Letters to the Editor, December 7, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 December, 2013, 4:43am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 December, 2013, 4:43am

Columbarium size poses safety risk

Despite strong residents' opposition, the Hong Kong Chinese Christian Churches Union (HKCCCU) continues with the construction of a columbarium on Victoria Road, Pok Fu Lam. The HKCCCU is building a 10- storey giant that will offer almost 40,000 niches to store the ashes of beloved ancestors.

In an amazing display of government departmental ineptitude, both the Buildings Department and the director of food and environmental hygiene - the authority overseeing private cemeteries - approved construction of this building without taking into consideration what might happen if all relatives come to visit the niches over the memorial festivals, twice a year.

A traffic impact assessment conducted by a party hired to do so by the HKCCCU identified that the pavements are inadequate to cope with the foot traffic. The study also stated that the additional traffic brought to Victoria Road would amount to an extra vehicle every two seconds on peak visiting days, or total gridlock. Despite this finding, the Transport Department signed off on the plans with a "no objection".

A community meeting with the Hong Kong Police Department to discuss the safety hazards of this many people converging on a single building, with an entrance onto a pavement as narrow as 40cm, led to a statement that the police are not the transport experts but will do their best to manage the crowds and the traffic. They made clear, though, that the road may have to be closed, so no one will be able to visit, and many residents will be cut off from emergency services on festival days too.

The safety hazards to visitors and residents are blatantly obvious, yet HKCCCU is proceeding, "hiding" behind the approvals it obtained.

Residents are now waiting for the director of food and environmental hygiene to wake up to the fact that, by law, he is fully responsible and empowered to instruct cemeteries to undertake any and all work necessary to ensure health and safety at their premises.

Residents don't oppose a columbarium, but the director needs to instruct a drastic scaling down of the size of this development now, before it is too late, to ensure safety for all.

Jacobus Groot, Pok Fu Lam


Wage law ushers in range of woes

I would like to talk about the detrimental effects of the statutory minimum wage, which came into force in 2011 and is now HK$30 per hour.

It is good to see that the government has the will to help people on a low income. There is no doubt that there will be an increase in income for people on low salaries.

But is it of benefit to everyone in Hong Kong? I think there are some drawbacks caused by this policy.

Firstly, middle class families will be badly affected. Businessmen can always earn money by increasing the prices of their products. They just shift the costs to the customers. But people of the middle class, who earn more than minimum wage, don't have an increase in their income. The outcome is obvious; living expenses increase but there is no increase in salary. Their financial burden is heavier than before.

Secondly, the turnover of staff doing "offensive" jobs will be higher. There is a saying about communism that applies in this case: "If you work, you'll get $30. If you don't, you still get $30." Because of the minimum wage, fewer people will choose offensive and dangerous jobs.

Since the minimum wage came into force, people have rushed to find easier work for comparable pay. Cleaning companies can't find enough workers because being a security guard is more comfortable than being a cleaner.

The final consequence is that older people will be forced out of the labour market because employers prefer young workers.

Ngan Long Chit, Tsuen Wan


Culture driven out by return of road traffic

The decision to cut operational hours of the Mong Kok pedestrian zone ("Pedestrian days cut amid safety concerns", November 22) has stirred up lots of debate. If crowds stay away as a result, this decision could have the desired effect of reducing numbers of people blocking the pavements, and consequently the level of disturbance to residents living nearby.

However, this could cause a serious problem if the famous "buzz" in Sai Yeung Choi Street disappears. It will become an ordinary road just like every other street in Mong Kok, significantly reducing the attractiveness of this street.

Tourists from other countries who come to Hong Kong might want to look for traditional culture in the city, not only for shopping. (Thanks to inflation, shopping is not very cheap here any more.)

If you have been to Sai Yeung Choi Street, you might have seen foreigners taking photos or enjoying the performances of street performers. The new policy could damage the development of our tourism industry.

I urge the government to proceed carefully in implementing this policy, since traditional culture is irreplaceable. There is a valuable and intangible cultural heritage in Hong Kong, which some already say is a cultural desert.

Eleanor Liu Lok Ching, Mei Foo


Deniers hurt climate change awareness

I refer to the letters by Tom Harris ("Time to admit there is no climate crisis", November 27) and Wyss Yim ("Wild weather no reason for alarm bells", December 3). I would like to point out that many of the claims made in the letters are gross misinformation which do not stand up to the prevailing scientific evidence.

Warming of the climate is unequivocal. Many of the changes are unprecedented, taking it beyond the realm of "natural variability". Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than any preceding decade since 1850, with 1983-2012 being the warmest 30-year period of the last 1,400 years.

The climate science community, represented by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has recently concluded that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the warming on earth since the mid-20th century.

The rate of sea-level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia.

In Hong Kong, the observed local climate change aligns well with the global trend. Local annual temperatures have been rising, with global warming being the primary contributor, followed by urbanisation as shown by a number of studies conducted by the observatory.

We are concerned that incorrect and unsubstantiated information has been increasingly spread through the mainstream media using the name of science. We believe that such persistent activities by climate change deniers have gradually eroded the public's awareness on climate change.

Lee Sai-ming, senior scientific officer, Hong Kong Observatory


HK market must match global rivals

The Financial Services Development Council has spent the past 10 months examining an initial set of issues that affect the financial services industry in Hong Kong.

We welcome debate on each of the recommendations that the council has made thus far and will continue to make as additional reports are issued. However, Mr Jake van der Kamp's column ("Mr Strong has weak argument for ending reit tax", December 3) touches on a premise I have heard expressed on many occasions: that Hong Kong can make business choices without regard to other leading global financial centres.

Make no mistake, as the world gets smaller, Hong Kong is in competition with Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, London, New York and every other global centre for financial services business.

What those cities do does affect Hong Kong. If Hong Kong chooses not to adapt its reit (real estate investment trust) regulatory regime to the global standard, no reits will list here - notwithstanding the city's innate real estate acumen and expertise. If Hong Kong chooses not to move its private equity, open-ended investment company and renminbi rules to a more accommodating standard, that business, too, will not come here.

I have an advantage in that I do not know Hong Kong's history as well as Mr van der Kamp does. I am looking only forward. If Hong Kong quickly moves to global standards on a variety of financial regulations, its citizens will reap the benefits.

William H. Strong, Financial Services Development Council


A well-worn path for KMB fare hikes

KMB, which announced an application for a 4.3 per cent rise in bus fares in 2014, has become the talk of the town. As a colossal company serving 2.6 million Hongkongers every day, KMB should not only think twice but also take into account the hefty economic burden on citizens.

KMB has already reduced its loss this year compared with last year. Clearly, KMB is no longer in hot water. With continuing reorganisation of its bus routes in various districts, there is no urgency to increase fares.

What is more, it is a failure that KMB blames the fare hike on increasing oil prices and operational costs. While inflation has been a burden, the other two large bus companies, Citybus and New World First, are also affected by the oil costs and labour cost, but they have not increased bus fares in the past four years. Why does only KMB continually apply for successive fare rises?

KMB is putting the cart before the horse. It makes no sense that it raises the fares before a complete reorganisation of its bus routes.

Kenny Pun Tsz-him, Hung Hom