Debate essential on the future of West Kowloon

The article 'Early planning consultation 'crucial'' (May 7), is a timely wake-up call for the government, coming right after the launch of the West Kowloon and Harbourfront Opinion Platform by the Hong Kong University public opinion programme.

The objective of this online platform ( is for people to express their views about how the West Kowloon reclamation site - originally designated by the government in the early 1990s to be an open parkland - ought to be developed.

Should it be a cultural district mixed with high-rise commercial/residential development, or just a cultural green park? And should Victoria Harbour, already suffering from over-reclamation, be protected?

These are crucial issues and there must be a robust debate about them.

Hong Kong Alternatives, the Society for Protection of the Harbour, and Designing Hong Kong Harbour District are joint sponsors of this public consultation.


We do this in the hope that the new development bureau - in accordance with Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's election manifesto pledge to abide by public opinion when making policy decisions - will take a fresh look at the West Kowloon site.

Peter Lee, Hong Kong Alternatives

Discrimination a rarity in HK

Frankly, I cannot understand why you published Cherrie Cheng's letter ('Gender inequality unacceptable in a genuine international city' May 7), which could lead to a misunderstanding of the situation in Hong Kong.


Being a man with a happy family, it is against my principles to argue with any woman.

However, would any of your female readers agree that there is discrimination or abuse of female legislative councillors, domestic workers and mainlanders, as Ms Cheng claims?


If there is, then they must be isolated cases.

The fact that there is a Woman's Day but not a Man's Day clearly shows the highest respect paid by Hong Kong to the fairer sex.

Peter Wei, Kwun Tong


Ban the use of high-sulfur fuel

Fingers have largely been pointing at vehicles and power companies for generating a lot of pollution in Hong Kong.

However, the fallout from vessels in and around Hong Kong's waters has generally escaped the attention of the public, the environmental protection and marine departments, and the Tourism Board.


On windless days, dark smoke can be seen hovering above container ships approaching or leaving Hong Kong.

Local marine operators, from large to small, openly admit using fuel obtained illegally from the mainland.

As a result, the water channels, the harbour, the bays and the typhoon shelters also fall victim to smog.

The exhaust systems of many vessels, large and small, are not maintained properly.

We can't only blame mainland factories. Cleaning up the air starts here. Why aren't there any serious efforts made to address these major contributors of pollution?

If ports in the Baltic Sea, Vancouver and Los Angeles forbid the use of fuel with a high sulfur content, why can't our city pass legislation for a healthier and cleaner environment?

Christine Lam, Shum Wan

Putting our own house in order

International co-operation on switching to cleaner fuels by ocean-going vessels is certainly important. But, from a health perspective, as much as we would love Hong Kong to prohibit any vessel from entering our waters if it is powered by dirty fuel, our ports and economy would lose out unless equivalent restrictions were imposed by mainland or other Asian ports.

This does not mean that putting our own house in order first should not be a priority - on both sea and land.

Banning heavily polluting local marine vessels and road vehicles is 100 per cent within Hong Kong's power.

All this takes is money - a one-off cost to the government - to pay for conversion subsidies or as compensation for scrapped vessels or vehicles.

Hong Kong should do this now while the economy is strong. It must not hold back and await the result of what will inevitably be long, drawn-out international negotiations, nor use the slow speed of international co-operation as an excuse for foot-dragging.

Richard Wallace, Pok Fu Lam

Timidity holds back students

While teaching in China, I was shocked to discover that some of my students had been studying English for more than a decade yet were unable to express themselves in a comprehensible manner. At first, I attributed this to a lack of aptitude among Chinese students for mastering foreign languages in general, and English in particular.

However, after gradually being exposed to Chinese culture, I became certain that I was wrong in my assumption.

Observing students of various ages led me to discover that most of them suffer from the following symptom: an acute case of timidity brought about by a long conditioning process that begins in childhood and continues up to graduation from university.

A large number of parents discourage youngsters from expressing their views and ideas. During the different stages of the educational process, teachers don't exert any effort to encourage their students to be outspoken. It is logical to assume that this timidity represents a tremendous hurdle when attempting to master a language, as practising is essential to achieve this goal.

A lack of self-confidence deters students from attempting to exert more effort to attain competence in English, for fear of being categorised as stupid by their peers if they commit a grammatical error, or mispronounce an English expression.

Most of their English text-books are boring and more confusing than enlightening. I read some of the books that are available on the mainland and discovered many are outdated and full of errors.

The majority of teachers use out-of-date techniques. They don't exert any effort to come up with innovative ways of making the learning process a memorable experience. Mainland authorities will have to focus on ways to deal with these issues if they wish to improve the level of English for their students.

Thabet Hassan, Inner Mongolia

An example for Islamic nations

Everyone knows the French are among the most liberal and sophisticated people in the world.

However, I can't help wondering if one reason the voters didn't give Segolene Royal the majority she sought is because she's not married to her partner, with whom she has four children.

Can anyone imagine such a person running for high office in the United States? First of all, she'd never be nominated, regardless of her qualifications, knowing the hidebound religious nature of conservative Americans.

I think the French election has served as a fine example for those Islamic countries that view women as an inferior species.

Beatriz Taylor, Cheung Chau