Letters to the Editor, July 18, 2015

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 July, 2015, 4:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 July, 2015, 4:48pm

Bad air is from mainland, not the city's traffic

The recent raised level of air pollution experienced in Hong Kong has prompted the usual strident calls to introduce various measures, including limiting traffic.

What is it that people don't get?

There was a tropical storm (Linfa) nearby last week that influenced the regional airflow for a few days.

It changed the predominant airstream, which usually comes from the southwest, to a more northerly one.

And guess what happened? Immediately, levels of air pollution rose steeply. We had not suddenly developed a local problem.

This was simply a case of the terrible air pollution that exists on the mainland, being drawn southwards over Hong Kong by this northerly airstream.

It ceases as soon as the normal seasonal airflow is resumed.

Hong Kong has high standards of emission control for its private and commercial vehicles. Its standards are equivalent to those in Europe. How polluted is it in London, Paris, Frankfurt?

How long has it been since any of your readers saw an old vehicle belching black smoke here in Hong Kong?

That is largely a thing of the past. The majority of small particulate pollution in Hong Kong comes from the mainland. Observe how polluted it is here in the winter when the predominant airflow is from the north and northeast.

This pollution is exacerbated by the local emissions from shipping, diesel construction vehicles and from construction debris.

The press should stop haranguing private motorists. It is very easy to do that, as they cannot answer back.

It is less easy for the Hong Kong government to harass large shipping and construction companies, so they carry on polluting at will.

It is even less easy for the administration to do something about the polluters on the mainland, but that is exactly where it should be focusing its attention.

Alison P. King, Lantau

Sub-degrees are worth thinking about

Many students and their families faced an anxious wait before the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education results were released on Wednesday.

Thousands of students, despite meeting the requirements, will not get places at local universities.

Over the past few days, there have been adverts on TV for sub-degree programmes.

They claim that 70 per cent of their graduates go on to university. Therefore, these sub-degrees could be an opportunity for these students to eventually get a place at a university as undergraduates.

Many people still doubt whether sub-degree graduates can get better jobs than high school graduates. It boils down to a lack of intermediate positions.

However, I really hope the government will promote sub-degree programmes. It should try to help Hong Kong's chambers of commerce and other employers have a better understanding of them.

Then hopefully they will be willing to accept the sub-degree (or associate degree) qualifications.

Carmen Yeung, Ma On Shan

One bank showed caring; HSBC didn't

My wife and I are overseas Hong Kong citizens. We came back from Toronto about two months ago due to a family illness.

My father was diagnosed with lung cancer, and unfortunately the tumour has spread. One of his wishes is to have my name and my brother's name added to his bank accounts.

He has accounts with the Bank of Communications and HSBC.

However, he is too weak to leave hospital, so my brother and I visited both banks and had two very different experiences.

We met the relationship manager at the Bank of Communications. He was very understanding and offered options for opening a joint account. The bank could provide an out-of-office visit to the hospital and have my father sign the paperwork. His doctor would have to be present.

There was a fee for HK$200 plus transportation, which we thought was very fair. We were very impressed by the relationship manager's caring attitude.

A few minutes later, we arrived at the Premier Banking area in HSBC's Des Voeux Road West branch. We asked to see the relationship manager but were told that person was busy.

We waited for more than 20 minutes, but the relationship manager never showed up. After we insisted we speak to someone at management level, a customer service manager finally came. We repeated what we had said at the Bank of Communications. She said unless our father was present at the branch, HSBC could not help. I told her about the Bank of Communications' out-of-office hospital visit.

She said HSBC did not provide such a service and signatures obtained outside the branch would not be accepted. I asked if power of attorney from a lawyer would be acceptable, and was told maybe. She said such legal paperwork would be reviewed by HSBC's legal department, and this could take some time. My brother and I left the branch disappointed that HSBC was not willing to help with my father's request.

I am not familiar with Hong Kong banks, but I expected better customer service from a large financial institution such as HSBC. There was no display of compassion or any flexibility.

Hong Kong has an ageing population. Often elderly people lack mobility, and my father's situation is not unique. HSBC needs to start demonstrating it cares about its customers instead of just focusing on its bottom line.

Albert Chan, Toronto, Canada

Party steps up crackdown on rights lawyers

The Communist Party of China's unrelenting repression of journalists, intellectuals and lawyers is well known.

What is particularly disconcerting about the latest crackdown, however, is the arrest of the prominent human rights lawyers Li Heping, Zhou Shifeng, Wang Yu and Li Zhuyun.

Unlike previous cases, there is increasing evidence that criminal investigations are used in an effort to silence China's human rights lawyers. King's College London law scholar Eva Pils told The New York Times that Beijing feels it has "to do something that goes beyond the level of repression that everybody has already gotten used to".

Despite widespread human rights abuses under President Xi Jinping , the international community remains virtually silent. Yet, the plight of Li Heping and his compatriots is not a matter of China's internal affairs; it is, for many, a matter of life and death.

Brian Stuckey, Denver, Colorado, US

Independent probe into tainted water

Prolonged exposure to lead or other heavy metal poses serious risks to a person's health.

It is the government's responsibility to ensure public safety. In particular, as the developer and manager of public housing estates, the Housing Department has a duty to deal with the lead contamination crisis affecting water supplies and ensure the safety of residents in these estates.

The government's top priority should be locating all sources of lead contamination in the public estates.

Then it must replace all the affected water pipes and waterworks, and arrange for residents to undergo blood tests and whatever medical treatment is deemed necessary.

It is equally important to set up an independent investigation comprising experts and public figures. It should look into the cause of the lead contamination in the water supply and who is at fault.

The government appears to be trying to pass the buck when it comes to who is responsible for this contamination.

However, an important question must be asked. During the construction of a public housing estate, do the Housing and Water Supplies departments, or other relevant departments, have a duty to properly supervise the carrying out of waterworks and vet the material used for the pipes?

Did these departments fail in their duty?

Michael Ko, Tsing Yi

Food trucks would cause problems

There has been some debate about the possibility of introducing food trucks in Hong Kong since the financial secretary first suggested it in his budget speech.

My family runs a restaurant, so I would not support this policy being adopted by the government.

It would hurt the businesses of restaurants.

I think Hongkongers like to try new things. If these food trucks are allowed to operate, people will flock to them to try them out, and restaurants will suffer.

I am also concerned about possible congestion problems if they are parked in a busy and relatively narrow street.

I also think regulating and ensuring good hygiene would be difficult for the relevant government department.

Also, in a busy area with heavy traffic movement, there will be a lot of cars passing by the truck.

There may be problems for the diners connected with dust and roadside pollution even if the quality of the food is acceptable. As diners are eating on the street, there would not be much they could do about this problem.

Cindy Ng, Tseung Kwan O