Letters to the editor, May 8, 2016

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 May, 2016, 12:17am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 May, 2016, 12:17am

Old areas are really ripe for redevelopment

Housing is a big issue in Hong Kong as it is expensive and home ownership is beyond the reach of most ordinary people.

Some people argue that land is scarce which is reflected in high housing costs, while others say that although there is enough land, it is not being used wisely.

However, if you drive from Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui to Tsuen Wan, you cannot fail to notice stretches of old dilapidated buildings sprawled on both sides of the road that look like old shanty towns.

It is the same in many other parts of Kowloon, such as Hung Hom, To Kwa Wan and Kwun Tong, or areas on Hong Kong Island, such as Kennedy Town, Sheung Wan, Wan Chai, North Point and Causeway Bay.

These old areas sit on prime Hong Kong land that houses probably more than 60 per cent of its population.

If the government changes the rules of land use, rezones and redevelops these old areas, it can gain as much as 40-50 per cent or more of extra land for redevelopment.

This will not only have the positive effect of bringing down house prices due to availability of more developed land, but also help to reduce prices in the ­commercial and retail sectors.

The extra land gained from better usage of plot-to-land ratio will not only free congestion but also lead to the building of ­modern residential, commercial and recreational facilities.

The government will also gain a lot by utilising the existing infrastructure such as the roads, MTR, electricity and water ­supply and other utilities, which will bring huge savings and help to reduce overall development costs.

Currently such prime land is underutilised and does not create value for money.

Over the next few years, these old buildings will deteriorate further and make any planned redevelopment projects more difficult and costly.

Many people who have the money do not prefer to live in these old congested areas.

Redeveloping a new modern metropolis from the old one will be far more beneficial and cost-effective than building new towns in outlying areas.

Simon Datta, Pok Fu Lam

Paperless society has drawbacks

When I tried to close an investment account recently, my ­broker – presumably acting on behalf of the fund house and the Securities and Futures Commission – asked me to produce proof of address.

Our utility bills were all registered under my wife’s name so they were no good. Rates were registered under my name but the latest demand note did not meet the within-three-month requirement.

We had just about gone paperless with our bank statements. One bank, though, insisted on sending statements to each of the joint names and my wife had not yet opted for the paperless option. So I enjoyed a narrow escape because she had been dragging her feet. I have since stopped pestering her about her share in reducing paper consumption and saving the environment.

Maybe government departments too need some rethink as the left hand sometimes doesn’t know what the right hand is ­doing.

G. Hui, Sha Tin

Thankless task trying to cancel subscription

I am a long-time user (sufferer) of Now TV. After over 15 years of being coerced into renewing for more and more channels that I did not watch, I finally decided to cancel the subscription.

As anyone who has dealt with Now TV may know, it is easy to renew and/or upgrade, but very difficult to downgrade and even harder to cancel.

After jumping through numerous hoops, including multiple phone calls and ­waiting for a mailed cancellation application (renewal can be done by phone and e-mail but cancellation must be by snail mail) and handing in the application in person (you can also mail) and waiting for weeks for a reply, I finally got a phone call confirming cancellation (no e-mail or letter) and a verbal ­message they would come and pick up [the set-top box] in mid-May.

This happened in early April. A week later, I got a call from a man saying he was from Now TV to confirm renewal. I told him I had already cancelled my ­account.

On May 1, I got an e-mail from Now TV with a new ­account number confirming I had a “new subscription”. I called customer service on May 1 and was told my old account has been cancelled but this new account was created after I ­received a “phone call on April 9”. I had not subscribed to ­anything in any phone call.

I was told by this customer service rep that “of course I also have some right to decide if I want to subscribe or not”. I am speechless. I would have thought only the customer would have the right to decide to a service.

Is she saying Now TV also has the right to impose their services on me without agreement or ­prior contract? Surely Hong Kong has consumer protection laws preventing this.

E. Wong, Mid-Levels

More dogs will die if all estates ban them

I refer to the letter by Wolf Peter Berthold (“Estates ban is doing the right thing for dogs”, May 1).

He starts in the typical passive aggressive way, “ I love dogs, but...”.

I do agree with his point that all animals deserve respect. However, most domesticated animals, like dogs for example, are more than happy to live in a domestic setting. Would your correspondent want all the toy poodles, schnauzers and other domestic breeds let loose in Sai Kung Country Park as that’s their “natural” environment?

I agree that dogs need freedom, and many dogs with very short legs get all the freedom they need running around the house and on their leashed walks.

Maybe the maids that he so often sees texting are doing so at the end of an hour’s vigorous walking? No one knows.

Mr Berthold complains about smelly corridors in houses. Maybe a few, like 10, examples could be posted?

Every dog owner has a duty to clean up after their dog, and certainly in my area that duty is complied with, although it would be nice if a small part of the local park (Victoria), one of the largest in Hong Kong, would allow dogs to be walked in it.

Animal shelters in Hong Kong are already full of unwanted pets looked after by dedicated volunteers, and tens of thousands of animals a year have to be euthanised. Does Mr Berthold really want to increase these already horrendous numbers by banning dogs on all ­estates?

It has been proved that children growing up with dogs turn out better and generally kinder than those who don’t. It can teach respect of another living creature and kindness.

In Hong Kong, with its ageing, and often lonely population, a dog may be the only friend and company a person has. Does Mr Berthold want to deny that freedom to a growing part of our society?

Charles Harraway, Causeway Bay

Adopt a dog instead of buying one

I’ve written in a lot about this topic, but I just wanted to thank Yonden Lhatoo for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and somewhat sad, yet still warm, column (“It’s a dog’s life in Hong Kong for canine companions and their carers”, May 5).

A lot of people have written letters here critical of dog ownership and allowing dogs in public and even private buildings.

The problem is there are far too many dogs here and far too many dogs that shouldn’t be born here and far too many that shouldn’t have been brought here.

I’m not an anthropologist but I can guarantee that Huskies, Malamutes and Samoyeds were never a natural part of the Hong Kong biosystem.

Many of us in the animal welfare community have worked to speed up the adoption of “trap, neuter, release”, but the Hong Kong government has dragged its feet for years.

In the meantime, unsuitable breeds for this climate should have been banned decades ago, but rampant importation and breeding have created a situation where records show that up to 2,000 dogs and cats have to be killed per month.

Public housing tenants who are heavily subsidised by tax dollars should not only be allowed to adopt pets but encouraged to do so.

And don’t buy pets, don’t give breeders a reason to keep breeding, which is a torturous and unjust and terrifying practice for animals.

Stop breeding. Adopt. Don’t shop.

Bernard Lo, Mid-Levels

Independence activists need reality check

The Dalai Lama has urged Hong Kong not to quit its fight for ­democracy, according to Hong Kong Indigenous member Edward Leung Tin-kei.

Leung met with the Tibetan spiritual leader in India along with 60 other people who had come from mainland China, Macau, Taiwan, Europe and the US.

Some Hongkongers claim that we will be better off if the city is independent.

However, critics of this position have pointed out that promoting independence can make mainland citizens feel even more disillusioned about Hong Kong.

The city would face so many problems if it sought independence, such as getting its ­status endorsed by the United Nations.

Although many Hong Kong people do not agree with the political system in China, we cannot deny that it is a powerful nation and our economy is heavily dependent on the ­mainland.

We need the cooperation of the mainland if we are to remain an international financial centre.

Yolanda Yue, Yau Yat Chuen