Letters to the Editor, June 04, 2015

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 June, 2015, 5:08pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 June, 2015, 5:08pm

It is possible to build tasteful columbariums

I refer to the report about a suspected "illegal" columbarium in Tung Chung ("Villagers oppose alleged plans for columbarium", June 1).

The story underscores how poor urban planning has indirectly fuelled the proliferation of illegal private columbariums in Hong Kong.

Public infrastructure pro- jects such as landfills, incinerators and columbariums, are often considered to be such a nuisance that getting them constructed has become a perennial challenge.

While densely populated cities around the world have difficulties dealing with waste management facilities, some have been able to ensure that columbariums can be more community friendly.

For example, in Taiwan and Malaysia, many of the newer columbariums have modern designs that are well integrated with the surrounding neighbourhood.

They have no features that cause a nuisance to others. Also, they tend to offer additional facilities such as libraries and meeting rooms.

As such, these contemporary facilities are an important part of the community infrastructure, rather than gloomy structures that people would not want to visit except on festival days.

There is no reason why Hong Kong needs to lag behind other cities when it comes to designing these buildings to 21st-century standards. The Town Planning Board should be partly responsible for ensuring this happens.

The board must take community views into consideration.

Also, it should have confidence in the public's ability to appreciate and accept good designs - especially after they have been brought into reality.

Architecture and urban design are important expressions of cultural values.

Agencies like the Town Planning Board should work with community stakeholders to help shift public perceptions away from superstition and biased views.

Once it is recognised in a society that columbariums need not be shifted into other people's backyards in remote areas, the private columbarium market will flourish. Legitimate businesses will seize the opportunity to develop properly licensed facilities in conveniently accessible urban locations.

Honouring the memories of loved ones should be an openly-celebrated tradition, rather than something associated with shady business practices.

It is time for the government to play an active leadership role in helping the private columbarium sector thrive and be able to benefit the whole community.

Cliff Ho, Tung Chung

Why Chinese history can help students

In recent years, students in Hong Kong have shown a reluctance to do Chinese history as a subject in school.

They seem to think it is boring and will not prove useful for their future prospects.

There are those in the Education Bureau who would like to see it become a required course.

Students in Hong Kong dread the Chinese language exam paper, because they consider it to be so difficult.

I think that if they studied Chinese history, they would not struggle so much with the language paper.

They might have a better understanding of the background of an article in the exam if they knew more about the nation's past.

I think Chinese history should become a required course in schools in Hong Kong.

Xu Yujing, Shenzhen 

Strong case for fine-tuning school set-up

The government introduced the new senior secondary curriculum to provide students with better preparation for tertiary education.

However, it has to be asked if the reforms have really helped young people to develop their talent.

Students have a lot of freedom when choosing elective subjects, which can be related to their abilities and interests.

The reformed education system also includes independent enquiry study (as part of liberal studies).

However, concerns have been raised that the marking of this subject by teachers may not be objective and it can be difficult for students to score well.

Another way of assessing a student's performance is through the school-based assessment.

While it can help students gain greater self-confidence, it is very time-consuming.

This place quite a heavy burden on teachers and students who already face a tough workload.

I agree with the objectives of the new secondary curriculum, but there is still room for improvement.

The Education Bureau should collect feedback from the stakeholders from time to time and look at ways of fine-tuning the system.

Candy Wong Man-chi, Tai Po

Small-scale agriculture viable in HK

The Legislative Council's panel on food safety and environmental hygiene released its paper on sustainable agricultural development, asking for comments prior to the next meeting on June 9.

The report is typical of the fine theoretical work done by the Hong Kong government.

It gives the impression that everything is fine, but it isn't. There are common-sense solutions that could be implemented. For example, urban gardening and greening could be usefully incorporated into the ever-increasing building on ex-farmed land.

This would be an important measure, given that our urbanised landscape is taking over what was a people-friendly rural habitat.

Where does the general public go to seek advice on, for example, where to get tomato seed that is suitable for the hot and humid Hong Kong climate?

As the report pointed out, Hong Kong departed from its agricultural-fisheries base and is now a services centre. People lost work with the decline of manufacturing and unemployment is still a factor in Hong Kong, as it is in other economies. What is needed in our society is to develop small-scale operations at every level. This should include encouraging the development of the agricultural-fisheries industry.

In the New Territories, there are various organisations such as cooperatives, which are on their last legs. They are the best vehicles to channel information and goods into the hands of those wanting to carry out the work of building a small but sustainable and vibrant agricultural sector.

Tony Henderson, Humanist Association of Hong Kong

Proposals contain chance for progress

In her letter ("Why Democratic Party had to suspend former lawmaker", May 27), Emily Lau Wai-hing, the party's chairperson, questions your editorial characterising the party as authoritarian ("Dissent is part of democracy", May 24).

The Democratic party has a central committee which quickly connotes a common feature of a communist regime, and thus an authoritarian style. Secondly, Ms Lau herself has a hectoring style, which more often than not comes across as inflexible.

As to the issue dividing Nelson Wong Sing-chi and the Democratic Party, Ms Lau and her colleagues seem hell-bent on ignoring the reality of Hong Kong's situation, that is, it is part of China.

The party does not, in Hong Kong's circumstances, offer a more realistic or more practical alternative to the government's electoral reform package which, despite its fundamental flaw, contains the chance for progress.

Surely that is better than a continuation of a government bereft of a mandate, and hampered by the sterile stand-off with the pan-democrats that we now have.

Implementation of the reform package may very well set a new dynamic in motion, the outcome of which may evolve into more genuine democratic development and be beyond Beijing's reasonable control.

Neil Russell, Discovery Bay

Licence plate scheme can cut congestion

The Transport and Housing Bureau has accepted the measures proposed by the Transport Advisory Committee to ease congestion, such as higher licence and registration charges and electronic road pricing.

I am not sure a higher licence fee will matter as most people who own a car in Hong Kong are well-off and could afford the increase.

However, I think the odd-even plate number rule which has been tried out in Beijing could be effective.

Drivers could only bring their car into the city when, say, it was an even-number day and the last digit on the number plate was even.

And it would be same for a driver with an odd number.

This system could decrease the number of cars in urban Hong Kong during peak periods.

The government should also enhance the facilities it offers to cyclists in Hong Kong. If there were more dedicated tracks for two-wheelers, an increasing number of people would be willing to use bicycles and they would become a more common form of transport.

I think we would then see fewer private cars on the roads of Hong Kong.

Kwan Mei-nga, Yau Yat Chuen