Letters to the editor, December 14, 2015

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 December, 2015, 9:30am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 December, 2015, 9:30am

HK should be ‘greening’ at its own pace

Simon Blore compares Hong Kong with Singapore, Sydney, San Francisco and New York in his article “Urban haven” (December 3), but I think the comparison is unreasonable. Hong Kong is a business-oriented city, where the pace of life is fast, and its harbourfront development is limited.

Besides, the government has already done a great job adding more greenery, public space and amenities. There are more harbourfront developments now than before. For example, the Kwun Tong Promenade now covers some 4.2 hectares and includes a 1km seaside boardwalk. The Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Kowloon has a 23,000 sq m rooftop garden, while Tamar Park in Admiralty includes many large green carpets and landscape gardens. These are just a few improvements.

There’s also a suggestion that more people in Hong Kong should cycle as part of their daily commute. It is true that there is a lack of cycling paths here for travelling around. However, that is not the reason why few people cycle to work or school in Hong Kong. Hongkongers demand speed and convenience. Riding a bicycle is not feasible, especially when you need to be properly attired for work or school.

It is true that Hong Kong is not as green as other countries but it has its own obstacles and difficulties. Perhaps it is more practical to just do our best to be environmentally friendly, instead of making drastic changes to our infrastructure.

Genevieve Mok, Yau Tong

What of the role of overseas judges?

Mr Michael Lintern-Smith, past president of the Law Society, raised an interesting point at the lunchtime talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club earlier this month: whether Hong Kong should follow New Zealand in having the Court of Appeal as the final appellate jurisdiction (“Hong Kong’s judiciary ‘sleepwalking to 2047’”, December 3). He was, of course, speaking of the post-2047 situation.

As everyone knows, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984, called for the creation of a Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong, to replace the Privy Council sitting in London. Hence that court is entrenched in the Basic Law, with its panel of distinguished overseas judges, who have contributed so much to its work, and continue to do so.

If the common law continues to be the governing legal system post-2047, many questions would still arise concerning the court structure, including the role of overseas judges at that time. Whilst conferring final appellate jurisdiction on the Court of Appeal may appear to promote efficiency and cost-effectiveness, one question would be this: would overseas judges be prepared to sit in such a court?

Some would argue that if a system works, don’t fix it.

Henry Litton, Sawtell, New South Wales, Australia

Big jump in car numbers a major factor

Any measures which aim to reduce air pollution in Hong Kong are to be supported by those of us who enjoy breathing on a regular basis, and so it is encouraging to hear the progress being made by the Environmental Protection Department in cleaning up our air (“Using a multipronged strategy to curb air pollution in Hong Kong”, December 7).

However, despite the department’s efforts, air pollution continues to be a significant problem in Hong Kong, and much of this comes from transportation sources. I wonder if anyone in the department has thought to talk to anyone in the Transport Department in order to find out why it has allowed the number of private cars registered in Hong Kong to jump by 40 per cent since 2003?

Possibly this may have something to do with it.

In his letter outlining the department’s work to tackle air pollution, Mok Wai-chuen, assistant director of the department’s air policy, said between mid-December 2011 and October 2015, law enforcement officers issued penalty tickets to 186 drivers for idling their engines. That’s about four a month.

I am not a trained environmental protection officer but I suggest that on any day of the week, I would be able to find five motorists in five minutes who are idling their engines.

Stephen Potts, Sheung Shui

More to do to shield us from pollutants

Mok Wai-chuen said the government is “determined to protect public health” (“Using a multipronged strategy to curb air pollution in Hong Kong”, December 7). I appreciate the efforts of the government to phase out pre-Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles, strengthen emission testing for LPG cars and control the sulphur content in marine emissions.

Yet, the government has to do more to minimise citizens’ air pollutant intake. The launch of the Air Quality Health Index is not significant enough to protect citizens’ health.

I suggest the government construct windows on footbridges in heavy traffic areas, such as Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok, to isolate citizens from the busy traffic. Air pollutants emitted from vehicles spread around the atmosphere. A closed footbridge can isolate users from harmful nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and other pollutants.

The government has paid appreciable effort in alleviating air pollution in Hong Kong. However, it still has a long way to go.

Cindy Lo, Tseung Kwan O

A poor record by most measures

Mok Wai-chuen’s defence of the Environmental Protection Department’s competence in battling our declining air quality is laughable. He states that from “mid-December 2011 to the end of October 2015, law enforcement officers timed 4,712 vehicles with idling engines and issued fixed penalty tickets to 186 drivers who violated the ordinance”; this equates to about four tickets per month. Is this a result to be proud of?

The lethargic attitude of the department and traffic wardens is reprehensible and requires a strategic rethink of the ridiculous Strategic Traffic Enforcement Policy, which was established in 1993 with a primary aim of the “maintenance of smooth traffic flows” but has simply allowed police to avoid dealing with the plethora of illegally parked cars that on a daily basis block our roads.

That he concludes by stating “drivers are now generally more mindful of switching off idling engines than before” clearly reflects his department’s utter ignorance of the continuous abuse of the idling law on virtually every street in Hong Kong.

Mark Peaker, The Peak

Don’t kill youth’s interest in science

I would like to draw attention to the way science is taught in Hong Kong schools.

Students enrolled in the Hong Kong Diploma for Secondary School curriculum are losing their enthusiasm and curiosity for science. First of all, the syllabus is extensive and local schools mainly focus on training their students to get a high grade in exams. Often, students don’t have enough time to do interesting experiments.

Secondly, students are under constant pressure to drill for exams. It makes them exhausted, and by the time they are done with exams, they lose their enthusiasm for the subject.

Unfortunately, enthusiasm and curiosity hold the key to studying science. If students don’t have that, it doesn’t matter what they know or don’t know; none of their knowledge will be put to good use.

Thus, if the government is serious about promoting science and technology, it must change the way science is taught.

It can trim the syllabus. This way, teachers will have more time to do interesting experiments with students, and the students are less stressed about studying for exams.

Nancy Lam, To Kwa Wan

Students must learn to handle the pressure

The Territory-wide System Assessment is much criticised for putting too much pressure on primary school students. Parents complain about the excessive homework. I have to say to those parents: don’t make a big fuss over a minor issue.

When I was a primary school pupil, I took the TSA test, and I missed the last page of my maths test. To be honest, I didn’t prepare for any of my TSA test. I, too, had over 10 pieces of homework every day. And I was not alone. Handling the pressure is a core lesson for every student.

The TSA does not bring stress to students; the schools and parents do. Over the years, schools have begun to care more about their ranking, and they push their students hard.

Parents, too, are to blame. If they think the TSA is not essential, why do they put emphasis on it? For a start, they should stop forcing their children to join extracurricular activities in which they have no interest.

Being a tutor of primary school kids, I noticed that many children have poor concentration. They can only focus their minds on a task over a short time and get distracted easily.

Parents think the workload is heavy. There is a lot to do, for sure, but I think the workload is reasonable.

Stop criticising the curriculum; we all lived through it. What we should do is to help and teach the kids to overcome the pressure. Time management and self-discipline help students perform well.

Rico Lam Man-Ho, Ma On Shan