Letters to the Editor, October 24, 2013

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 October, 2013, 1:09am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 October, 2013, 1:09am


Officials stick with outdated technology

Mary Melville is spot on with her comments on food waste and her invitation to the secretary for the environment ("Environment-friendly fix makes molehill of food waste mountain", October 12).

Besides the possibility of using special bacteria to convert biosolids sludge into agricultural fertiliser, there is a similar biological system (operational in California) that converts such waste into bio- plastics. It is reported that these biodegradable materials offer a realistic alternative to plastics derived from oil - seemingly a double whammy for environmentalists.

Many lucid letters have questioned the Environmental Protection Department's plan for a massive incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau and its brusque brush-off of Green Island Cement's efforts to use municipal solid waste (MSW) in an Eco-co-combustion facility proposed at its Tap Shek Kok cement plant.

Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection, poured cold water on this proposal because "this technology has not been used for MSW treatment anywhere in the world for large tonnages" ("Cement plan not yet viable refuse solution", August 16).

I was therefore astounded to read the report ("Saving a packet", October 2) about a firm that has been highly successful in using this technology on a large scale in Switzerland for some time and will incorporate the technology into its Asian cement kilns in India and Vietnam.

It seems that our Environmental Protection Department is getting well behind the curve. Cement kilns operate at 1,450 degrees Celsius and gasification plants burn at over 1,500 degrees, whereas the outdated incinerator planned for Shek Kwu Chau will only reach 850 degrees.

This has a large bearing on emissions and residue.

I also cannot understand why we are not planning to use already proven plasma gasification technology to generate electricity from MSW, in conjunction with Hongkong Electric and CLP Power. This would render the Shek Kwu Chau plans superfluous.

It appears our civil servants are bureaucratically locked into a plan that will not give Hong Kong the most effective, efficient, or environmentally sound outcome, and therefore the Legislative Council was correct to block the department's funding request. By Mr Au's own admission, the department has blocked Green Island Cement's use of MSW since 2000, while all this time our landfills inexorably extend.

Perhaps when environment secretary Wong Kam-sing replies to Mary Melville, he can also clarify the confusion surrounding the Shek Kwu Chau project.

Frank Lee, Mid-Levels


Parents should not have to join long queues

I don't understand why the Education Bureau cannot put a stop to the practice of making parents queue up for a long time just to get a school application form. It is antiquated, inhuman, and makes Hong Kong out to be a third-world banana republic.

It is appalling that a school official would defend this on TV a few weeks ago. If this is the mindset of the people grooming the next generation of Hong Kong's economic pillars, our future is anything but bright.

Lam Bik-yuk, Yuen Long


Improve schools on mainland

With the influx of visitors and migrants from the mainland, arguments between them and Hong Kong citizens have escalated.

The most recent dispute concerns the competition for kindergarten places in Hong Kong.

Mainland parents are sending their children to schools here in the hope they will get the best possible education.

However, there are not enough places for local pupils, and those born here whose parents are from the mainland, in some schools and pre-schools.

The situation is especially bad in North District, which is closest to the border.

This is an obvious cause of discontent among Hong Kong parents.

It is a long-term problem with regard to primary schools and it has now extended to kindergartens.

Parents feel the government is not doing enough to deal with what is a grave situation.

I think an amicable solution can be found if the central government looks closely at education standards at mainland schools.

Where standards are seen to be dropping in a school, the authorities should act quickly to remedy the situation. If there is a good-quality education system over the border, mainland parents will be happy to send their sons and daughters to these schools instead of coming here.

Mainland education officials could consider adopting the Hong Kong system, which would mean that exchange programmes could be organised so that students from both sides of the border could communicate with each other.

We should not condemn mainland parents for coming here to try to get school places. After all, it is only natural that they are trying to do what they feel is best for their children.

Avis Law Cheuk-wun, Ma Wan


One of city's core values is in decline

There has been a heated debate over quotas for kindergarten places in North District.

Some people believe the problem has been exacerbated by the increasing number of mainland migrants. They argue that priority for places should be given to local children. I would not support such a policy (dividing the children into two groups) being adopted and am concerned about the inappropriate attitude some Hong Kong citizens have towards mainlanders.

This would lead to discrimination and would damage social harmony. It shocks me to witness the decline of mutual respect, which is one of our city's core values.

The children coming over from the mainland are legally entitled to be here and we should be trying to ensure that our children can live with them in harmony rather than trying to increase tensions between the two groups.

I think now there is strong opposition to the presence of mainlanders from some people. It may come down to the allocation of resources in our society. Surely it is a case of the government ensuring local citizens get what they need and that there is a fair distribution of these resources.

I hope migrants and local citizens can learn to improve strained relations and that they can learn to respect each other in order to maintain harmony in our society.

Maggie Law Wing-yi, Kwai Chung


Economy-class passengers paying more

I refer to the report ("EU revives emissions charging plan", October 18). Efforts to frustrate any increased taxation of airline passengers need to be intensified.

For starters, the basic premises of airline surcharges should be reassessed. Why do business- and first-class passengers individually pay almost the same surcharges as members of the cramped crowds in "cattle class"? Because of an inappropriate belief in personal equality in sharing global pollution and oil problems?

It is more likely because law-makers globally look after the interests of themselves and their peers.

"Let the peasants in cattle class pay similar surcharges, fees and taxes as those of us lolling around at the front of the airplane", they may well chortle.

Consequently, if I fly to London this month, comparable Hong Kong dollar rates (per the website of an Asian airline) are as follows:

  • Economy - seat, HK$7,300; surcharges, HK$3,200; taxes, HK$1,700; total, HK$12,200, with surcharges 40 per cent of the total.
  • Business - seat, HK$37,300; surcharges, HK$3,500; taxes, HK$2,700; total, HK$43,500, with surcharges 14 per cent of the total.
  • First class - seat, HK$68,700; surcharges, HK$3,500; taxes, HK$2,700; total, HK$74,900, with surcharges 8 per cent of the total.

In terms of percentage of space enjoyed aboard the plane, the up-front folks enjoy an enormous and unjustifiable price advantage over the peasants. Can the EU and all aviation industry bodies ever justify such an elitist pricing policy?

Why shouldn't airline surcharges be applied as a percentage of the basic seat rate for all classes?

Members of the European parliament should be encouraged to demonstrate more concern for peasants.

Barry Girling, Tung Chung


Special animal police unit can curb cruelty

I am concerned about the number of animal abuse cases in Hong Kong.

At the moment we only have animal inspectors employed by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). They co-ordinate with police and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. But the SPCA does not have the authority to act against people who have been cruel to animals, as it has no legal powers to prosecute.

A special police unit dealing with animal cruelty could charge people. This has worked in other cities, such as Los Angeles' Animal Cruelty Task Force.

Also, greater education is needed to foster respect for animals.

Vicky Chan, Ho Man Tin