Letters to the Editor, November 21, 2012

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 2:55am

Keep tycoons away from sensitive areas

The wetlands at Nam Sang Wai are a natural treasure, and their loss and the demise of the endangered species that rely on them are irreplaceable.

For tycoon Adrian Fu Hau-chak to make it his "lifetime mission" to redevelop this area is a sad indication of how little some people value our environment ("Divisive wetland project is tycoon's lifetime mission", November 15).

Thankfully, in response to green groups' efforts, young people are beginning to understand the need to conserve what is and will remain important long after buildings have crumbled into dust.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has a family and home overseas in green Cambridge, England, but for those of us suffocating here surrounded by concrete and with no other home than Hong Kong, it is of utmost importance to support a policy of protection and preservation.

It is time our developers are made to keep their greedy hands off our precious, ecologically sensitive areas.

Nature is fragile and it is simply not acceptable to bulldoze it out of existence in the name of progress.

Joan Miyaoka, Sha Tin

Roadside pollution bad at bus stops

The Cross-Harbour Tunnel is notorious for its congestion problems.

But the biggest losers are not the motorists, who are often the ones who complain the loudest about their lengthy waits, but rather the bus passengers.

On a recent Saturday morning, I spent more than 30 minutes in the queue for the No 103 bus at the tunnel. I boarded the second bus after the first one filled up. I had to join the hundreds of other poor souls at the stop inhaling the emissions of passing vehicles, including private cars, coaches and heavy vehicles. When it comes to tunnel congestion, bus passengers are the biggest losers, paying with their time, money and health.

As buses are stuck in traffic, this causes even longer delays for their passengers at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. They also pay a premium as the fare usually remains the same from the originating point up until the stop after the tunnel.

If the queues winding up the footbridge at the stop are anything to go by, it would appear that bus No 103 is one of the more popular routes. I was there during the off-peak-hour period. I can only imagine how much longer the queues and waiting times there are at rush hour.

Until the congestion problem is solved, bus passengers will have to continue to endure the heat, humidity and pollution, all of which are especially serious in the summer, as well as the occasional heavy rainstorm, while the complaining motorists sit in their cars enjoying filtered air and air-conditioning at full blast.

I hope the tunnel operator will at least look into the feasibility of introducing a priority bus lane to make this daily commute for many a bit more bearable.

Samuel Chan, Sha Tin

Israel has the power to end this violence

The Humanist Association of Hong Kong, along with the committee of the Humanist International (International Federation of Humanist Parties), is asking the Israeli government to cease its violent reprisals for the attacks on its citizens by the extreme military wing of Hamas.

It is in a position to do this given that the firepower of its military is vastly superior to that of the Palestinians.

How much longer must ordinary people in Israel and Palestine put up with living in fear and insecurity? Do those wielding power today not see that a peaceful and mutually beneficial arrangement must be put in place immediately?

If the ideal of a single state seems impossible because of the lack of trust on both sides, then the second-best option should be agreed upon as soon as possible.

Suspicion surrounds the United States' massive financial support of Israel, which encourages Tel Aviv to act like a dog in the manger in the Middle East. Its actions undermine hopes of a political solution.

Surely this state of affairs exists because of oil reserves. With an unstable Middle East, Western nations can continue to get cheap energy resources. As a result, people in the region have to suffer.

As humanists who see humans as being central to all national and international affairs, we deplore the stand of the developed nations.

Both sides in this conflict must look in depth at what is happening.

Upon reflection, they will surely come to appreciate the great possibilities for Palestine, Israel and the Middle East in general if peace is allowed to prevail and citizens can get on with their daily lives and flourish.

Tony Henderson, chairman, Humanist Association of Hong Kong

Help elderly who still need to work

Last month, a university study found that 15 per cent of Hongkongers aged 60 or above still have to work to support themselves and that many earn low wages.

The study reflects the problems Hong Kong faces from having an ageing population and inadequate welfare measures.

Unlike many other places, the special administrative region does not have a statutory retirement age, but most citizens retire between the ages of 55 and 60.

Under the labour regulations, companies can continue to recruit elderly people. But they seldom do so except in rehiring those who are well educated, very experienced in their field or willing to take low wages.

Of course, there are well-off senior citizens in our society, but many people beyond the age of 60 still have to seek employment to support themselves.

Often, they will be lowly educated citizens who can do only menial work.

But they will struggle to find jobs if they seek manual work as firms would generally pick younger applicants over them.

So they often end up having to take on jobs with very low pay and poor working conditions.

The government should do more to help them with short-term vocational training courses which can help them find a job or adapt to different working conditions.

It could also offer subsidies to companies willing to take on more employees over the age of 60.

The administration should also offer more subsidies for the elderly who cannot work but find the old age allowance insufficient to meet their daily needs.

Officials must be flexible and modify welfare policies where it is appropriate to do so.

Soddy Leung, Tsuen Wan

Poverty line will give clearer picture

There is no accurate figure for the number of people who are living in poverty in Hong Kong.

We are all uncomfortably aware that the gap between the rich and the poor has widened, but accurate statistics are not available.

The government must rectify this by establishing an official and internationally recognised poverty line.

Once this line is set down, officials will then have a clearer idea of the extent of the problem and therefore a better idea of how to tackle it.

This will enable the government to identify the flaws in the welfare system and offer more effective help to citizens living in poverty.

A poverty line can also help the public reach a consensus about how best to tackle the wealth gap.

Crystal Lam, Fo Tan