Letters to the Editor, January 31, 2015
Better planning needed to solve housing woes
People have varying views about Hong Kong’s housing problem and how to deal with it.
The subject of building more public housing estates is proving to be highly controversial.
Over 45 per cent of citizens live in some form of subsidised housing, which is higher than many other cities and countries. There is no need to give up sports fields and other community sites to build more homes. Nor do we have to sacrifice green-belt land, which helps to reduce the urban heat island effect.
What is required is proper and systematic planning of new towns.
Many people have to endure a poor living environment, including cubicle flats and metal shacks on rooftops.
Often fire safety regulations are not adhered to, which puts people’s lives at risk. This is especially so if there are no fire exits or, even if they exist, they are blocked by rubbish. In this regard the government has a vital role to play.
While property cooling measures can help to reduce the price of private flats, they are not the most effective solution.
I think private golf courses could be used for housing and there must be more land reclamation at the larger outlying islands.
Some areas of country parks could also be designated for homes and there could be more high-density development in some villages. While golfers, New Territories residents and environmentalists might object, we have to recognise that some sacrifices will have to be made.
If we do make them then I think solutions can be found.
Holden Cheng, Tseung Kwan O
Working hours law is feasible in Hong Kong
The subject of standard working hours legislation has led to some heated debates in Hong Kong.
There is no simple solution and many employers remain firmly opposed to having such a law, while many workers believe that it is necessary to resolve the problem of people working long hours.
I believe there is the need for a law which establishes standard working hours and ensures compensation for overtime.
Many people, especially those from the grass roots, work long hours and do not get paid overtime. In the absence of legislation, they will often put in more than 44 hours a week.
If standard working hours are recognised by law, then employees will enjoy a better quality of life. They will be able to spend more time with their families, exercise more and have more time to relax.
This will enable them to get the right work-life balance and enjoy a better standard of occupational safety and health.
Many people do not have any detailed arrangement in their contracts saying how much compensation they will be paid if they work overtime. This is unfair, as it means they are using their own time to work hard and not receiving any remuneration.
If overtime arrangements and compensation become compulsory items in the written employment contract, employees’ rights and benefits can be protected.
This is not something that can be done overnight. All stakeholders must be consulted, as in both employers and employees.
I think standard hours legislation can be drafted to ensure sustainable development of the economy.
Daniel Hui Yin-hang, Sha Tin
London is still failing to tackle idling engines
The authorities in London are extremely concerned about the massive pollution caused by the idling engines of motor vehicles.
Not for the first time the UK is behind Hong Kong where the eminently sensible (exceptions notwithstanding) idling engines legislation has been in force for some time.
Enforcement officers here have taken robust action against offenders and reportedly have actually issued a number of cautions in the past couple of years.
The problem of, among other things, the lines of public light buses with idling engines does continue unabated, but Rome was not built in a day. Anyway, face masks are fortunately in plentiful supply.
The residents of London, not to mention the doctors in the chest clinics, must be hoping their government takes the problem as seriously as Hong Kong’s legislators do.
B. Carroll, Ap Lei Chau
Parents should spend quality time with kids
So many parents in Hong Kong want their children to perform well academically, in sport and in their relationships with their peers.
These children’s lives are being micromanaged.
Children are forced to attend lots of cram schools and extracurricular activities even when they are still very little. This can often mean that even during the school summer holidays they will miss out on spending quality time with their parents and other family members.
During the week they may be forced to do additional studies, sometimes for a few hours a day.
I have spoken to some of these children and it is clear that they would like to be allowed more time to play during their holidays.
I wish parents would realise this and make the effort to spend more quality time with their children.
They have to try and help their sons and daughters enjoy their childhood, have a balanced diet, get lots of exercise and be free to grow and develop at their own pace.
I hope they will spend more time listening to their children and finding out what they really want rather than what the parents want for them.
Krystal Lee, Lam Tin
New test is just the TSA repackaged
I was interested in what test the government was going to come up with that would replace the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) that has come in for so much criticism.
However, it appears what it has decided on is in effect a repackaging of the old test (“Revamped tests extended to all primary schools”, January 24).
Officials’ priority should be to reduce the pressure imposed on primary school students; that is certainly what the parents of these young children wanted.
I believe academic pressure is the chief reason why some students choose to take their own lives. But the Education Bureau appears to be reluctant to accept this. It argues the test is easier and there will be fewer questions. However, I am concerned that the problems associated with the TSA will continue with this new test.
Leung Yi-ling, Yau Yat Chuen
Clarifying the status of BN(O) passports
I am writing in response to the report (“Hong Kong passport places 18th in global power rankings”, January 17) which included inaccurate information about consular assistance provided to British National (Overseas) passport holders by the UK government .
The report said: “Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung warned however that BN(O) passport holders might not be recognised by British consulates overseas, as they were not considered British citizens. He strongly recommended that travellers carry a Hong Kong passport instead.”
BN(O) passport holders are considered British nationals by Her Majesty’s government and are entitled to hold a British passport. They receive the same levels of help from UK diplomatic posts overseas as other British nationals, unless they are in China, Hong Kong or Macau.
This might be, for example, if they have lost their passport, been a victim of crime, involved in an accident, or arrested and detained. As an illustration of this, at present the consular team here at the British Consulate General Hong Kong is working with 11 other UK missions around the world to help more than 50 BN(O)s held in prison in other countries.
Andrew Heyn, British consul general to Hong Kong and Macau