Letters to the editor, January 11, 2016

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 January, 2016, 6:05pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 January, 2016, 6:05pm

Lack of accountability stinks

As if the report by the Audit Commission on the Environmental Protection Department is not embarrassing enough (“Hong Kong’s waste problem: a stinking trail of missed targets, data errors and misdirected efforts”, December 1), the Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee’s two hearings last month on food waste reduction and recycling will enshrine the department in perpetuity in the Hall of Shame in Mismanagement.

We learned that the department handled the growing problem of food waste, which accounts for 38 per cent of municipal solid waste in Hong Kong, in a piecemeal, disjointed manner. We learned that the department has no idea on how each programme quantitatively contributes to the reduction of food waste, which has increased by 13 per cent from 3,227 tonnes per day in 2004 to 3,648 tonnes in 2013. We learned that targets are either non-existent or not met if they’d been posted. We learned that officials are not accountable for their mistake, and the same consultant who partnered with the department in the mistake continues to advise the department on a bigger project.

After spending HK$150 million and HK$50 million to reduce food waste in schools and private housing estates respectively, the department cannot explain how much food waste was reduced as a result of those programmes. The same goes for the HK$18.7 million spent during 2013 and 2015 in advertising, marketing, and education programmes to promote the department’s signature Food Wise campaign.

Only 26 out of 1,027 business entities provided data on their efforts to reduce food waste on a voluntary basis. No data was provided by the 294 schools who signed onto the Green Lunch Charter on the result of their effort.

Phase one of the Organic Waste Treatment Facilities that was priced at HK$489 million in 2010, with the help of a consultant company which earned HK$8.8 million for its advice, turned out to cost HK$1.53 billion. The Audit Commission pointed out that essential components were underestimated in the initial estimate.

Despite clear evidence in the commission’s report showing mistake in professional judgment, Mr Elvis Au, assistant director of the department, insisted that rising cost and lack of reference price of the facilities were the causes of the cost overrun. Mr Au and the same consulting company have since moved on to manage one of the most expensive project in the department’s history – building an incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau.

Is there accountability in Hong Kong?

Tom Yam, Lantau

Don’t ignore voices of the young

I refer to the article, “Generation gap a ‘hurdle’ in debate over Hong Kong’s copyright law, say young concern groups” (December 9). I agree with the writers that there is indeed a generation gap between young Hongkongers who treasure their freedom on the internet and the older lawmakers who know little about the cyber world. This generation gap is challenging.

As the Liberal Party lawmaker Vincent Fang Kang said: “They (the young people) need to enlighten us and we should learn from them.” I think the voices of our younger generations should not be ignored.

The proposed amendment to the copyright law deprives internet users of their freedom, and will curb the creativity of those who share their artworks online. People should be allowed to express their views about the government and comment on current affairs. I hope the government can heed the voices of Hong Kong’s younger generations.

Gigi Tse Hiu Shan, Kowloon Tong

Bracing for deluge of tired revivals

A Guardian article last week by Lyn Gardner gave information on productions and events planned in the UK this year to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. What, I wonder in trepidation, is planned locally in Hong Kong?

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will be staging Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 , as well as Henry V in the Hong Kong Arts Festival. I saw these productions at Stratford in 2014, performed on the RSC’s thrust stage, and they were excellent. It remains to be seen how they will fare on the proscenium stage in that barn called the Lyric Theatre, which has appalling acoustics.

Gardner admits that “there will be many dull revivals of Shakespeare this year on British stages”. Shakespeare on Hong Kong stages is usually attempted by amateur directors and actors. Sadly, most directors are all too ready to accept mediocre – or even abysmal – performances from their actors, and most of the actors are too lazy to learn how to speak blank verse. Consequently, local productions of the Bard’s works tend to be dull and tiresome affairs.

In which case, it is perhaps best if nothing is planned locally to mark this 400th anniversary, thereby giving the world’s greatest playwright little cause to turn in his grave.

Michael Harley, Central

Stop giving pupils TSA homework

My younger brother is a Primary Three student and, like others of his cohort, has to do a lot of homework after school. On top of his regular homework, he also needs to do drill exercises to prepare for the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) test. He usually cannot finish all the exercises in time.

I think primary school teachers should not give so many TSA practices as homework. As a result of so much homework, many students cannot finish them on time and feel stressed and tired every day.

This reduces their desire to learn. They won’t feel like studying at all.

So teachers should allow their pupils to do the exercises during class time. This will also give pupils an opportunity to ask questions if they are unsure.

More importantly, this means they won’t be overburdened by homework and will have more time for rest and play after school.

If schools do this, then there will not be so many people now calling for the Territory-wide Assessment test for Primary Three students to be scrapped.

Mabel Wong, Tseung Kwan O