Letters to the Editor, December 3, 2013

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 December, 2013, 5:27am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 December, 2013, 6:22am

Wild weather no reason for alarm bells

I refer to the article ("City warned to brace for more powerful typhoons", November 22). Based partly on the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Hong Kong Observatory sounded alarm bells for local powerful typhoons, widespread flooding, higher temperatures and a rise in sea-levels in the future.

The alarm is uncalled for because water vapour, the most important greenhouse gas showing the best correlation with temperature changes, has been ignored. Heat generation causing water vapour to enter the atmosphere is the real problem.

Heavier rainfall causing widespread flooding has more to do with land reclamations and natural variability rather than the level of carbon dioxide.

The rise in average temperature in the city by 1.2 degrees since 1913 is best explained by the urban heat island effect.

The tide gauge record in Victoria Harbour from 1954 to the present is obtained from two tide gauge stations (North Point 1954-1984 and Quarry Bay 1985-present). Both are located on reclaimed land with questionable ground stability.

In any event, the less than 60 year tide gauge record and the satellite altimetry record available since 1992 are both too short to reliably indicate the rate of future sea-level change.

More powerful future typhoons are not supported by the record. Haiyan was a late season super typhoon explained by the extreme temperature contrast between the hot Pacific equatorial waters and the rapidly cooling air masses in northern Asia, in addition to abnormalities of the phenomenon, pointed out by Julian Heming of the UK Meteorological Office, known as the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). [MJO is a periodic increase in the uplift of warm, wet air from the ocean, which spawns storms.]

A study published in the current issue of Imperial Engineer has attributed many notable weather-related events observed in the North Atlantic basin during 2012 to the submarine eruption of a volcano off the Canary Islands. These events included Hurricane Sandy, the record UK annual rainfall, Greenland ice sheet melting in July, and record low sea ice in the Arctic.

Wyss Yim, Pok Fu Lam


Milk powder restrictions should remain

I oppose the abolition of restrictions on travellers carrying milk powder out of Hong Kong. The measure is practical and has a great deterrent effect, giving priority to safeguarding Hong Kong people's interests, and also stabilising the market for milk powder supply.

Parallel imports are the result of cross-border differences in price levels, as well as the 2009 milk powder scandal on the mainland, which resulted in a lack of confidence in consumers buying milk products from the mainland.

As a result, there was an influx of mainlanders buying foreign brands of baby formula, so the local market quickly ran out of stock.

The measures were put in place mainly to curb speculative activities on the mainland. If the milk formula is for your own household, buying two cans is sufficient. However, if the ban is lifted, I believe that parallel imports will return.

Combating parallel imports is not equal to hindering normal trade. At present, milk formula manufacturers can still supply directly to the mainland, or through Hong Kong, but the higher mainland tariff leads to the parallel import problem.

It is the government's responsibility to ensure an adequate supply of milk powder for local infants. When there is an imbalance, administrative intervention is expected.

Lifting the ban or not, the Hong Kong government should ensure that local parents can buy enough milk to meet their demand.

Of course, I hope that this is only a temporary measure. The blame is on the quality of the mainland milk powder. Therefore, it is necessary to increase mainland food control to regain consumers' confidence.

Choki Chung Cho-kiu, Hung Hom


Urban council is better option than district

I refer to the opinion of Professor Sonny Lo of the Institute of Education ("Time to revamp Hong Kong's neglected district councils", November 18).

Professor Lo opined that district councils should be revamped and empowered before any meaningful and comprehensive political reform can be accomplished. He also advocates embracing ideas from secondary school teachers specialising in liberal studies at the district level in order to stimulate public and media attention in council affairs.

Frankly speaking, the function of district councils has been tailored for local affairs. District councils solicit local support in government policy. They have no power in drafting or administering district policy but rather serve as a bridge between citizens and the government.

The former urban council, which was empowered to handle territory-wide amenities and environmental hygiene and supervise its performance, was akin to the function of Legislative Council, and any misdeed would have invited a loss in the next election.

The pre-handover three-tier political structure (district level, municipal level and legislature) was mature, efficient and effective, as the former urban council played a pivotal role in easing the workload of the Legislative Council pertaining to general municipal matters and in providing empirical training to potential district councillors in policy debate.

Reinstating the urban council would be a more viable option to connect the missing link, rather to give more power to the district councils which are some what under-represented.

Gravis Cheng, Yuen Long


HK reserves can help pay Manila victims

It's very sad to see another devastating typhoon hit the Philippines while they were still recovering from a previous one.

Shouldn't the Hong Kong government show a bit of mercy towards the Philippines in its difficult times, rather than wait to receive a lump sum of cash from the Philippine government as payment for the eight Hong Kong citizens who died over there three years ago?

The Philippine government was humble enough to offer HK$585,000 for each death and US$150,000 for the seriously injured, sacrificing the needs of its own people for the sake of good political relations with Hong Kong.

Luckily, Hong Kong is one of the richest places in the world, with more than HK$600 billion in reserves. Rather than trying to extract money from a third world country like the Philippines, which has deadly typhoons ravaging it 20 times a year, the Hong Kong government should offer to pay the eight families instead.

Even for HK$1 million to each of these families, there will still be plenty more left in its reserves that will probably go untouched for the next few years. After all, what are the government reserves for, if not for the benefit of the people?

Amy Cristobal, Lantau


Hatoyama is an example for all to aspire to

The essential thesis of Dr Yukio Hatoyama's talk at City University ("Ex-Japan PM apologises for China war atrocities", November 14) had more to do with humanity and fraternity than the dependence of Tokyo on the US. Indeed, there was no adversarial undercurrent about the relationship between the two. To the contrary, the message was about inclusiveness.

I was moved by his speech and felt that Dr. Hatoyama's disposition encapsulates the ideals worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. If some of his fellow citizens label him a "traitor", then being a traitor to the cult of violence is a virtue that we all aspire to.

Nozer Singpurwalla, Kowloon Tong


Buddha ritual harms fish set free in ocean

Every year on Buddha's birthday many believers release fish into the ocean. They believe that it is good behaviour to protect the natural ecology. But some of them don't know that if they release captive-bred species, it will kill the fish because they might not be able to adapt in the wild. It also affects the survival of the local species if exotic fish are released.

I also understand that it is difficult for people to identify the species of the fish before releasing them.

So if the activity may bring harm to the environment, it should be stopped altogether. The believers should find other ways instead of releasing the fish, such as donating money to animal protection organisations, or becoming a vegetarian.

Tina Zheng, Lam Tin


Discount on IDD calls not evenly applied

On a recent Three Hong Kong bill I discovered that my IDD calls to the UK had been charged at the premium fixed line rate, even though my phone was pre-programmed to go through the 0080 service, which provides international calls at a nominal charge.

Staff explained to me that, if one presses redial after making a call using the discounted prefix, the user will automatically be sent through the premium fixed line route.

My partner had also been subject to the same excessive charges and got in touch with Three. Eventually, after conversing with a few of the staff, she was granted a 50 per cent discount [but] interestingly Three was not prepared to offer any such discount to myself. Perhaps it may be because my partner's contract will soon be due for renewal while I recently committed to a new 18-month contract.

Martin Kennard, Sai Kung