Letters to the Editor, July 20, 2015
Supermarkets responsible for so much waste
The plastic bag levy has helped to reduce the use of bags substantially. But, I wonder why nothing much has been said in society about the need to reduce other types of waste in the retail sector.
The landfills are nearing capacity and the government talks about reducing waste at source. But every time I go to a supermarket, I'm annoyed to see so much waste that can be avoided. Take fruit; each item is wrapped in foam nets, put on plastic trays, then covered with cling film. Grapes are put in plastic boxes.
I understand fruit is fragile and needs some protection. But surely it is possible for supermarkets to collect and reuse these plastic trays and boxes, which will otherwise end up in landfills? When I am in supermarkets in Japan, I see lots of refill packs and containers for such products as shampoo, conditioner and milk powder. But in Hong Kong, it is not easy to find these refill items. So you end up buying bottles and tins that end up in landfills.
I have been told by many cleaners in residential buildings that they will not collect plastic for recycling even though residents have separated it, because no recycling firms will buy plastic as they say it is not profitable. So they just treat it like ordinary rubbish.
People are becoming more aware of the need for environmental protection, and most consumers would be happy to use refill packs. The government should require retailers to put more on sale.
Also, when we order food online to be delivered, the restaurant or fast food shop should not put in plastic forks. We have our own cutlery at home.
Tanya Chow, Kowloon City
Green energy has severe limitations
Previous correspondents have called for more green features on buildings, including the use of renewable energy sources from nature, such as solar, wind and water power.
However, overreliance on renewable energy would adversely affect the competitive nature of Hong Kong. It is a highly developed city and an international finance centre and it needs vast amounts of energy to maintain its prosperity. Renewable energy could not satisfy demand or enable the present economic system to function efficiently.
It does not offer a stable or reliable supply of electricity. So having a lot of renewable energy would hurt our international reputation. A drop in wind or lack of sunshine for solar power can affect supply. Potential investors know that all energy needs can be met right now and this must continue.
Also, purchasing a lot of equipment for renewable energy projects such as wind and solar power is expensive. If it was bought by the government, presumably the taxpayer would foot the bill.
Overall, the disadvantages of green buildings outweigh the positive aspects.
Jennifer Hung, Lai Chi Kok
Standing firm in defence of free society
David Webb is renowned for his fastidious attention to detail and his unabashed lack of humility in challenging points that many feel unnecessary.
Hearing him in full oratorical prowess is something to behold. His present battle with the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data reflects his commitment to stand firm for what is right ("'Orwellian' risk of deleting names from website", July 14).
He is to be commended for not caving in to the pressures applied that seek to benefit the few at the expense of the many. A tangled web indeed but one that prevents the Orwellian abuse of Hong Kong's much heralded free and open society.
Mark Peaker, The Peak
Give market more control over land sales
I refer to the report by Sandy Li ("Hong Kong land prices set to rise further as developers rush to buy land", June 24).
Hong Kong property prices peaked in 1997. From August of 1997 to July of 2003, real estate prices plummeted by 70 per cent.
In response, the government introduced the "application list system" in 1999.
The system was an honest way for the government to step back and place the property market into the hands of the market itself. It was a policy to be welcomed. However, it was scrapped in 2013.
Bidders would name a price for a piece of land to the government.
If the price was above the hidden minimum price, only then would the government place the land for auction. Often, the initial bidders would not win the land at the auction.
The bureaucrats, longing for the illusion of control and authority, disliked the fact that the system was one that reduced their control.
It meant that the government had no control over the supply of the land. The hidden minimum prices also meant that bidders were discouraged from making the attempt to auction for land.
The application list system was a competent, demand-driven idea, which was poorly implemented.
Minimum prices of land should have been revealed in order to increase the transparency for bidders to bid for the land and allow it to be put up for auction.
I miss the days of this land list system. We need to bring it back, but this time, with the minimum prices revealed.
It is time we learned to take control of our land here in Hong Kong, the place we proudly call home, and take it out of the hands of detached bureaucrats.
Saanal Deshpande, research assistant, Lion Rock Institute
Flats plan will need public consultation
We do not have enough land in Hong Kong on which to build all the houses and flats that are needed for our citizens now and in the future.
Therefore, some people have suggested using some areas of our country parks to build flats.
I can see advantages and disadvantages to such a proposal.
Such a building programme would certainly help to bring the government closer to its target figure for the number of flats it wants to see built each year.
Obviously, with such extensive country parks, there is a lot of available land.
However, they provide important habitats for wildlife and these habitats and the animals that depend on them could be threatened.
I believe that before any decision is made for such an important policy to be introduced, there would have to be extensive public consultation, perhaps even allowing people to vote on this issue in a referendum.
At the very least, there would have to be a full and lengthy consultation process over such an important issue before the government agreed to go ahead with a building programme in our country parks.
Leo Ho, Tseung Kwan O
Visa change has meant quieter streets
I think the new visa policy introduced in April for permanent residents from Shenzhen, limiting them to one visit per week, has brought advantages and disadvantages.
When it was announced, I was not convinced it would solve the problem of parallel traders, which was the intention.
While it restricts traders who live on the mainland, obviously there are no restrictions on those traders who are Hong Kong residents and who face no limits on trips over the border. So we will still see a lot of these people buying daily necessities and transporting them to sell on the mainland.
Despite this, the policy has resulted in improvements for Hong Kong people.
With fewer mainland visitors, the streets and public transport systems are not as crowded as before.
Residents in the worst affected areas near the border probably stayed at home at weekends, but now they can go out and relax. It has also helped to reduce tensions between Hongkongers and mainlanders and can enhance social harmony.
With all the mainland visitors and traders, there were complaints about the accumulation of huge volumes of refuse in Sheung Shui.
There will now be less rubbish and less pressure on our landfills, which are almost full.
In the worst-affected areas, prices had risen for essential products needed by citizens.
With fewer mainlanders, that demand has dropped and, hopefully, so will prices.
Shop owners will do this in order to attract local customers.
It will mean lower profits, but it is good news for local consumers, who already have to cope with a high cost of living.
Joe Luk, Tai Po
Thriving on KFC and McDonald's
I refer to the letter by Lee Chun-tung ("Far too many citizens eat a lot of fast food", July 2).
I think the quality of fast food is quite good. It helps me get through five or six hours of clerical work (with an additional helping of noodles). I sleep comfortably at night and then have my next intake at breakfast.
When I go to the branches of McDonald's and KFC near my office in Sha Tin, few of the regular customers are obese.
Maybe this is due to their hectic workload, and they burn off the calories without harming their health.
Fast food is convenient, good value for money and the outlets are easy to get to. If you have a quick fast-food meal, it gives you more time to do other things.
Critics tend to ignore these positive aspects and respond with rather abstract arguments.
Pang Chi-ming, Fanling