Letters to the Editor, April 22, 2015

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2015, 5:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2015, 5:22pm

Further curb smoking in public areas

We all recognise the harm of smoking. Thousands of lives are lost each year to diseases caused by cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke.

To safeguard public health, the Hong Kong government has taken a number of actions to control tobacco use.

To further protect the public, I would like to suggest that we adopt the measures taken in Shinjuku, Japan, where it is forbidden to smoke while walking on the street.

These controls will also help smokers, who would otherwise be tempted to smoke while running an errand or if they are on their way to some place, to cut down.

I would like to suggest that no smoking should be allowed on open public staircases where we often have to navigate our way around smokers. Further, we can have clearly marked "No Smoking" boundary boxes outside all outdoor MTR entrances and exits, giving enough room for people to comfortably enter or exit without being directly exposed to second-hand smoke.

The exit D of Admiralty MTR station is clearly one spot where this can be applied. In future, these measures could be extended to entrances to recreational facilities and major buildings like stadiums, sports grounds and hotels.

H. Shah, Mid-Levels

Allay nuclear fears to gain public support

We've just heard that the two new nuclear reactors in Taishan, Guangdong, "did not receive the most updated safety tests before installation" ("French warning on nuclear reactors", April 10).

Since the announcement by China General Nuclear, the company that also runs the Daya Bay plant, of the construction of this new plant in one of China's most densely populated regions, there have been fears of an accident.

And now we hear that the French manufacturer could have been supplying the project with substandard material. High-quality steel is paramount to the containment of highly radioactive sludge and to shield the surrounding areas from harmful rays released by the fuel cores, all of which adds to the anxiety of the public.

Having suffered continuous delays, the billion-dollar project may have to be virtually rebuilt should the pending investigation find any part of the steel casing unable to shield radiation. However, it is not the money that is at stake here. The real problem is the citizens' concern for this undoubtedly dangerous project.

Furthermore, what's disturbing is the company's reluctance to address the real problem: confidence. If the public has no confidence in the company, there will be a shortage of much-needed support for the project.

Instead of the project managers' denying breaches in safety protocol and alienating themselves from the public, citizens would just like them to step out and admit flaws, and reassure us, in word and deed, that this project will be safe and efficient for everyone.

We know, because of limitations in resources, that nuclear power is the future of power generation. But what's keeping people from support of such projects is fear of accidents and of the unknown.

What China General Nuclear really needs to do is inform and educate the public on the need for nuclear power and the safety precautions taken because, if they can admit, we can forgive.

Ho Ching Leung, Wong Chuk Hang

Green belts of 'ordinary' trees have value

I note the response from the Planning Department ("Government trying to meet community's development needs", April 8) to my letter. Planning may be a continuous process, responding to the needs and aspirations of the community, but is the review of green belts conducted with full regard to relevant planning principles, as stated?

In the past, if a developer had come forward with a proposal to develop a 30-year-old fully wooded site, it would have been rejected or, at the very least, the developer would have been required to carry out various full impact assessments before it was considered, not the simple technical assessments carried out by the various departments.

Green belts used to be protected and their value as environmental buffers recognised. Now that value seems to have different classifications; if a green belt is conveniently situated next to roads and other infrastructure, it is threatened.

Most of the wooded green belts are composed of ordinary trees, which are deemed to have no ecological or conservation value by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, and the Planning Department uses this as a reason for allowing development.

I am not disputing the other proposals highlighted in the response but green belts which are natural habitats should be protected, irrespective of them being composed of "ordinary" trees; the Convention on Biological Diversity requires that.

Using the reasoning that there is plenty of land elsewhere zoned a green belt is a smokescreen, as much of it is not accessible and does not justify the felling of many hundreds of 30-year-old trees, which will be the result of this exercise.

Allan Hay, Tai Po

Visa restriction on citizens violates rights

Article 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which China is a signatory, states that "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country". By requiring its citizens to obtain exit visas, and thereby implicitly exercising the right to prevent someone from leaving, China is already in violation of the declaration.

The new restrictions on the ability of Shenzhen residents to travel is a further step up in that violation. This seems to have gone completely unnoticed.

What is shocking is the rank hypocrisy of people who claim to be "democrats" or "freedom lovers" but are quite happy to limit other people's rights to freedom of movement when the consequences of that freedom don't suit them.

If a mainlander wants to travel, the mere fact of having to ask the permission of anyone, let alone of someone who has never been elected and exercises arbitrary power delegated to them by other unelected people, is demeaning and humiliating; it is also a breach of international law.

I can only imagine the righteous indignation of Hongkongers if they had to ask permission every time they wanted to go anywhere. Deal with parallel traders and unruly tourists, yes, but don't swill in your own hypocrisy and encourage the breaking of international law in the process.

Lee Faulkner, Lamma Island

US has cause for concern over China

I refer to Alex Lo's column of April 17 ("US senators undermine rational policy") where he displays his patriotism. I agree with his assessment of the Middle East, where US senators appear to take more direction from Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than their own president. However, in the South China Sea, China's "nine-dashed line" was opportunistic and is now provocative. It totally ignores the rational exclusive economic zones of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Lo thinks that China's reclamation and construction just matches what everyone else has been doing. I guess he is simply not aware that China appears to be building a 3,000-metre runway, together with deep port facilities, at Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands. This is not a tourist destination. It is natural for US lawmakers to get "edgy".

K. Y. Leung, Shouson Hill