Democracy will always be best option
I refer to Alan Johnson's letter ("Democracy can have shortcomings", December 17).
Mr Johnson referred to the recent government shutdown in the US and the political turmoil in Thailand. These examples of governments elected by universal suffrage, do not defeat the proposition that a "one man, one vote" electoral system provides the elected leader with the best mandate to govern and with legitimacy.
Mr Johnson was describing what he saw as loopholes of a democratic political system. However, I do not think it can be denied that the advantages of democracy far outweigh its disadvantages. Such a system prevails over other forms of government, for example, autocracy and oligarchy. A democratic political system, with the rule of law and a free press, ensures that people's interests are safeguarded and guarantees a peaceful transition of power allowing a stable administration.
Look at some of the alternatives to democracy - autocratic states such as China and North Korea, where there are brutal political purges and people's rights are suppressed.
As Winston Churchill put it, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."
Michael Ko, Tsing Yi
Why have officials not heeded advice?
At the December 16 meeting of Islands District Council, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing was left in no doubt that the proposed mega-incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau is untenable and unacceptable.
No one, apart from the Environmental Protection Department and its consultants and contractors, wants this incinerator. Why does the department not listen to anyone?
It is surely now time for Mr Wong to show some statesmanship and common sense and consider some of the alternatives to the "all-or-nothing" Shek Kwu Chau proposal.
Other more flexible schemes have been put forward, such as the proposal by the NT Concern Group, and the innovative rezoning suggestion by the Integrated Waste Management Action Group. This will allow smaller distributed sites, greater emphasis on recycling, and the possibility of more up-to-date technology - all very much as set out by the government in its recent blueprint on waste management.
I ask the department to come to its senses and realise that Shek Kwu Chau and a mega incinerator are not the right solution, nor is it the right location. There are solutions which are quicker, cheaper and do not pollute, and reconsidering a plan in the light of changed circumstances does not involve a loss of face, but shows maturity and professionalism.
R. E. J. Bunker, Lantau
We all need to reduce carbon footprint
I am writing in response to G. Bailey's criticisms ("Still a lot of doubts about climate change", December 17) of the comments made by Lee Sai-ming, the Observatory's senior scientific officer ("Deniers hurt climate change awareness", December 7).
Mr Lee wasn't referring to Russian solar experts or other eminent scientists who dispute the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings as "climate change deniers". His intended target is in fact those of us who use the reports and research of these scientists to argue against immediate, extensive measures to decrease human impact on our planet's precious environment, such as Tom Harris in his letter ("Time to admit there is no climate crisis", November 27).
While those scientists who disagree with the IPCC may believe that human activity is not the main cause of global warming, I would be quite surprised if they also think that mankind's massive carbon dioxide emissions have no effect whatsoever.
Rather than dismissing anthropogenic global warming as "nonsense" and blaming climate change on external, uncontrollable factors such as the sun's solar cycle, we should be willing to work hard and make sacrifices so that we can minimise the destruction our actions wreak on the environment for our children's sake.
Regarding the claims about the "immense" impact of solar activity on our climate, I must add that findings on correlations between the solar cycle and our climate are even more conflicting and contradictory than that on greenhouse gas emissions, with experts disagreeing even on whether present solar activity is raising or decreasing global temperatures.
There are reports that show the extreme cold of the recent northern hemisphere winters may be caused by increased weather instability due to the melting of the polar ice caps, itself a direct result of global warming.
As your correspondent says, the science is by no means settled. Perhaps we should leave the investigating to the experts and concentrate on reducing our individual carbon footprint.
William McCorkindale, Ma On Shan
Long queues and empty counters
I refer to the letter by H. T. Heung, for director of immigration ("Immigration officers committed to provide courteous service", December 17) replying to my letter ("Immigration officers on HK side inflexible", November 30), about the rude behaviour and inefficiency of Hong Kong immigration staff at Shenzhen Bay Control Point.
The director of immigration should set up a task force of undercover travellers, mostly mainlanders, as they are the majority of arrivals. They would cross the border at different times of the day over several months and describe the efficiency and courtesy of staff. Then the department could respond with a real reply rather than H. T. Heung's PR letter.
They should also have cameras at all checkpoints so the director can have a real-time view of the efficiency of his staff and so-called flexibility. If, as your correspondent says they have become more flexible to process visitors faster then why is it I so often see huge queues and so few counters open? I can predict these queues as they form at times when many people are crossing the border.
Huge queues and empty counters at the airport are an even bigger shame as arrival times of flights are known, so it should be possible to plan in advance.
If the slow processing is actually designed to put off more mainlanders from coming here, then instead simply impose a HK$500 arrival and departure tax. That will put off the housewives who come here to buy soy sauce.
If that is not the intention then recruit a lot more officers to man the empty counters. Also, it is a lot easier to comply with the rules if they are implemented with a smile and a friendly word.
Jeffry Kuperus, Clear Water Bay
Hongkongers take water for granted
I refer to the report ("Wasting water 'cheaper' than bigger reservoirs", December 9).
Because of extreme weather in recent years, some reservoirs fill up to overflowing and officials say it is cheaper to discharge excess water into the sea than to expand the reservoirs.
Also, there are logistical problems connected with any expansion projects as there would be associated noise and air pollution.
I think the government should try and exercise greater control over the water supply. For example, surely it could come to an agreement with the relevant authorities on the mainland to adjust the supply of Dongjiang water during the rainy season. This would mean more water from the reservoirs could be used and less of it would be discharged into the sea.
Water is such a precious resource and in Hong Kong I think we take it for granted. We know we can turn on the tap any time and the water will pour out. Because of this, we tend to forget about the importance of saving water.
Even though we have a plentiful supply all Hong Kong citizens have a duty to do their bit to preserve water.
We should not wash dishes under a running tap. We should take a short shower instead of a bath.
Where possible, we should install water-saving devices at home. All householders should fix dripping taps and not turn taps on full.
The government should also raise awareness about the need to save water through posters and adverts and through the internet.
Ellen Siu, Tseung Kwan O
Display of fish in shop is inappropriate
By 2013 in Hong Kong I would have hoped that an international company such as agnes b. would have a better awareness of animal welfare.
I refer to the use of live fish as "decoration" in use at their flower shop/cafe in Taikoo Place.
On December 12, I saw three fish in a small shallow dish with a small pump. They appeared to be discomfited.
This set-up did not appear to address the needs of fish concerning lighting, oxygenation and aeration.
I expressed my concerns on the phone to the company's operations officer, who promised to follow up the matter, but said all the flower shops were using similar displays at the moment.
I urge other people who see such displays in shops to express their concerns to the staff members.
I suggest the company follow the example set at the rather wonderful Christopher Doyle exhibition at the agnes b Librairie Galerie, namely plastic turtles.
Sharon Joy While, Happy Valley