhaland".
I find it supremely ironic that a statue representing a belief system that purports to promote spirituality and harmony with nature has resulted in unsightly damage to the environment and a feeling of discord.
The worst example of this is the monumentally tacky Ngong Ping village, which is home to crowds of shouting megaphone-wielding day trippers, canned music, cheesy Buddhist-themed souvenirs and fast-food outlets.
Anyone in search of a little spiritual uplifting would be well advised to give the Big Buddha area a miss and instead head for the surrounding mountains and away from the hordes.
Brian Lard, Cheung Chau
Stamp duty hike good for HK residents
I am convinced that the introduction of a surprisingly high stamp duty on non-permanent residents and companies is to be welcomed ("Flat buyers back off as tough new property tax hits home in Hong Kong", October 28).
I think we will see several positive effects of this initiative by the government in the near future.
The main result will be a swift cooling of the property market.
This will enable more Hong Kong people to purchase their own homes at an affordable price.
Also, the introduction of this higher stamp duty can ease the feelings of animosity some Hongkongers have towards mainlanders, feelings which have been exacerbated by cultural differences in recent years.
I think the implementation of this measure will lead to Hong Kong citizens having a more favourable opinion of the performance of the city government.
It will help to make them feel that their voices are now being listened to and that the administration recognises the desperate hope local residents have to be able to purchase their own homes.
However, the government should remain vigilant and monitor fluctuating property prices in the market.
If it does not do this, the goals of the scheme cannot be achieved.
Michelle Lam Chun-tung,Quarry Bay
Government is sending wrong message
The recent change in property purchase taxation has adversely affected those of us who have not yet done the seven years required for permanent residency.
I have moved my family here, work here, and pay my taxes here, yet I am effectively excluded from purchasing here unless I pay a prohibitive 15 per cent extra.
This not a good message to send to expatriates considering moving here.
Peter Chinneck, Discovery Bay
Universal retirement policy needed
The problem of elderly citizens living in poverty and a universal retirement scheme have been discussed over a long period in Hong Kong.
There is no direct correlation between a means test and such a universal scheme.
I don't think a mean-tested scheme is an effective way of lessening the problem of elderly impoverishment.
First of all, the proposed sum of HK$2,200 per month for the Old Age Living Allowance is not enough to release people from poverty. To cover basic necessities, you need at least HK$3,100 per month. It is no wonder so many old folk have to collect cardboard and pick rotten fruit at markets to make ends meet. This allowance does not constitute retirement protection. It is merely a transitional measure.
The allowance will have loopholes, with some old folk transferring assets to their children so they pass the means test. The number of eligible people will exceed the government's expectations.
Given the problems associated with the allowance, citizens should be waking up to the urgent need for a universal retirement protection scheme.
I do not accept the argument that there is a lack of consensus and so discussion of such a scheme should be delayed.
In a developed city like Hong Kong, a universal pension scheme should be recognised as essential.
It assures citizens that they will have enough to meet their basic needs when they have retired.
It is the responsibility of the government to create such a universal scheme instead of blaming society for failing to reach agreement.
Given the fact that the Mandatory Provident Fund has been condemned for its high service charges, the government should not claim that retirement protection in Hong Kong is comprehensive.
With drastically rising living costs, the prospects for many retired people in Hong Kong are bleak and the administration is failing to come up with suitable remedies.
I am afraid we may be waiting a long time for the government to devise a suitable timetable and road map to ease their problems.
Rosalie Wu, Lam Tin
Seek common ground in island dispute
The dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands has escalated and the stakes have been raised given that the waters around the islands may be rich in natural resources such as oil and gas.
So the issue is not just one of sovereignty but also having access to these resources.
As a consequence, relations between the two countries have deteriorated.
In the present circumstances, I do not think there can be any winners, so why can't a solution be found that satisfies both parties?
To be honest, as a Hongkonger, I side with China's claim over the Diaoyu Islands. However, I think with both countries there is a need for calm and they should be seeking to resolve their differences in as fair a way as possible.
Following past problems, Japan and China have worked hard to rebuild their relationship. It would be sad if that was now undermined.
Ho Lut-heng, Sha Tin