Letters to the Editor, July 27, 2015
Helping hand in schools can save lives
The report by the Child Fatality Review Panel ("More Hong Kong children commit suicide than die in accidents, study reveals", July 10) is at once dreadful news and yet not totally surprising to us at the Samaritan Suicide Prevention Hotline.
In our youth outreach programme to teenagers in Hong Kong, more than half of our participants have known someone who has self-harmed or thought about suicide.
Very often peers, rather than parents or teachers, are the first ones troubled teens would turn to.
It has led our organisation to reach out to those places that parents, and even teachers, cannot see: the schoolyard.
When Hong Kong's schools consent to it, we train young, caring Samaritan Ambassadors in the skills of truly listening to fellow students who have lost their way.
With many parents so invested in their children's success and the pressure of examinations, it's not surprising that they can't see - and when they do, cannot accept - the child's inner struggle for the value of their life.
Hong Kong is blessed with these young Samaritans and schools that care for their community to reach out and help.
Deborah Crouch, chief executive, The Samaritans
Revive idea of reclamation at Green Island
There is unceasing debate and discussion on how Hong Kong can acquire more land for new town development, for building more homes and other projects.
With all the current options that have been outlined for finding available land, surely the least controversial would be a programme of massive land reclamation.
If this was implemented, our country parks could be left intact. In the 1990s, the government had an ambitious, but short-lived, metropolitan plan. It was disclosed to the public and then shelved.
A key part of it is worthy of reconsideration. Land reclamation at the Sulphur Channel, joining Green Island to Hong Kong Island, could generate plenty of land for the uses we need.
Mak Kong-ling, Wan Chai
Fragile rural sites not right for flats
Recent reports on building plans in Tai Po have highlighted the issue of putting residential blocks on green-belt sites.
I would be against using these sites for flats.
They are an integral part of our countryside, and converting them into residential land use would mean destroying the habitats of animals. Some species might become extinct in Hong Kong.
Also, any construction projects would disrupt the lives of nearby villagers, with the noise and dust generated.
The government must come up with other ways to find land for new homes.
Jason Wong Kun-tong, Tseung Kwan O
Sustainable development plan lacking
The term "sustainable development" often appears on government policy statements, corporate annual reports, school curriculums and many other important documents.
The first official strategic study on sustainable development for the city was the Study on Sustainable Development for the 21st Century in Hong Kong (SUSDEV 21), in 1997.
SUSDEV 21 listed a number of sustainability indicators to monitor the progress and defined measurable targets.
Although the government identified goals, there has been a distinct lack of clear strategic direction of sustainable development in policy agendas over the last decade.
In this regard Hong Kong lags far behind other places in the region, such as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. Without a strategic framework, there will be no clear direction for urban planning.
This will ultimately lead to disorganised urban designs, which could lead to a waste of resources, prove hazardous to ecologically sensitive areas, and as a result generate public anger.
A sustainable development strategy should aim to stabilise Hong Kong, where people have a high quality of living. There should be sound planning strategies in place which prevent financial crises and degradation of the natural environment.
Policymakers have to increase prosperity but, at the same time, protect the environment. They must meet the public's needs and aspiration without damaging future generations' prospects.
The quality and quantity of natural resources must be thoroughly examined.
When drafting its strategy, the government should incorporate international sustainable development law and best practices into any proposed legislation, and this should be done in a timely manner.
Further, regular engagement with stakeholders will be needed to ensure the strategy is embraced by the mainstream of society, including government departments and bureaus, the business sector and the public.
Public awareness towards a sustainable lifestyle has to be raised.
The indicators for achieving sustainable development include quality of built environment, energy efficiency, water quality, efficient public transport networks and citizens' well-being.
Efforts to improve them should be examined temporally in order to ensure Hong Kong's international economic status and its competitiveness.
Karen Lee, Ma On Shan
Greeks have squandered bailout funds
I refer to your editorial ("Greeks deserve a better deal", July 15).
I should just like to remind readers that in the last five years the Greek government has received more than €250 billion (HK$2.1 trillion) in economic aid from EU countries.
This is 34 times the amount the German Federal Republic received as Marshall Plan aid [after the second world war].
In Germany we have a word - Wirtschaftswunder. It means rolling up your sleeves and rebuilding a broken-down economy efficiently and successfully. In this regard what have the poorly treated Greeks done?
Don't blame those German citizens who think their aid to Greece has been wasted wilfully by the recipients.
This is why they are hesitant about paying for another bailout programme, which will no doubt also end going down the drain.
Udo Weiss, Heidelberg, Germany
Sensible use of YouTube is important
I know a lot of teenagers love using YouTube, and it is so easy to access on their smartphones. However, they need to be warned to use it wisely.
They should take care what they watch, as some material on will be unsuitable for young people. There may be videos that are violent and that impressionable youngsters could find deeply upsetting.
Also, if they watch too much of YouTube, it could affect their academic performance. That is the problem with cellphones. There is so much entertainment available at the touch of a button. But the more time they spend on YouTube, the less time they have for revision.
Parents must have a strong supervisory role and warn children not to spend too much time on YouTube and not to watch unsuitable material.
Olivia Wong Pui-yin, Kowloon City
Israeli teams help villagers hit by quake
I am on holiday from Israel and read the report about the victims of the earthquake in Nepal ("Helping hand for a shaken nation", July 21).
I would like to mention the Israeli assistance to Nepal.
The Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC) is an organisation comprising 20 volunteer organisations working mainly in psychological and social areas. It has gone to remote and poor villages hit hard by the quake. ITC teaches community leaders and professional teams to cope with present and future disasters.
Around 115 community leaders have taken part in these teaching classes, learning how to cope with traumatic events and to be prepared to deal with such events in the future.
Sometimes we forget about psychological aspects of international assistance, which are no less important than material aid.
Ephraim Aviram, Jerusalem
Why mainland citizens choose polar option
Many mainland citizens, when choosing their holidays, are now deciding on exotic locations such as the North and South poles ("Going south: more wealthy Chinese opt for 'experiential' holidays in the Antarctic", July 22).
This has been made possible because of China's remarkable economic progress. It has led to many citizens becoming rich and using some of that money to travel outside Asia.
But they should be aware of possible hostility in places such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and Hong Kong. Perhaps they should avoid those and choose different holiday destinations.
Joey Chung, Kwai Chung