Letters to the Editor, June 19, 2016

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2016, 12:16am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 June, 2016, 12:15am

Let down by Observatory’s forecasts

I spend a lot of time outdoors as part of my job as a geoscience educator and also because I like hiking. During the late spring and summer, the biggest issue in planning excursions is the weather.

I rely on the Hong Kong ­Observatory’s forecasts because if I get it wrong, not only could I get a severe drenching but myself or one of my charges could actually put our lives in danger.

Over the past several months, I have noticed that the Observatory has made a real hash of ­predicting the weather.

For ­instance, Thursday, June 9, was anticipated to be pretty wet, but little rain actually fell.

The next day was supposed to be marked by a ­deluge, but within 12 hours of the day ­starting, it was downgraded to a few showers.

For me, a duff forecast varies between an inconvenience and an irritation. However, some people who run weather-affected businesses really do suffer. If the punters stay away, they stand to lose substantial amounts of income.

I would like the Observatory to explain how good it is at predicting weather. I’d also like the government to invite in other weather forecasters to provide competition and to see if we might actually be better off outsourcing the service. I have formed the opinion that the ­Observatory is not very good at what it does.

I believe that the Observatory’s leading people are strong proponents of human-induced global warming.

If the organisation cannot tell us what the weather is supposed to be doing over the next 48 hours, how can it persuade me that its climate predictions for the years 2050 and 2100 have any validity?

Jason Ali, Lantau

Reasons gun laws opposed not that simple

Dr Noah Shusterman (“Sadly, Orlando deaths won’t be a force for change in America’s gun control debate”, June 13) ­provides a timely reminder of the need for gun control measures. His analysis, however, falls short of the mark.

Dr Shusterman posits that one key challenge in passing gun control laws is equally apportioned votes among states in the Senate.

This means that rural states, which do not support gun laws, and urban states, which do ­support gun laws, are effectively neutralised, leading to the status quo. Besides the fact that many states in the US have rural and urban areas and cannot be ­pigeonholed into such a facile classification, evidence offers a different conclusion.

After the San Bernadino shooting in the US, senators from rural states were at the forefront of new gun measures. Senator Joe Manchin, from West Virginia, was the key sponsor of one bill.

After the Sandy Hook incident, two senators from Pennsylvania, arguably a rural state, brought forth another bill. Other senators from Maine and ­Vermont have also played a ­critical role in putting forth gun control legislation.

Furthermore, if the author is correct that the rural-urban ­divide was the main obstacle, one would expect gun control bills to consistently pass by a wide margin out of the House of Representatives, where representation is based on a fixed population rather than fixed geographic entity. This is not currently the case.

I completely agree with the thrust of Dr Shusterman’s sentiments; however, by boiling down the issue to a rural-urban divide, he dilutes the ­mosaic of reasons why passing such legislation has become ­difficult.

Erik Tollefson, North Point

Better use of lanes vital at crossing point

On the evening of Sunday, July 12, I and my six-year-old son were among a relatively large number of ­people returning to Hong Kong through Lok Ma Chau control point after the dragon boat ­holiday.

While there were more than 20 people waiting in the lane for permanent residents, the neighbouring lane exclusively for the elderly was nearly empty.

The immigration officer overseeing that lane sat there idly while his colleague was busy serving the growing lines of ­residents ­mostly with small ­children.

The Immigration Department needs to optimise its ­human resources allocation during the peak hours by ­opening the elderly-only lane to families with small children who are not eligible to use the ­e-channels. The necessity of elderly-only lanes should also be reassessed, given that most ­senior citizens can use the ­e-channels that have been around for more than 10 years.

Simon Wang , Kowloon Tong

Take sensible precautions for roof gardens

Having rooftop gardens on buildings in Hong Kong is a good idea.

At universities and schools, they help to green the campus and lead to an improvement in air quality.

The problem, as we have seen from the accident at the sports centre in City University, is that some buildings cannot support the weight of these ­gardens, as they have so much earth and vegetation.

Clearly, thorough tests must be carried out by expert ­personnel to ensure that the roof will be able to support whatever garden is planned.

I think the best solution is to plan a rooftop garden when a new building is under construction.

Then the builders can ­ensure that the structure will be able to support this greenery and that it does not present a risk to anyone using it.

Michelle Ho, Yau Yat Chuen

Rich citizens should help China’s poor

The problem of poverty is ­becoming more serious in China and the gap between rich and poor is growing.

Wealthy citizens have to ­appreciate what is happening and recognise the importance of taking action to help Chinese citizens living in poverty. A failure to deal with this will harm society and social harmony, and this will also impact on the rich.

If the number of poor people keeps increasing, we will see a rising tide of discontent.

In order to survive, some people might resort to criminal activities such as theft.

Rich citizens should donate money to organisations which help the poor by providing food and clothing. Also, the central government must take some responsibility for those living in poverty in the country. It should undertake a review of the policies it has drawn up to deal with poverty alleviation.

If need be, it should find more appropriate ways to give these people the help they need. Hong Kong’s Comprehensive Social Security Assistance might be a good reference.

If nobody helps, poverty will be passed from one generation to the next, and the burden to ­society will continue to grow, so all citizens need to recognise there is a problem.

Crystal Chan, Kowloon Tong

Flat-rate illegal parking fines are ineffective

Your editorial (“Toughen the fine for illegal parking”, June 12), called for the raising of parking fines as a means to relieve some of our traffic problems, as the current level of fine is too low and does not act as a deterrent.

To someone on HK$20,000 per month, a fine of HK$1,500 is a deterrent; to someone on HK$200,000 per month, it is merely an irritation.

Flat rate fines penalise ­different sections of society in different ways and are therefore unreasonable and ineffective. In Scandinavia, fines are means tested, as they are in a number of European countries.

An example that gained publicity in 2015 was of a man in ­Finland travelling at 65mph­ (105 k/ph) in a 50mph (80k/ph) zone who was fined 54,000 (HK$470,690). He had an ­income of 6.5 million and was fined accordingly.

It is time that we looked for alternative ways to penalise wrongdoers as our current ­system offers freedom to flout the law to those who can afford it.

Andy Statham, Happy Valley