Consistency is key on illegal structures
Recently, people have been having very heated discussions about the unauthorised building works at Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's houses.
This near-hysterical over- reaction is probably because most people have the misconception that having or erecting any such structure is a criminal offence. This is not the case.
Normally, you would not be aware or bother to find out whether you have any unauthorised building works until you receive a letter from the Buildings Department, with an order saying the "… Building Authority may, under section 40 (1BA) of the Buildings Ordinance, prosecute you if you fail without reasonable excuse to comply with the order".
At this stage, you can either file an appeal or remove the unauthorised structures. If nothing is done, you will receive another letter from the department saying you may be prosecuted for non-compliance.
Even at this late stage, if you remove the structure or offer a reasonable explanation for it being there, you are deemed to have complied with the order and not to have committed a crime. Otherwise, you head to court.
Normally you don't need the department's approval before removing such a structure. Further, if it was discovered by you, and not the department, then you normally won't report to the authorities before or after the structure's removal.
I have unfortunately gone through this unpleasant experience twice - in a house I co-own but don't reside in and a house I live in but do not own.
I reckon that the department is mainly to blame for such unpleasant experiences, which are not uncommon for citizens (including Leung).
Its policy on unauthorised building works is inconsistent. Prior to the mid-2000s, enforcement was extremely lax. But, in recent years, it has become so strict that owners are taken to court for tiny infringements.
The government should set up a priority list to first deal with structures that pose risks to the public and leave the rest to later.
Wong Hong-yau, Happy Valley
Intolerance deserves response
The narrow-mindedness and sheer intolerance demonstrated in Miranda Wong's letter ("Foreigners' whining about education smacks of colonialism", November 24) truly deserves a response.
Why is it considered elitist to want your children educated in English when it is an official language in Hong Kong?
Why shouldn't we have the option of a slightly subsidised English-speaking education?
The number of local parents I have met who want to have their children attend an ESF school demonstrates that Hong Kong Chinese parents want to have that option.
I have lived in Hong Kong for more than 10 years, have permanent residence, own property and both my children were born here. We are here to stay and do not think of Hong Kong as a temporary or "get rich quick" option.
I want my children to be educated in English because I hope that one day they will attend university (yes, Miranda, even a Hong Kong university where English is used).
Speaking fluent English may also help make them more competitive in the job market than speaking Cantonese alone. In the job market, fluency in English is sought after by both local and international companies in this ever globalised world.
We are in a very privileged position of having a government with a budget surplus. We should be petitioning for more investment in all Hong Kong schools - local and those in the English Schools Foundation system - to ensure the best education for all children being raised in Hong Kong.
Laurence Athwal, Clearwater Bay
Giving, not greed, the path to happiness
If it is true that accumulating wealth makes people happy, then why do ultra-rich people end up founding charitable trusts?
My view is that Hong Kong people strive for happiness based on greed and not need.
Money comes and goes, morality comes and grows.
We need to build a society based on human values and not create a society of greed and selfishness.
If you are wise enough, you will see that the richest have nothing more to do than give to charity. Those who don't give are not yet rich enough to experience the happiness of giving - they are selfish and unwise because they believe their wealth will always be there.
Bill Gates is the best example of all billionaires. I honour the work he does, as it is based on true service. Our Hong Kong tycoons should follow his footsteps instead of making people believe that money alone made them happy. Gates looks happier now then he ever did because he is serving one billion people from the heart.
Rishi Teckchandani, Mid-Levels
Counting the cost of conflict in Syria
I am dismayed by the Syrian civil war ("Cabbies dodge snipers on front lines", November 2). My principal concern is how the battles between the rebels and the Syrian army affect people's lives. The conflict will also cause widespread environmental devastation.
While the UN and some Western countries are said to be actively mediating their disputes, the situation does not seem to ease up. I hope both sides can agree to a ceasefire.
Sumar Chan, Tsuen Wan
Building speed incompatible with safety
I would like to respond to Amy Wu's piece ("Standing Tall, November 29).
While expounding the virtues of Chinese construction companies shredding the red tape which hinders their American counterparts, Ms Wu failed to mention the most pressing criticism of permitting such speed-engineering - namely, the fear of whether such constructions will stay up.
In the race to build the fastest, tallest or largest structures, investors put pride and showmanship before safety and oversight. Add corruption and corner-cutting with cheap materials to the mix and you have very shaky foundations indeed.
Building too much in haste without attention to detail leads to incidents like the Zhejiang rail disaster, or those schools that crumbled to dust when the  Sichuan earthquake hit. Not to mention major bridges collapsing around the country (about 20 in the past five years).
If you ever choose to visit that 30-storey hotel in Hunan erected in 15 days, I hope you enjoy it Amy. But, personally, I will stay far away.
Rufus Redsell, Hung Hom
Did police have right to frisk my son?
On Sunday morning, my son was stopped by a plain-clothes police officer, who was then joined by two officers wearing uniform. The "civilian" asked my son to produce his ID card, which he did. Although the ID card clearly showed my son is 15, the plain-clothes officer proceeded as follows.
My son was asked what was in the two plastic bags he was carrying. He answered, and displayed contents including a birthday cake.
The plain-clothes officer then took my son's wallet, went through it and extracted my son's school ID card. The officer then "patted" my son down. His ID card was returned and he was told he could go.
I ask the commissioner of police to specify: which section of which ordinance allows a police officer to do any of the aforesaid (save for production of the ID card) in respect of a child in the absence of a parent or guardian?
Would he also explain on what basis plain-clothes officers are entitled to do this, rather than officers in uniform.
My son was told it was a "random" search. Given that it is fairly common to see young, and sometimes not so young, men stopped for ID checks, would the commissioner please state the quota his officers have to meet for such "random" checks.
N. Millar, Kowloon
China must not delay new climate treaty
The second commitment period of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is going to start. China wants to delay the negotiations ("China seeks delay over global climate treaty", November 22).
It is one of several countries that do not want the treaty to move too fast. Only a few are ready to reduce emissions, although UN climate talks last year in South Africa agreed to hammer out a new deal by 2015.
I do not think China should delay the negotiations. Climate change problems are imminent. Countries should try to tackle the problem jointly in many different ways. There are always serious differences between developed and developing countries.
I agree there should be a legally binding protocol between countries on the climate change issue. Every country has a responsibility to contribute to our world. Every one of them should cut carbon emissions to decrease global warming. The developed countries should cut more emissions so as to help developing countries.
However, rapidly developing countries like China and India produce more carbon emissions and should make bigger cuts than other developing countries.
I hope that all countries can eliminate their differences and tackle the problem of global warming jointly.
Kristy Pau, Tsuen WanTopics: Illegal structures English Schools Foundation Hong Kong Education Happiness Syrian Civil War Construction UN climate talks