Flats in country parks back on the agenda. Photo: Dickson Lee

Letters to the Editor, November 18, 2015

The attacks on Paris and Lebanon show, once again, the cold-blooded and shameless nature of members of the group known as Islamic State (IS).

They kill innocent people and, in the areas of Iraq and Syria they have occupied, they force many women into sexual slavery.

It is clear that governments from different countries have to do more than the air strikes on IS-controlled territories.

While air strikes might make some impact in the short term, the leaders of countries such as the US and France must work together to come up with a long-term solution.

We need to try and ask why IS exists in the first place. The group seems to thrive on sectarian strife.

There are still people with set beliefs who refuse to practise religious tolerance and respect religions other than their own. Some of them move towards extremism, preach hate and join groups like IS. Governments need to try and deal with religious intolerance within their own borders.

Some people see no distinction between Islam and IS. I think that is wrong.

I have communicated with Muslims and found they are nothing like IS. Most Muslims are sincere believers in their faith. But they are moderate and they condemn the evil cult of IS.

IS commits its atrocities in the name of Islam and "God", but its evil creed has nothing to do with Islam. I hope that in the near future, IS will be destroyed.

Police force missed great opportunity

I refer to the report "Police sidestep questions about Facebook page" (November 5).

I welcomed the decision of the Hong Kong Police Force to introduce a new Facebook page and saw it is a great public relations exercise.

I felt it gave citizens another way of expressing their views about issues to the government. However, I do not think the police have used it properly.

People are free to leave their comments on this Facebook page, but a police source said that the possibility of taking action against anyone over their comments could not be ruled out.

That response would seem to suggest that the force is not making a genuine effort to ensure better channels of communication with Hong Kong people. It appears that despite the opportunities presented by social media, the status quo remains.

Even if there are comments on this page that are heavily critical of the force, the police should refrain from taking any action.

They should simply ignore any offensive comments and use the site to try and present a more positive and open-minded image of the force to the public.

I refer to the report "CY floats use of country park land to build homes" (November 11).

I agree with those who argue that country park land should be used to build new homes. Hong Kong is small and has a lot of hilly terrain. There is only so much available land in urban areas that could be used for housing.

A relatively small number of new flats are being completed every year and so prices keep rising.

About 40 per cent of land in Hong Kong comprises country parks and most residents are packed into densely populated urban districts.

There can be more even distribution of the population if country park land is used to build flats. As a result, many more private flats would be available and prices would drop, enabling more people to own a home. New towns could be developed on country park land on Lantau and in the New Territories. Citizens would then enjoy a better living environment.

This would be good news for young people. Few can afford the present high prices and if they apply for a public estate flat, they face a long wait.

Skyrocketing prices of apartments exacerbate social divisions. If more people can own a flat, then I think we would see less social disharmony.

I also believe that the government needs to look at redeveloping older urban areas and the potential from land reclamation projects.

The housing problem in Hong Kong seems to be getting worse.

People are faced with rising house prices and rents and the demand for public housing has greatly increased over the past few years.

As one way of solving this housing problem, the chief executive has suggested using some country park land of low ecological value for residential buildings. I do not think this is a sustainable approach.

Hong Kong was once a small fishing village surrounded by mountains and trees. But now we have so many high-rise buildings and that has brought pollution problems, such as the "wall effect" in urban areas.

We should be thinking about future generations. Do we want them to live in an environment where no country parks remain?

How do we determine what country park land is of low ecological value? It is very subjective and areas that some people see as being of low ecological value, others might consider to be very important.

In urban areas, we already have very little green space. I feel the government has to come up with other solutions rather than building in our country parks.

We should not look to these parks as a solution to our housing problems. Other solutions must be considered by the government.

A recent survey showed that English standards are declining in Hong Kong.

According to the global survey, the level of proficiency here is now below Shanghai, Beijing, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia.

I think the main reason for this decline is Hong Kong's education system.

It is exam-based and students' priority is to learn English in such a way that they can do well in exams. Young people would not say they learn the language so that, for example, they can communicate with foreigners. Instead, they would say their aim is to get good marks in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.

After they have finished the exam, many will not continue with the language. Changes are needed to the education system and the learning attitude of Hong Kong students.

I refer to your editorial ("HK must polish English skills", November 12).

I totally agree that Hong Kong people's English communication skills must improve in order to increase the city's competitiveness.

Even in English-as-medium-of-instruction schools, students who are native Cantonese speakers have very little exposure to English except in class.

They often see learning English as a school assignment rather than a lifelong learning experience. That's why students are reluctant to widen their exposure to English and so their pronunciation is poor.

Students need to improve their communication skills in English. Teaching in schools should not just focus on exams. English should be taught in a more enjoyable way.