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Thick smog above an elevated highway in Beijing. Photo: EPA

Letters to the Editor, January 24, 2013

The statutory minimum wage was supposed to raise living standards for the poor, making it worthwhile for people to work. However, it has fuelled inflation as businesses pass on the higher costs to consumers.

This is not a problem for giant supermarkets, where salaries account for less than 2 per cent of running costs. But for smaller, local shops where labour costs can easily reach 25 to 30 per cent of their overheads, passing on the full wage increase to consumers is not easy, as retail prices are determined by the market and not operating costs. Therefore, businesses could find profits dropping or they could go into the red.

If small retailers try to increase prices further, they end up losing business, and this can result in them closing.

This does not help consumers, especially those on the minimum wage, because when the little stores are gone the profit-driven retail chains can simply raise their prices even higher, as they no longer face real competition given that they operate in a cartel with just a few big players. Workers might get a few dollars extra an hour, but then they face higher prices and end up worse off than before.

I accept that the minimum wage is not the only reason small firms fold; rising rents are also a contributing factor.

Although supermarkets pay more in rents than small shops, they can accommodate a lot more customers and products on their premises.

A large supermarket might have eight workers at one time, while a small store needs two staff, so the latter is always going to suffer as a consequence of minimum wage legislation.

Any further increase in the minimum wage will lead to higher inflation, ring the death knell for more small shops, and make price manipulation easier for the retail giants.

The working class could afford even less, then they would demand a higher minimum wage, and the vicious cycle would continue.


It was interesting to read the complaint of the independent trucker regarding the mandatory scrapping of old trucks ("Full speed ahead on old trucks' road to the scrapyard", January 17).

He said he would have to go out of business if forced to retire his 18-year-old truck. In this bastion of free enterprise, I would have thought that this small-business man would have been familiar with the term depreciation. I guess not.

Had he put HK$3,000 away every month starting 18 years ago, and written this off as his taxes, he would be able to buy a new truck right now, with 30 per cent of the cost coming from our taxes.

Instead, he states, he had to pay for his wedding. And now he asks us to let him continue to poison us on public roads, maintained with our taxes, with his probably decrepit, smoke-belching vehicle, because of his lack of planning, prudence and knowledge.

What a city this is sometimes.


Your report ("'Beijing cough' an insult to capital, says professor", January 22) that a senior health professional, Professor Pan Xiaochuan , has contrived a bizarre piece of misinformation denying the effects of air pollution on human health is disappointing and depressing.

The central government should reaffirm that it recognises that pollution harms everyone, regardless of race and culture.

The suggestion that Chinese citizens in Beijing have somehow accommodated to the catastrophic impact of pollutants on their immune and cardiopulmonary systems is ridiculous and should be strongly repudiated.

We certainly do not wish to hear this nonsense echoed by any quarter here in Hong Kong.

It is inconsistent with high- quality mainland medical and environmental health research, and the judgment of the veteran environmentalist, Professor Qu Geping , who acknowledges that economic plans have failed to protect environmental health ("Top adviser says weak rule of law fed pollution mess", January 21).

Although their power to influence the situation quickly is limited, there is also clear recognition of the toxicity of China's urban pollution by Beijing health authorities and education commission, and other academics and businesses, who realise that Chinese cities are being destroyed as desirable destinations by uncontrolled pollution.

The thousands of children forming queues at health stations are the most sensitive sentinels of the harm to population health. A majority will be from the lowest socio-economic groups.

Any Beijing residents who may appear to have tolerated the physiological insults of pollution will simply be survivors of the large-scale epidemic which has pushed many others into clinics, hospitals and early graves.

The same conclusion applies to Hong Kong.


People buy a lot of different things to celebrate festivals in Hong Kong.

For example, they purchase Christmas trees, red packets for Lunar New Year and mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The packets and Christmas trees are of no use after the festival ends and many mooncakes remain uneaten.

Often, these discarded items end up in Hong Kong's landfills, which are already nearing capacity.

I appreciate the efforts of those voluntary groups that try to collect some of this material and reduce the burden on landfills.

However, there is only so much they can achieve and they will probably only gather up a small proportion of the waste generated during these periods.

The government has an important role to play here and should set up collection bins after the festivals have ended. Some of this waste can actually be reused, for example, as fertiliser or biofuel.

I would also like to see a change of attitude on the part of Hongkongers. They should only buy what they need and try, wherever possible, to reuse material.

The red packets which people receive can be saved and used the following year.

If you receive a gift you do not want, you should consider giving it to someone less fortunate.


I appreciate that young people in Hong Kong face difficulties when trying to buy their own home.

Sometimes, it seems to the younger generation that their lives are harder than those of previous generations.

Some youngsters look at the skyrocketing property prices and also have concerns over earning a decent living.

With rising inflation, after they have paid for necessities, such as food, rent and transport, they are worried about how much they will be able to save.

Some young people fear they may never have enough to buy their own flat, even with a stable career. While I accept many Hongkongers face these problems, it is important to try to stay positive.

Citizens, including graduates, have to accept the reality of their situation and try to remain upbeat, or they will find life very stressful.

They should not let the obstacles they face in trying to buy a home obscure their other goals.


Rape has nothing to do with sex.

It is about violence, done by cowards on people they think are weaker than themselves.

It is the knowledge of the fundamental cowardice of the attacker that gives potential victims their greatest and most effective weapon.

It is usually the first lesson taught at self-defence classes, for men and women - point at the person and yell "no" at the top of your lungs.

Most women must be trained to do this.

Try it at home. Are you even capable of pointing at someone, staring at them and shouting "no"?

Practise until you have broken down the taboo.

No amount of martial arts training is as valuable as preventing the crime in the first place.


Hong Kong faces the problem of an ageing population because of the low birth rate.

More incentives need to be offered to encourage couples to have more children, such as additional monthly subsidies.

Facilities should also be improved for pensioners.

The government should have more activity centres where elderly people can get involved in various forms of recreation including sport.