Online Letters Page, May 2, 2017

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 3:17pm

Urgent action needed to curb smog in capital

The air pollution problem in Beijing has been getting worse and the central government now has to deal with it urgently (“ ‘Money no object’ in China’s war on smog”, April 28).

The smog in the capital is not just something that concerns its citizens, but has reached the attention of the rest of the world, because it is so bad. People with heart and lung conditions are particularly vulnerable. It adversely affects residents’ quality of life. All they want is to be able to breathe decent air and often they are unable to do this. Clean air in Beijing has become a luxury and this is wrong. The bad air has led to expressions of discontent and if it is not dealt with we could see outbreaks of disorder, creating an unstable social environment.

Also, because Beijing is the nation’s capital the serious pollution levels damage China’s international reputation. When it is really bad it can put tourists off visiting and may discourage some foreign firms from investing there. This can mean lost job opportunities for new graduates on the mainland.

The government must introduce control of emissions from the worst polluting vehicles and factories and these measures must be enforced by the authorities. I am not denying that the economic development of China is important, but officials cannot ignore the threat to the environment. If we do so that development will become unstuck.

Law Mei-lok, Kowloon Tong

Bad air leads to exodus of talented people

I was standing on a rooftop in Beijing looking out at the sky. My physical education class had been cancelled because of the thick haze. Everything below me was shrouded in milky white, from the playground to the treetops.

That is a memory from school days in the capital four years ago. It was around the time that the authorities started to make public the PM 2.5 index [the small particles in smog deemed most harmful to health], information we did not have access to before then. The index became one of most common topics of conversation among Beijing citizens.

I then left for university in Hong Kong and so that was the last time I experienced such thick smog, but my memory of it is still very strong. And I was shocked when I read that the index had soared in northern China in December.

It has get so bad that residents in Beijing tend to celebrate when they get a single day of blue skies. During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in 2014, when the government initiated large-scale emission reduction campaigns, my social media platform was flooded by photos of clear skies taken by friends in Beijing.

Over the last four years, measures to reduce the thick haze have improved, with, for example, some coal-burning factories around the capital being shut down and efforts to restrict the number of cars allowed in. But the smog keeps coming back as some people find ways to get round the regulations. Also, given the limited role of environmental NGOs and the public in China, whether the government’s way of curbing haze is efficient and effective remains debatable.

With the rise of the middle class in big cities in China, more citizens are not satisfied just to meet basic living needs. They want a higher-quality lifestyle for themselves and their children. As the haze becomes a serious threat to their health, many have decided, if they can, to leave the capital.

My mother moved out two years ago to western China. “I cannot bear the air in Beijing any more”, she told me.

The economic cost of such haze is not limited to postponed flights, tourists staying away and cancelled school days. It is leading to an exodus of talented people, especially young graduates.

I believe that eventually the haze problem will be solved in Beijing but it is a matter of when. The point is whether the solution comes before public’s patience and their trust in the government run out.

Jingrui Xie, Oxford, England

Suggestion to move to mainland is impractical

With a lack of sufficient land in Hong Kong, the government has difficulty meeting its short-term house-building targets. Now the Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po has suggested that some citizens could move over the border where it is cheaper and commute and stay there when they retire.

I do not think this is a practical suggestion. For example, if a Hongkonger moves to the mainland and becomes ill, medical standards are not as high as they are here and whereas they might get health vouchers here, would they be entitled to them if they lived on the mainland? There have been many cases of medical malpractice on the mainland and so this would put off local citizens from relocating.

Many well-off mainlanders still come here to purchase property and this raises prices. Therefore, the government must to do more to protect the rights of Hong Kong citizens. They should get priority when it comes to buying apartments.

I hope we will more measures which ease housing problems in Hong Kong.

Suki Lee, Tseung Kwan O

Beijing airport train staff recovered lost wallet

On Saturday, April 22, I was in transit for nine hours in Beijing with my 12-year-old daughter on our way with Air China from Vancouver to Sydney.

We decided to take the Beijing Airport Express train into the city to see the sites.

Unfortunately my daughter forgot her purse on the train and became very upset. Her passport and money for her holiday were in that purse and that would have meant we would have missed our flight back to Australia because we would have had to stay in Beijing to get her a new passport from the Australian embassy and then have to buy more air tickets again to continue our journey.

But the train staff at downtown Beijing were very helpful and miraculously, in about half an hour, they had recovered my daughter’s purse with everything in it. That all-important passport had been recovered.

They put us back on the Airport Express to Terminal 2 where the purse was waiting much to the joy of my very distraught girl and a great relief to me her father. Thanks to the good character of the people of Beijing and especially the Beijing train staff we were able to continue our journey untroubled and relieved .

I think it was truly a miracle that something like this could have happened in one of the world’s biggest cities. My daughter tried to give the staff at the Terminal 2 station a reward from her pocket money for finding her purse but they would not take anything for making her visit to Beijing have a happy ending.

Joseph Murphy, Manly, New South Wales, Australia

More must be done to preserve old buildings

I think it is vital that the historical buildings still left standing in Hong Kong should be preserved. This means that any deterioration in their state should be corrected.

Tourists enjoy visiting these buildings, so it is important for this sector and therefore the economy to ensure structures are kept in a good state of repair. With so many chain stores in our streets, there a great deal of uniformity. These old buildings therefore stand out, each one having its own story.

They are also important to Hongkongers as they increase our sense of belonging to the city and our understanding of its unique past. They are part of the collective memory of the older generation.

They can enhance students’ knowledge of history. It is fine to read books, but sometimes it is important to actually visit a site.

The government needs to spend more preserving these buildings.

Carrie Chong, Hang Hau