Letters to the editor, December 31, 2015

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 December, 2015, 3:20pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 December, 2015, 3:20pm

Children hurt by cancer need our support

I refer to the article, “How to help bereft children enjoy the festive season” (December 22).

I agree fully with the point that “few children ask for therapy, so it is the job of adults and therapists to engage the children”. Our experience at the Hong Kong Cancer Fund has shown that children’s concerns and grief-related issues among family members have indeed been overlooked. To address this, in 2011 we launched the Rainbow Club, which helps children aged between five and 15 who have a family member with cancer or who have lost someone to cancer.

Through play and professional support, we help the little ones cope with family changes to minimise anxiety and emotional distress. More specifically, the club aims to help parents and children communicate about the impact of cancer in family workshops, offering guidance for parents on how to best talk with their children during this challenging time.

Children can build confidence and express themselves through art and games. Meanwhile, our mentor scheme, the Big Brother and Big Sister Programme, conducted in collaboration with trained volunteers from Lingnan University, provides one-on-one mentorship and guidance to children in the programme to ensure that they are on track with school life and enjoy their childhood as much as possible.

In addition to the Rainbow Club, our CancerLink centres offer free programmes with a family focus to those affected by cancer.

Through my work, I’ve learned that early intervention is important with both children and families. While we cannot change the facts of their cancer experience, we can help them face it in a more positive way. This is crucial for self-esteem and, for children, may make them more resilient when facing life’s challenges.

While Christmas and traditional holiday periods can be especially difficult times for children who have lost loved ones, it’s important to remember that they need our support throughout the year.

Chow Sau-fong, head of service, Hong Kong Cancer Fund

Inconsiderate behaviour mars holiday

I have just returned home from Hong Kong after a brief vacation with my wife and family. As usual, Hong Kong provided excellent experiences in food and shopping, and we caught up with old friends.

However, two incidents – both involving mobile phones – continue to rankle. The first occurred in the Causeway Bay MTR station during the morning rush hour. A young lady, well groomed and presumably on her way to work, walked into my wife. Pausing only to briefly interrupt her texting to look up from her mobile phone and call my wife a well-known Cantonese expletive, she hurried on.

The second happened in one of our favourite music bars in Wan Chai. We arrived as the solo singer was setting up. A well-dressed man, in his fifties, was sitting about three feet away from where the singer was to perform, and was shouting very loudly into his phone.

As the singer started his act, the shouting continued. After two songs, I went over to the man and pointed out that we had come to hear the singer rather than him. No response. After another five minutes, I went over again and asked him to be quiet. About three minutes later, the singer gave up.

What is it with these people? Do they have no consideration for others?

Kingsley Smith, Saradan, Indonesia

Good move to replace polluting buses

I refer to the report, “Hong Kong’s first green bus hits the road in government scheme to improve air quality” (December 27).

I think it is important that buses running on fossil fuels are eventually replaced by electric vehicles. Switching to this greener option will improve the quality of air in Hong Kong. This is necessary if we are to improve our quality of life. In fact, all public transport should be going in the same direction, including minibuses and taxis.

Also, the government should do more to encourage citizens to buy electric cars. As they are generally more expensive than their diesel counterparts, the government should offer financial incentives.

Kassandra Wong, Tseung Kwan O

Is there hope for cheaper medical drugs?

Your article, “Soaring drug prices are ‘out of control’” (December 11), highlighted one of the crucial problems facing health care today. We are getting more worried about the “financial toxicity” of drugs, now one of the most important considerations in treatment.

It is now common for the cost of new anti-cancer treatment to run well over a million dollars per year. At this rate, not only the patient, but also the health care system and even our entire society would go into economic ruin.

One way to reduce cost is to find new anti-cancer activity in established and inexpensive drugs originally intended for other purposes.

One such example is Daraprim, originally marketed as an anti-parasitic agent against malaria and toxoplasmosis. But, since 2009, there has been research showing it to be a STAT3 inhibitor with considerable anti-cancer potential. So there is hope for developing it into an inexpensive new anti-cancer drug.

Martin Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals shrewdly acquired its distribution rights in August this year and raised the price 55 times (from US$13.50 to US$750 per tablet).

In October, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals announced that it would provide a similar drug at US$1 per tablet.

It would be interesting to see if this drug will be snapped up in a similar way and the price raised by 750 times.

Dr John SM Leung, Causeway Bay

Older drivers must undergo health checks

Some public transport drivers, especially on minibuses, are into their sixties or seventies. I do not want to see such people lose their livelihoods, but the fact is that as we get older, our reactions get slower.

Having an age restriction for these drivers may be unfair, but I would like to see annual health checks for some of them, to ensure that they are still fit to drive public transport vehicles. There could be a random selection of, say, 10 per cent of them.

Also, the government must ensure that all minibuses are fitted with seat belts.

Rowina Lo Wing-nga, Kowloon Tong

Let food trucks offer really unique fare

Hong Kong is going to allow 12 food trucks to run in six popular locations (“Having food trucks in Hong Kong is a great idea, but what they serve up must be great fare too”, December 16). Although some people believe the idea will draw tourists, I think it won’t succeed due to the location of the trucks and the companies that will join this plan.

Food trucks are popular in North America but they are not practical in Hong Kong. Firstly, the food trucks will be located in popular locations like Tsim Sha Tsui, Wan Chai, Disneyland and Ocean Park. However, there are already many restaurants and other food outlets near these venues. Do we still need food trucks? Also, where will these trucks be placed? Our streets are already so crowded that it is hard for people to walk on them comfortably.

It is estimated that applicants need a start-up fund of around HK$600,000. That is too high. Who can pay it but chain restaurants and big food companies? Likely, the food that will be served up can already be bought elsewhere. How can it hold interest for tourists?

For the idea to work, the government must subsidise independent applicants, especially younger people, who can do something unique with the trucks. Moreover, it should not fix the location of the trucks but allow them to go everywhere. This is the way to promote Hong Kong food culture.

Chan Kwan-tung, Tsuen Wan

Property rate waivers only benefit the rich

You reported this week that the DAB has delivered a petition to the financial secretary’s office demanding the waiving of property rates this year and a lowering of property rates next year (“DAB call for property rate break in budget”, December 28). This would be just another misallocation of taxpayer money.

Property owners in Hong Kong are the “haves” in our society and I fail to see how the DAB proposal will not disproportionately benefit the filthy rich. My blood boils at the thought that the tax money I pay could be redistributed to the large landlords who are already several hundred, if not thousands, of times wealthier than I am.

If the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong truly wants to help the middle class, as it claims, then any rates relief should either be means-tested or at least restricted to each permanent resident’s primary residence. Those owning multiple residences should probably be paying higher rates to compensate society for the social and economic cost of their hoarding of a scarce resource.

The DAB should be honest about what it is proposing: a waiver of property rates is a wealth transfer from taxpayers mainly to the super-rich.

Keith Noyes, Clear Water Bay