Extend old-age payment to all senior citizens
I appreciate the initiative taken by the government in proposing a HK$2,200-a-month Old Age Living Allowance to help senior citizens supplement their scant resources.
There is no doubt it is a commendable initiative and, as part of a poverty alleviation programme, can improve the quality of life of Hong Kong's elderly population.
I understand that it will be available only to permanent residents. I wonder why other elderly residents who have been here for a number of years but not yet met the seven-year requirement for permanent residency cannot get it.
After all, they enjoy other social welfare benefits such as medical care in government hospitals at subsidised rates and can join the HK$2 flat-fare transport scheme for the elderly and handicapped. It would therefore be unfair to exclude them from the proposed old-age allowance.
I suggest that this scheme should be made applicable to all residents, 65 or above, who hold a valid Hong Kong ID card and who meet the stipulated requirement of limits on assets and income, irrespective of whether or not they are permanent residents.
B.K. Avasthi, Discovery Bay
Setting poverty line will help decide funding
I think before reaching a final decision on whether to introduce the proposed Old Age Living Allowance, the Legislative Council should determine whether Hong Kong should adopt an official, internationally recognised poverty line.
I think we should have this yardstick so that the government can have more accurate statistics and decide if there are any shortcomings in our social security and welfare system.
This will enable officials to identify who is genuinely in need of financial support, and funds can then be allocated more efficiently rather than being wasted.
Without accurate figures, some people will get welfare payments which they do not need while some deserving cases go without any help.
This poverty line should also be flexible within a changing economy.
I appreciate that setting up an internationally recognised poverty line is not perfect and does have its limitations.
Some residents who just edge above it might be in genuine need but are not eligible and this would be harsh on them.
However, we have to find some way to ensure proper allocation of public resources if we are to maintain a harmonious society.
William Chan, Sha Tin
Women-only MTR carriages not the answer
I do not support those who have proposed that the MTR Corporation should introduce women-only carriages on its network.
I am not in any way trying to play down the problem of sexual harassment and assault, but I just do not see the proposal as being feasible. It would cause confusion and be inconvenient for passengers.
I'm sure all Hongkongers are familiar with the extremely crowded scenes on so many MTR platforms. If women-only carriages were introduced, fewer passengers could get on the trains and it would take longer for people to board. This would be very inconvenient for passengers during rush hours.
In addition, men might feel upset by the fact that they could not get into their packed compartments while there was still room in the women-only carriages.
Also, if children were allowed to travel with women, what would be the cut-off age?
I do not think separating male and female passengers is the only way to curb molestation of women. If more surveillance cameras were installed, this could help catch offenders and act as a deterrent to others.
Lau On-yin, Lai Chi Kok
Sanctuary plan best for ailing elephant Mali
I would like to thank Alex Lo for highlighting the plight of the elephant in Manila Zoo ("Manila, free Mali the elephant now!" October 30).
Even though they probably have never seen her, Hong Kong residents have probably heard of the controversy surrounding Mali, who is at the centre of an international outcry and a political debate that has very little to do with her welfare. But the question is actually very simple: if the Manila Zoo cared about Mali, it would agree that she needs to be retired to a sanctuary, for both her health and sanity.
The zoo can never come close to giving Mali what she needs to heal and thrive. The entire zoo measures only 0.055 square kilometres, and Mali's enclosure is a tiny fraction of that.
Confining elephants to such restricted environments takes a heavy toll. An elephant expert recently expressed grave concern over the state of Mali's feet, noting that she has cracked nails, overgrown cuticles, and cracked footpads that are open to infection. Foot ailments are one of the leading causes of death in captive elephants.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) has a detailed plan to successfully move Mali to a sanctuary, where she will be able to move about freely in wide-open spaces, swim, take dust baths, explore and, most importantly, share the company and companionship of other elephants.
Mali has lost more than 30 years of her life for humans' fleeting distraction and amusement. She deserves to spend the rest of her life in comfort and peace.
Jason Baker, vice-president, Peta Asia
Pragmatism is ideology by another name
Tammy Tam, in her City Beat column ("Forget the philosophy, let's have answers", October 29), doesn't realise that when she says that the chief executive needs to be "pragmatic rather than indulging in ideological debate", she is being "ideological" as well, pragmatism being the ideology.
The fact is, everyone has an ideology, a set of beliefs about how life should be lived or society should be run. Political parties have manifestos (ideologies) and Hong Kong has its core values such as rule of law (an ideology).
She says "Hongkongers are well known for being pragmatic and practical. Ideological debate is not our cup of tea."
The opposite of pragmatism is not necessarily dogmatism.
Holding a set of basic beliefs helps those in government develop a coherent set of policies.
It is because of this so-called "pragmatism" that policies seemingly change week by week in Hong Kong.
There is nothing wrong with being practical, but if you are constantly changing course without an "end point" in mind, the only result is confusion and a lack of commitment.
Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po
Diplomacy alone can end Diaoyu conflict
Japan's strained relations with China will not get better until the present dispute over the Diaoyu Islands is at an end.
There were serious anti-Japanese protests on the mainland in September and it is difficult to predict how Chinese citizens will react in the coming weeks to any developments.
These protests caused severe harm to the mainland economy and put at risk social stability and the personal safety of some citizens.
Some people were robbed during the demonstrations and innocent people were injured.
The protests had little adverse effect on Japan.
These demonstrations were an inappropriate response to what has happened.
It has been said that Sino-Japanese relations have been strained with the visit last month by Shinzo Abe, president of Japan's opposition Liberal Democratic Party, to the controversial Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo.
However, the country has always worshipped bushido ("the way of the warrior"), a cultural concept which is unique in Asia. It relates to the lives of the samurai and is similar to the code of chivalry.
This ideology is deep-rooted in the minds of the Japanese people, just as filial piety is an important part of the Chinese way of life.
Abe's actions reflect his conservative view of history which overrides diplomatic concerns, but it should not be seen as intentionally provocative.
We have to respect the traditions, value systems and ideologies of other countries and recognise that some issues must be resolved through diplomacy.
Cheng Ka-yan, Tsuen Wan
Right to raise homes ratio at Kai Tak site
I agree with top government consultant Michael Choi Ngai-min about housing projects at the site of the former Kai Tak airport ("Double number of flats at Kai Tak, says adviser", October 22).
Low-density residential developments there will barely impact upon the basic housing needs facing most Hong Kong citizens.
The housing crisis has got worse as property prices have risen and many young people, especially those in their 20s, despair of being able to own their own flat.
Low-density developments are not what society needs.
Developers build private apartments to make a profit. But Hong Kong citizens want more subsidised and public housing.
Therefore, I do think that the number of flats planned by the government at Kai Tak should be more than doubled so that a greater number of people are given the opportunity to own their home.
Katie Lee, Ma On Shan