Letters to the Editor, August 21, 2016

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 August, 2016, 11:31am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2016, 11:31am

Diesel is never the solution in built-up cities

One of the many perverse results of the anti-carbon-dioxide obsession is that the quality of our city air, including that in Hong Kong, is much poorer than it should be. Diesel engines are favoured, in cars as well as trucks, on the grounds that they produce less carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide does no harm whatsoever to air quality – in cities or elsewhere. Reducing it does not improve the air quality in the slightest.

Indeed, the catalytic converters fitted to all vehicles nowadays much improve urban air quality precisely by converting dangerous exhaust carbon monoxide into benign carbon dioxide. Thus, more carbon dioxide equals better air quality.

Mainly because of their high compression ratios, diesels cause the nitrogen and oxygen in the engine intake air to ­combine. Nitrogen and oxygen hardly do so at all in petrol ­engines.

In diesels, the amount is very small – but that small amount is very harmful when it enters the throat, lungs or eyes of humans. It is known as nitrogen oxide. Among other unpleasant features, it is a precursor of smog.

The nitrogen oxide component reacts with the moisture in the linings of the eyes, throat and lungs to produce nitric acid. ­Pedestrians who have found themselves coughing and spluttering in the exhaust from a ­diesel car (even the latest model) know the feeling.

Diesel engines have very great merits; low fuel consumption, good pulling power, long life and reliability among them. They are indispensable on our farms, on all our roads outside cities and on the oceans. In the open air, nitrogen oxide disperses rapidly and becomes too dilute to do harm.

But to favour diesel cars in cities is to inflict deliberate damage on citizens. It should stop.

John Robertson, Queensland, Australia

Young aspiring entrepreneurs need help

According to a recent survey, many Hong Kong youth dream of starting their own business (“Almost three quarters of Hong Kong’s young people dream of starting a business, but say the obstacles are too great”, July 3). The survey also found that many were also unhappy with their salaries and felt they were underachieving in their job.

Society should provide a better environment for them.

The government could help by encouraging banks to provide low-interest loans to young people who have a definite business plan. Besides loans, the government could also help with the rent – as we all know, Hong Kong has a land shortage and rents here are high.

Meanwhile, non-governmental organisations can provide consultation on basic business law and advice on starting an enterprise. Young people generally don’t have much experience and knowledge, so such help would be very useful.

Hong Kong should help its young people start a business if that is their dream.

Angela Cheng Tsz Ki, Sham Shui Po

Teachers hold city’s future in their hands

As a secondary school student, I am very concerned about whether talk of independence should be allowed in schools.

Teachers are the bridges connecting students to the world, helping students sharpen their thinking. What teachers teach has a great influence on students.

Joshua Wong Chi-fung, who was recently sentenced to 80 hours of community service for a conviction of unlawful assembly, began his activism in school. The former convenor of Scholarism took part in the Umbrella Movement while he was still a secondary school student.

Thus, school education is very important.

It is not appropriate for teachers to stop students from developing their own political views freely, taking in information from the media. Neither is it right for them to teach students their own points of view.

Teachers should discuss issues with students from a neutral perspective and encourage students to think in a rational way.

Some students are now setting up associations to promote Hong Kong independence. Schools should prohibit such political groups.

It cannot be denied that students are vulnerable to peer ­influence. When their peers ­encourage them to take part in an activity, most of them will opt to follow as they do not want to lose their friends. However, if they had a better understanding of the issue – with help from the teachers, but not their peers – the students could develop the critical thinking needed to understand the views of different stakeholders.

The role of teachers is very important. It could affect our ­future, as students are the future masters of our city. They should not be misled by fake and distorted information.

Lee Wing Lam, Wong Tai Sin

Upholding rule of law does not mean stasis

“Hong Kong would be better off independent from China.” Would it? For all sorts of reasons, it probably would not be. However, I’m shocked that the Hong Kong authorities, through the Electoral Affairs Commission, would not permit me to stand in the Legislative Council election if I had made that statement.

Of course, they are overlooking the fact that people might change their minds.

More importantly, they are equating a duty to uphold the law with a requirement that laws never be questioned, challenged or discussed.

We keep hearing the mantra that “the rule of law is Hong Kong’s great strength”. That doctrine requires that we all uphold the law.

However, it also permits the law (even one as sacred as the Basic Law) to evolve to fit changing circumstances through discussion and debate.

But maybe the actions of the Electoral Affairs Commission (whatever its motives) are good for Hong Kong, as the impact of its actions appears to be to ­encourage debate and provide coverage for the excluded candidates. Indeed, it has had a ­beneficial impact on me personally – by rousing me from my apathetic slumber to write this.

Nigel Davis, Pok Fu Lam

What will a breakaway HK do for food?

There has been quite a bit of talk recently about independence for Hong Kong. I have this question for the advocates: how will Hong Kong feed itself once it is independent?

Hong Kong buys most of its water and food from China. Once Hong Kong is independent, will China be willing to continue selling the water and food to Hong Kong at the current prices? If prices are raised, what will that do to the Hong Kong economy? Inflation?

I wonder if independence advocates have even thought about this, or are they just sloganeering without substance?

Christine Wong, Mid-Levels

HK prisons must catch up with the times

In common with most sexual minorities, transgenders are ­often misunderstood, mocked and taken advantage of. The ­ongoing case of Navarro Luigi Recasa, a male-to-female transgender woman who was incarcerated in all-male detention centres in Hong Kong, serves to shine a blinding light on the outdated regulations which allow vulnerable people to be treated in an inhumane way (“Transgender prisoners in Hong Kong suffer sexual assault, denial of hormones”, July 27).

Indeed, the regulations uphold this at present.

Hong Kong seems not to be ready to change the law to take account of the advances in medical science, which now allow those who wish it to physically embrace their experienced gender, nor to accept that gender ­reassignment surgery should not be a prerequisite for that change.

In some countries, the gender recognition certificate ­affords full recognition of an ­acquired gender, regardless of surgery. Surgery is expensive, not without danger and not something all transgenders ­desire or are able to undertake.

Correctional Services would argue that a person is the gender of their birth certificate and that an obviously feminine inmate must be stripped and examined by male officers based on that birth certificate. One can only imagine the opportunities for persecution which could be open to officers who might be bigoted. It would have been simple to ask the inmate whether she wished to be examined by female or male officers.

One has to wonder how a ­female-to-male trangender person would have been treated and whether he would have been stripped and examined by female officers.

During my decades of counselling those from sexual minority groups, I have heard heartbreaking stories. You don’t have to be in a prison to feel trapped by the walls of prejudice around you, but if you are in prison, then the despair must be almost unendurable. Correctional Services need correction.

Brenda Scofield, The Peak