Letters to the Editor, August 03, 2015

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 August, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 August, 2015, 9:26am

Community spirit lacking in estates

I refer to two seemingly unrelated matters - the sad death of a young schoolgirl and that of a couple of men in a shared flat in Tin Shui Wai. But there is one thing in common, ignorance.

Unfortunately in his column ("Too many of our teachers lack empathy", July 27) instead of handling his analysis objectively, Alex Lo, as is his wont, raises his known prejudices about churches.

Any type of school may have staff unused to crisis and ignorant about handling it. It is better to advise the well-funded Education Bureau to discuss with principals and to advise on systems in place for common-sense action.

In the UK, a teacher felt forbidden, by rules on touching children, to help an ignorant child on a school trip to put on sun-block lotion. This resulted in the child suffering severe sunburn.

Similarly, with the tragedy in Tin Shui Wai, it is about ignorance and fear.

In any form of housing, public and private, but particularly in new developments, neighbours often do not know each other and do not like to interfere or to question their neighbours. They are worried that a show of interest could backfire. We must combat this attitude and say that it is OK and safe to interfere.

The Housing Department and private housing estates could organise periodic community programmes, and free health consultations.

They could emphasise the importance of safety on the estate, and caring for your neighbour. This could be done through attractive, prominently displayed posters, which would include the helpline phone numbers of the housing management, community services, police and ambulance services.

During hospital visits, the elderly, the disabled and their carers should be advised and given informative leaflets.

There used to be attractive community and family life education programmes. Similar programmes should exist to ensure community cohesion in estates.

The otherwise excellent "emergency help at the press of a button" [from the Personal Emergency Link Service] may not be much use to mentally or severely physically incapacitated people.

Tom Mulvey, Wan Chai

Women now have more opportunities

It is good that now, thanks to fundamental socio-economic changes in Hong Kong (from industrial to service-oriented economy), there are more jobs available to women.

The living standards of Hong Kong people have improved because of these changes and they have more in the way of a disposable income. In this modern society, it is clear women are as competent as men in the workplace.

I am glad I was born into a society where women and men are equal.

There are still differences in roles. For example, women will often stay at home after their children are born to take care of them.

But it is now accepted that, if they choose to, they can return to work. They also have the opportunity to have more training, which can help them further their careers.

Suen Hoi-ken, Yau Yat Chuen 

Flat owners calling for accountability

I refer to the report, "Luxury flat owners in row over management company" (July 18).

I write on behalf of a group of owners of flats in this residential estate, Parc Palais, in Ho Man Tin. We are concerned about the issue of accountability between the building management company and owners.

Urban Property Management has been the management company at Parc Palais for the past 11 years. It gave three-months' notice in May. The owners' committee proceeded to public tender for a new company, and had the backing to do this with 55 per cent of the vote at a meeting in June.

Subsequently, some of us were surprised to learn that some owners wanted to retain Urban. They called another meeting on July 7, which removed the owners' committee by a vote of 55 per cent to 45 per cent and a new committee was elected. We were then shocked to learn on July 17 that Urban had withdrawn its notice to quit and the tendering process was cancelled. We had expected a number of management companies to bid for the contract.

Between 2012 and 2015, the owners' committee increased its reserves from HK$2.7 million to HK$7.9 million. It clearly strictly monitored the tendering of all contracts, and scrutinised Urban's management of the estate. By doing so, it was able to make substantial savings for owners.

The committee wanted to continue with these strict standards of accountability and appears to have met with strong resistance.

Hong Kong is a highly developed and prosperous city. With management companies in housing estates, residents should not have to tolerate any lack of transparency. These companies should be willing to embrace strict accountability.

We urge all owners to accept our call for the public tender process to go ahead so that a new management company can be selected.

M. Chan, for a group of Parc Palais owners 

Lower-calorie meals would be popular

I refer to the letter by Mary Wong Ming-yuet ("No need to offer healthy menu in city", July 29).

A healthier menu for McDonald's and other fast-food chains is definitely needed in Hong Kong.

Some people might think that McDonald's is selling snacks and the long queues at counters prove the popularity of the current menu, but I disagree.

The long queues normally appear during lunch hours in business districts. Take Admiralty as an example. White-collar workers find it and other fast-food chains are the cheapest choice and that is why they go there.

The popularity of McDonald's results not from the menu, but from the limited choice of budget restaurants.

I always choose it because it is cheaper, but I try and find healthy options on the menu, for example, paying a bit more to switch from fries to sweet corn with my meal.

I think many customers would welcome a decision by McDonald's in Hong Kong to offer healthier means, especially if they have limited meals. They could then have a nutritious dish at a reasonable price.

In Australia, customers can exchange fries for a garden salad at no extra cost. This gives regular McDonald's customers a healthier choice.

As well as offering the original menu with the same cooking method and ingredients, McDonald's in Australia also has meals with lower calories, such as a McWrap and salad.

This dual policy that operates in Australia could be adopted here, rather than doing away with the original menu altogether.

Hiram Liu, Causeway Bay

Laws against discrimination are flawed

Over the last few years, the government has passed legislation in an effort to crack down on various forms of discrimination in the workplace.

This is in response to widespread discrimination in society as a whole.

It may at first appear as if these laws have achieved their aims and are ensuring a level playing field for everyone. But I think there are loopholes that make legislation less effective.

Even after the government has introduced a new law, it is very difficult to monitor different workplaces and ensure there is no discrimination.

For example, during an interview an employer may decide that he does not want to accept a candidate because that person comes from an ethnic minority or is disabled, but will not actually say that.

It can be difficult to ascertain the real reason for a company refusing a candidate who has applied for a job. The firm can just say it was not satisfied with that person's CV.

Another problem is that employees who feel they are victims of discrimination may be afraid to come forward and make a complaint against their employer, because they want to keep their jobs.

Another form of discrimination that is difficult to prove is when, say, someone from an ethnic minority is given a difficult or particularly unpleasant job that no one else wants to do.

Bullying in the workplace, again, perhaps based on someone's race, can be difficult to prove and act against. Again, in these instances, the aggrieved employee may be reluctant to act. They know how difficult it could be to find another job.

It is high time the government undertook an overall review of its anti-discrimination legislation. It should look closely at these laws to determine how effective they really are, identify the loopholes and deal with them.

Hung Cheuk-yin, Yau Tong

Best option is to cut waste at source

With Hong Kong's three landfills being almost full, the government is going to build an incinerator.

I believe it will bring problems because of pollution and I would rather the administration focused on reducing the amount of waste that is generated.

We can all help through the decisions we make as consumers. For example, when we shop, we can choose products with less wrapping, as most of it is useless.

Also, most of the waste going into the landfills is food waste. Levels of awareness must be raised. At restaurant buffets, for example, we should only put as much food on our plates as we are able to eat.

The priority should be to reduce waste at source.

Cheung Nga-ying, Yau Yat Chuen