Letters to the editor, December 11, 2015

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 December, 2015, 5:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 December, 2015, 5:08pm

Now for big fish in small house scam

I agreed with the letter by K. Y. Leung (“Small-house court ruling is a big deal”, December 4), so was happy to see that the South China Morning Post gave greater prominence to this controversial matter in your subsequent article, “Villagers jailed over rural housing scam” (December 5).

During his speech last week at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, retired judge Henry Litton said a robust and rigorous legal system must be relevant to ordinary people. I also agree; therefore District Court judge Sham Siu-man deserves credit for steadfastly applying the law, and for bluntly stating that this case has clearly shown that the government’s small house policy isn’t working as villagers have no intention of abiding by the law because they wanted only to sell their rights for money.

In complete contrast, the government, particularly the Development Bureau, has been nervously dilly-dallying on this issue for years. I was astonished to read that Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, as the then development minister, had compromised the policy at the behest of Lau Wong-fat, the then chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk. This gives the impression of government appeasing the influential middlemen.

It is noteworthy that the villagers and the developer have been jailed, but the middleman, Sha Tin rural committee chairman Mok Kam-kwai, was never charged. I find it hard to understand that the Independent Commission Against Corruption could not establish a money chain in this case, and it will seem to ordinary citizens that local politics have been in play. Catch the small fish but throw the big fish back into the stream.

I support the view of former lands official Roger Nissim, now with the University of Hong Kong, that this court ruling should be a catalyst for a review of the unsustainable small house policy.

Even the Development Bureau was reported as agreeing that “there was room to review the small house policy”. But I am not holding my breath as this room usually has closed doors and no transparent windows.

Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels

Where will the lead trail end?

I cannot help but read with alarm the news that the drinking water at a public hospital has been found to contain excessive lead (“Drinking water at Hong Kong public hospital found to contain 60 per cent more lead than WHO recommended level”, December 5).

In the recent cases uncovered at public housing estates, I put the problem down to the fault of the contractor. But now a public hospital is found to have the same problem. Does that mean most of us have been drinking water with excessive lead all along? This is inconceivable.

The government has promised to get to the bottom of the incident and all we know now is more and more samples are found with excessive lead. How far will this go?

Chloe Chow, Tseung Kwan O

No need for U-turn on property policy

Latest figures published by the Rating and Valuation Department showed that local property prices dropped moderately after rising for 18 consecutive months (“Rally over as home prices fall from peak”, December 5). Investment banks generally forecast a 10-20 per cent reduction in property price in the coming year, given the potential interest rate hike, increase in housing supply and the slowdown in the mainland economy.

Amid this pessimistic market sentiment, top executives of Hong Kong’s property sector have called on the government to scrap its counter-cycle measures.

Moral problem aside, there is nothing evil for calculated businessmen to make such comments. Their intention is obvious, but their argument is ill-founded since property prices only fell moderately after a protracted increase, which lasted for almost six years. Private property is still perceived by many Hong Kong people as unaffordable.

The government has set the right course by focusing on increasing housing supply and tightening the regulation of the mortgage market.

The general public is expecting the government’s measures to yield positive results in the coming year. A sudden policy U-turn will certainly lead to catastrophic consequences both economically and politically. The government should be vigilant in assessing such policy suggestions.

Stanley Ip, Tseung Kwan O

Fast-rail link will benefit the economy

Albert Cheng believes we should terminate the high-speed rail project (“MTR’s small shareholders should reject proposal to fund overbudget high-speed rail”, December 3). I’d like to ask: if we don’t finish it, what can we do with such a large unfinished project?

On the contrary, we will gain if we continue with it.

Firstly, Hong Kong’s economy will benefit. The high-speed rail links us up with the different provinces and regions on the mainland. The more convenient the transportation channels between us, the more people will come to Hong Kong for business and travel.

The increase in visitor arrivals will profit the retail and hospitality industries, which will strengthen our economy, leading to a higher gross domestic product. This will in turn benefit MTR Corp shareholders.

A high-speed rail system will also produce many job opportunities, not just in the construction industry, but also in the retail and related industries. More jobs will help narrow Hong Kong’s income inequality.

Furthermore, a high-speed rail will bring people closer. Both mainland students in Hong Kong and Hongkongers working on the mainland will spend less time on travel, and more time with their family.

A high-speed rail system may be expensive to build, but its benefits will be uncountable. This includes enhancing Hong Kong’s competitiveness. It must be supported and allowed to continue.

Chan Kwan Tung, Tsuen Wan

Beware hidden agendas in the climate debate

Cheating and corruption plague the climate business. Here are just five examples.

First, we have seen countries and corporations caught cheating – for example, China understating emissions, Volkswagen overstating car engine performance and Indian entrepreneurs building “dirty” factories so they could then close them to earn carbon credits.

Second, we see incompetent or biased reporters failing to mention that drought, floods, fires, storms, hurricanes and melting ice are not unusual and have happened often in the past.

Third, “scientists” ignore the rules of science by claiming effects or correlations as causes, ignoring inconvenient evidence, using dodgy data, and organising “pal review” of dubious papers.

Fourth, we have mendicant island states claiming imminent inundation from rising sea levels despite tide gauges and satellites showing that nothing unusual is happening.

Finally, we see politicians with hidden agendas exaggerating warming dangers while ignoring warming benefits, pushing propaganda as education.

In every exchange of goods and services in the real economy, both parties are alert to ensure honest dealing and real value. Of course, waste, cheating and breach of contract does occur, but is not endemic.

The global warming business, however, thrives on bribes funded by other people’s money. The taxpayer is never present when deals are done, so glad-handing officials and politicians use the funds to pursue their agendas, and the recipients of climate aid do and say whatever is needed to keep the funds flowing. Neither party cares about value for those who pay – taxpayers and energy users.

Viv Forbes, Rosewood, Queensland, Australia

E-learning is not ultimate solution

I don’t agree with the views of Mok Sze-lam (“All Hong Kong schools should embrace e-learning”, December 5).

Students don’t learn as well with e-learning. Now students can find information easily on the internet and knowledge is not prized. They easily forget the information found.

Moreover, e-learning requires rigorous self-discipline. Teachers cannot monitor what students are doing online, so students who don’t have the discipline to keep away from the games on their electronic devices will be distracted.

With e-learning, students will communicate less face to face, and this will hinder social development. The gadgets they use will also become a focus of competition over who has the latest and most expensive.

As for environmental costs, we can encourage reuse and recycling of printed textbooks.

Debby Wong, Tseung Kwan O