Letters to the Editor, November 5, 2015

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 November, 2015, 3:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 November, 2015, 4:32pm

Our workload is the real problem

People who believe legislating standard working hours will lighten employees' workload are living in utopia ("Work-life balance worsening, says study", October 29). Legislating standard working hours will not lighten their workload, but will further worsen the work-life balance of workers.

The concept is not difficult to understand: imagine you are next to Victoria Harbour. The distance between the shores is working time, the ships are employees and the discharge is the workload. In case of reclamation works, the distance between the shores is shortened but the volume of discharge remains. The waves will be stronger and the ships suffer due to declined navigational safety.

The same applies to our work situation: If the company keeps developing, the workload is not reduced. However, if standard working hours are legislated, and if the employees would like to keep their job by not lowering their productivity, their only way is to bring work home. I cannot see how employees will benefit from this.

Without the legislation, employees have to work overtime during the weekdays to finish their work, but the hours are considered working hours; if the law is passed, the extra work will be done on employees' own time. Employees do not receive the wage they deserve.

If the root problem of having too much work is not solved, the legislation will show limited effectiveness or even bring more harm than good.

Bella Chu, Ma On Shan


Low-income workers need the extra pay

Legislating standard working hours would limit the time people spend working in their offices, but it would fail to restrict the quantity of work given to them by their employers. The result is, workers would have to sacrifice their rest and leisure time to complete their work.

Such a law not only would not reduce the work of general workers, but would adversely affect those who are less well-off. Workers with less complicated jobs like cleaning and washing are usually paid little, and they often rely on extra wages earned from working overtime to increase their income. Yet, as this legislation discourages overtime work, employers would have to bear higher costs by being required to pay more for overtime work.

Quite likely, employers would rather hire part-time workers than ask the employee to work longer hours, to reduce their operating costs. These full-time employees would lose the chance of earning extra pay, and may have to look for additional part-time jobs to make ends meet. Their workload in their full-time jobs may be lightened, but their total workload would not be reduced.

Helen Leung, Tseung Kwan O


Simply, a good diet helps cut cancer risk

I would like to provide a meaningful interpretation of a recent World Health Organisation report linking colorectal cancer to consumption of processed meat and red meat ("WHO tries to reduce heat on red meat report", October 31).

Processed meat, like sausages, have been salted, cured or smoked to enhance flavour and improve preservation. This processing leads to the formation of potentially carcinogenic chemicals in the products.

The concern with red meats - beef, pork and lamb - has more to do with the cooking. Grilling, pan-frying and barbecuing meats creates potential carcinogens.

However, there are several ways to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, which has a high prevalence rate in Hong Kong. People who eat diets rich in fruits, vegetables and fibre (coarse grains) are at lower risk, as are those who exercise.

The facts are here; make an informed choice about what you should eat to protect your health.

Dr B. K. Avasthi, Discovery Bay

No forgetting the indignity of white rule

Richard Harris writes of living in Zimbabwe in the '60s with its "blue skies and freedom" ("Politics of prize-giving", October 30). His column was no more than an attack on Robert Mugabe, who after many years of solitary confinement in the white man's prison was elected president.

Mr Harris wrote of a "glorious existence of being a 10-year-old boy" playing rugby and cricket with his non-white neighbours (who knew no freedom). I also lived in what Mr Harris described as "the middle of Africa" in the '60s. The prime minister then was Ian Smith, who declared independence from UK sovereignty, representing only the tiny white minority of Southern Rhodesia.

Make no mistake. The majority of the whites living under those blue skies enjoyed the same privileges as the whites living across the border under the jackboots of the apartheid regime. Smith and South Africa's leaders were reviled by all in the so-called democratic West whilst Mr Harris enjoyed playing sport with Mark Chavunduka.

John Charleston, Tuen Mun


Next, a peace prize for China?

Kudos and many thanks to Richard Harris for giving his readers much to think about, and for giving me the chance to have a good laugh ("Politics of prize-giving", October 30). In today's world where deranged dictators like Robert Mugabe, Bashar al-Assad and Kim Jong-un exist on this planet, Mr Harris' clear-eyed assessment of the recipient of the Confucius Peace Prize and its implications says it all.

Confucius must be spinning in his grave to know that a scoundrel who has ruined his country is not just being lauded but has been egged on by the leader of a nation seeking economic and territorial domination.

It may gladden my heart to know that the UN has agreed on the relevance of international law over territorial disputes after my country's David has dared to challenge Goliath's claim. But I know full well that if a ruling is made on the legality of the Philippine case, China will go its usual cavalier way by ignoring it and hypocritically declaring its desire for harmony with its neighbours.

How now any peace prize?

Isabel Escoda, Mui Wo


Identification of at-risk trees is ongoing

I refer to the article "'Poor tree care puts green heritage at risk'" (October 23) urging the government to switch the focus from risk management to tree care to protect the city's green heritage.

The government places great value in the heritage of our tree assets. The fact is, tree risk management and tree care are one and the same. That said, the article has raised the important subject of the life-cycle of our ageing tree assets.

Trees have a natural cycle. They grow, age, become weak and eventually pass away. A tree's growth is subject to a combination of internal or bio-physical constraints as well as environmental factors. The denser our urban environment becomes, the more pressure our urban trees will be under.

Many of our old and valuable trees are in their natural decline, which cannot be arrested despite all good intentions and efforts. Our tree risk management programme is in place to balance the considerations from the diverse spectrum of our community. This includes, among others, balancing the risk to green heritage and public safety.

Minimising tree risk involves a range of mechanisms, including proper arboricultural practices. The government is striving to positively build capacity for our budding arboricultural profession and continually improve the quality standards. This complements the ongoing maintenance regime by our tree management departments. We do not "just wait for the tree to really show it's in trouble or becoming a problem, then we do something".

Our tree care regime also includes the Tree Risk Assessment and Management guidelines. Their purpose is to identify the risk before it becomes a problem. All "tree experts" know this.

We fully agree with Professor Jim Chi-yung's observation that we need to "step up tree assessment to make sure that more unsafe trees can be identified". That is exactly what we are doing.

Deborah Kuh, head of Greening, Landscape and Tree Management Section, Development Bureau


Let's focus on building 'clean' incinerator

Referring to the letter "Incinerator important but planned for the wrong location" (October 13), I think its location is not the most important thing that Hong Kong needs to deal with. Instead, improving the skills and technique of building the incinerator is the solution.

As the letter writer pointed out, Switzerland can build an incinerator with no bad smells or harmful pollutants. I think the Hong Kong government should consider this solution in order to make the incinerator more environmentally-friendly and harmless to citizens' health.

Tiffany Lau, Hung Hom