Letters to the editor, March 6, 2016

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 March, 2016, 12:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 March, 2016, 12:15am

Axing rail link will make HK a laughing stock

I refer to Jake van der Kamp’s column (“Legco on right track in seeking to derail high-speed rail link”, March 1).

I have found much to learn from van der Kamp’s views on various topics but, with respect, his views generally on railway projects have not matched his acumen on financial subjects. Rarely, however, has he been so wrong as now.

I say this as ­someone who led the projects side of the Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation mega-railway expansion, and then as CEO signed off on the KCRC recommendation to the government that the link should be built, ­entirely underground, given the topography along the most ­viable route.

This never was a city-to-city connection, but it was essential to link Hong Kong into China’s high-speed rail system. I believe this recommendation is as sound today as it was then.

It is also worth noting the ­interest from other countries looking at high speed rail as the alternative to air travel, including the US and the UK. France, Germany and Japan have always taken a lead.

To abandon a project now, that arguably was underfunded in the beginning, would risk us becoming not only the laughing stock of the world, but also push Hong Kong further back along the road to economic growth. Challenge on this latter point is of course van der Kamp’s forte.

On my side, however, I refer to minutes of the ­Finance Committee when ­approving the funding request, in the light of the Independent Expert Report on the subsequent over-budget expenditure.

James Blake, Ap Lei Chau

Turn tunnels into massive shopping mall

Jake van der Kamp’s column (“Legco on right track in seeking to derail high-speed rail link”, March 1) gets a big thumbs up from me – as do most of his observations.

I never did like the idea of this expensive rail link from Shenzhen to Kowloon West in the first place, and now, as van der Kamp points out, the cost has more than doubled to HK$84.4 billion, and is probably set to go higher.

Then there is his assertion that revenue will not cover operating costs, which means we will have a white elephant tramping into traffic-jammed West Kowloon that will never pay its way.

Van der Kamp also suggests growing mushrooms in the nearly completed tunnels. What a great idea – Hong kong could become the mushroom growing capital of the world.

As an alternative, I suggest turning the tunnels into the world’s longest underground shopping mall. It would be a shopper’s paradise, stretching the 26 kilometres from the border to Kowloon.

Tourists could come in at the immigration point and shop all the way to Kowloon. I agree that we should cut our losses, and use Hong Kong’s natural inventiveness to turn this financial fiasco around to our advantage.

Gordon Andreassend, Tai Kok Tsui

Lay down rules for Uber, but don’t ban it

I refer to the report, “Police figures reveal a particular ­increase in charges being laid for refusing fares and overcharging, especially in nightlife districts” (February 21).

It revealed an increase in the number of cabbies arrested for overcharging.

The taxi trade now faces stiff competition from car-hailing apps like Uber, but this is no excuse for being dishonest.

I can understand why ­cabbies are feeling the pressure from this competition, because, to be honest, I find that Uber ­offers a more convenient, easy-to-use service.

In other parts of the world, firms like Uber have come into conflict with established taxi ­operators. The authorities in these cities and countries try to resolve disputes in a ­variety of ways.

The Hong Kong government seems to be struggling with this product of new technology and I do not think its initial reaction was the right one, making some ­arrests and raiding the offices of Uber. Of course, it has a duty to ­protect the public, but a blanket ban on Uber and similar operators would not be the answer.

What it needs to do is ­consider what legislation and regulations should be changed so that passengers can travel in safety in vehicles run by these car-hailing apps. It also has to crack down on this growing problem of overcharging by some taxi drivers.

More plainclothes policemen could travel on taxis and ­arrest drivers who overcharged.

Joey Chan Yuen-yi, Tseung Kwan O

Teachers the best judges of pupil’s abilities

I agree with Marco Cheung Ming-kin (“School test should provide useful data”, February 24) that the adjustments done to Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) will not be effective with regard to helping reduce the stress felt by students.

Nor do I think that schools should rely on TSA results to help them identify students’ weaknesses.

Who knows the strengths and weaknesses of individual students better than the school teachers who see these young people and interact with them every day? The public should trust the teachers in our local schools to be able to ­identify and focus on the ­academic problems pupils are facing and help them deal with them.

Your correspondent suggested that data derived from TSA tests could help officials formulate a new education blueprint for Hong Kong.

Schools might be able to learn something by looking at the percentage of pupils getting correct answers in different ­subjects, but such data cannot be used to gauge how to make improvements to the overall education system.

Basically, the TSA is a tool used by the Education Bureau to assess the teaching effectiveness of a school.

P. Leung, Tai Po

Not enough places at local universities

A lot of attention has been paid to the TSA and the pressure it places on Primary Three pupils.

However, Hong Kong’s education system faces far bigger problems – in particular, tertiary education. There are not enough bachelor degree places at local universities. Many ­students have to study overseas and then often get a good, high-paid job abroad and do not ­return here.

Young people who fail to get an undergraduate place at a ­local university often do an associate degree. These degrees are expensive and then you get a certificate which is ­fairly useless. When you go for a job interview, the company appears only to be interested in candidates with a university degree.

Rather than putting more ­resources into associate degree programmes, the government needs to build more universities for local students.

Walter Chong, Tseung Kwan O

Puzzled by calls to close Guantanamo

I remain amazed after all these years at the attention the left still devotes to the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

It is a state-of-the-art prison built in 2002 for violent ­extremists who have manifested their antipathy for Americans in no uncertain terms.

The argument used by those caught in a time warp is that the existence of Gitmo somehow ­focuses hatred against us.

This implies that with the closure of the centre and the ­release or transfer of remaining prisoners, the anti-American hate index would recede to more acceptable levels, for instance, those that existed in – 1983 ­(marine barracks bombing in Beirut and US embassy ­bombing, Beirut); 1993 (first World Trade Centre bombing); 1996 (Khobar Towers bombing); 1998 ­(bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania); 2000 (attack on the USS Cole) and then the 9/11 attacks.

The logic escapes me, but then I do have trouble seeing the arc of history.

Paul Bloustein, Cincinnati, Ohio, US

Teens should get involved in politics

Following the mayhem in Mong Kok, some people are asking if teens should be involved in ­politics.

Of course violence should be condemned, but that is a separate issue. Youngsters should participate in politics. They are part of society and are entitled to express their views on what is happening in that society.

Political parties need to try and get more youngsters involved and the government should be listening to what they have to say.

Emily Yeung Ching-yi, Sham Shui Po