Letters to the Editor, December 21, 2015

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 December, 2015, 12:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 December, 2015, 12:15am

Exemptions to competition law are absurd

I refer to the report, “Watchdog lays down monopoly warning” (December 14).

I hope I am not the only one who thinks it absurd that 575 statutory bodies in Hong Kong are exempted from the conduct rules under the Competition ­Ordinance.

The ordinance was introduced to further the interests of consumer welfare and statutory bodies have significant scope to interfere (quite negatively) with the interests of consumer ­welfare. Is it not consistent with the pursuit of fairness, justice, and reasonableness that these bodies should fall within the ­remit of the new law?

Moreover, if the Competition Commission chairwoman Anna Wu Hung-yuk considers a budget of HK$100 million sufficient to cover the cost of future litigation against so-called ­“tigers”, this raises further concerns.

Companies such as Shell and PetroChina, two of the largest petrol station service providers in Hong Kong, would no doubt be able to pay legal bills far exceeding that amount.

This is a serious issue and I invite Ms Wu to re-evaluate what she is likely to achieve with such a pitiful budget. And do not even get me started on the ­number of businesspeople who are competition commissioners. Throw them out and replace them with economists and ­lawyers.

The reason Mario Monti’s department of the EU Commission responsible for competition law enforcement was so ­effective was that he ensured a one-to-one ratio of economists to lawyers. Not a businessperson in sight.

Zack Gould-Wilson, Jardine’s Lookout

Project will fill gap in housing market

I refer to the report, “Doors open at property project for elderly renters” (December 8).

The Tanner Hill project (Hong Kong’s first non-subsidised elderly rental housing project) will not be welcomed by all elderly residents, as the rents are high.

Many will agree with the elderly mother who said she would rather spend a few ­million dollars buying an apartment for her son and his family. This would mean the property was left to the next generation.

Many people like her will not be interested in the North Point project.

­However, there is no doubt that the Tanner Hill project fills a gap in the market as it is the first development of its kind in Hong Kong.

The Housing Society is targeting middle-class residents who can afford the life-long rental. They may see it as offering a better living environment.

They will find the facilities very attractive, which include a gym, mini theatre, rehabilitation and medical centres.

Kelly Wong, Sham Shui Po

Too many live in substandard apartments

Hong Kong is an international financial centre and one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

Unfortunately, it is beset by housing problems which affect people from all walks of life.

Property prices in Hong Kong have surged in the past few years and reached astronomical levels, making things difficult for low-income and even middle-class families.

More citizens are now trying to get a public housing flat, ­because the rents are affordable and they are in convenient locations. But, as a result of rising ­demand, waiting lists for an apartment on a public estate are long.

Many of those facing a long wait and who cannot afford high rents in private developments have to live in subdivided units. They must endure poor, unhygienic conditions, with bad circulation of air. Also the walls are thin, so they have no privacy.

The housing shortage is still serious and the government has turned a deaf ear to the pleas of many citizens.

It must do more to bring down these high rents.

Rachel Leung Cho-kwan, Kowloon Tong

Car-free road in Central is a non-starter

I refer to the article by Bernard Chan (“No good reason to choke idea for a car-free Central in Hong Kong”, November 27).

He calls for public backing for a proposed pedestrianisation scheme in Des Voeux Road ­Central, banning all vehicles apart from trams. I do not think it would be a wise move.

I am not convinced that pedestrianisation would be a practical idea. It would be costly and time-consuming and require the development of other infrastructure. There would have to be a complete redevelopment of the present road system to accommodate the scheme. Bus routes using this road would have to be altered.

Look at similar large construction projects (new rail routes, for example) which cost billions of dollars and took years to finish. This was taxpayers’ money and some projects led to feelings of dissatisfaction ­towards the government.

Is this proposal really worth that kind of upheaval?

A car-free scheme would also be very inconvenient for nearby residents and people working and studying in that part of ­Central.

It would be difficult for them to adapt and they would have to alter their travel arrangements from home to work or college.

I do understand why some people and groups are supporting this proposal for Des Voeux Road. They feel it could alleviate some of the traffic congestion in the central business district.

Also, it helps trams, which are an important part of the cultural heritage of Hong Kong, which has so far survived the transformation of the city.

Cheung Ka-po, Tsz Wan Shan

If used in right way, TSA can help students

I have been quite surprised by some of the views expressed about the Territory-wide Assessment (TSA), with some people calling for it to be scrapped. I take the opposite view and do not think it should be cancelled.

The TSA tests students on their basic English, Chinese and mathematics skills. Although it is a test, it will not affect students’ overall grades and scores ­recorded in their report cards. It is designed to look at a school’s performance in teaching.

Schools worry about this, fearing that a bad result in TSA could lead to them being closed down. This is a negative way of thinking. They drill the students to train them for the TSA test and put them under too much pressure.

In fact, the TSA has similarities with the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) syllabus and it can help to prepare youngsters for that exam. If there was no TSA, would they be as well-prepared for the DSE? Would ­students, parents and teachers become too complacent?

There is nothing wrong with the TSA, but a change of attitude is required on the part of schools. It can be used to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses, and the data can be used to improve teaching and learning.

Andrew Wan, Kwai Chung

Putin is more important now in Syria

More than two months ago, Russia’s fighter jets started bombing Islamic State (IS) sites in Syria.

IS responded by [it alleges] downing a Russian civilian ­aircraft over the Sinai desert in Egypt. It is not surprising that some Russians have questioned the decision of President Vladimir Putin to get directly involved in the Syrian crisis, thinking back to what happened decades ago when the then Soviet Union ­invaded Afghanistan.

It has also been claimed that small numbers of Russian ground troops are ­deployed inside Syria, supposedly to fight IS and back the ­regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, Mr Putin has taken the opportunity to expand his nation’s influence in the Middle East through protecting Assad. In doing so, he hopes to secure Russia’s long-term interests in the region. He is aware that the backing of Assad is deeply unpopular with the West. However, the West needs his ­influence.

He can help make possible negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition groups.

If they could reach agreement, they could then unite against the common enemy – IS. If this happened, the West would then be grateful to Mr Putin. This might even lead to a lifting of some sanctions against Russia.

The Russian naval facility near the Syrian port of Tartus is strategically important as Russia’s only military base in the Mediterranean.

Obviously Mr Putin wants to secure a long-term future for that Russian facility.

Thomas Ho, Tai Po

Hoping to see antibiotic-free meat on menu

I refer to the report, “HK watchdog steps up war on meat ­hazard” (December 7).

The Consumer Council has alerted restaurant chains to the risk posed by animals fattened on antibiotics and urged them to stop serving meat from such animals.

If we eat a lot of meat containing antibiotics, it could harm our health. Having this meat sold in the city is bad for Hongkongers as antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose a serious hazard. In the long term, common infections could become resistant to even the strongest antibiotics. The results globally could be catastrophic.

The government has to ­follow the lead of a number of countries and get food producers and farmers to gradually ­reduce the use of antibiotics. We should be aiming to have restaurants offering antbiotic-free meat on their menus.

This an important food safety issue that the administration has to deal with.

Lynette Tang Wing -yan, Tseung Kwan O