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An officer stands next to boxes of illegal cigarettes worth HK$74 million seized by customs officers, during a press conference on May 10. Photo: Felix Wong

LettersOne more task for Hong Kong’s incoming leader John Lee: coordinate crackdown on illegal cigarettes

  • Readers call on the new administration to curb the black market in cigarettes and hasten the entry of foreign-trained doctors, and also warn of an economic recession ahead
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Law and order should always be the paramount duty of any government. For the first time, Hong Kong will have a chief executive with first-hand experience in public security. Nevertheless, since 2019 the number of illicit cigarettes confiscated by customs officers has increased by more than six-fold.
Just last month, customs officers confiscated 28 million cigarettes worth HK$77 million in raids in Chai Wan and Ap Lei Chau.

As a Sheung Shui resident, I witnessed peddlers of illegal cigarettes distributing promotional fliers in a public housing estate. Residents who complained to the Housing Department were told to report the matter to the Customs and Excise Department.

I got in touch with Hong Kong Customs and was told the act of distributing fliers per se is not under its purview, and that I should contact the Department of Health’s Tobacco and Alcohol Control Office. However, on the Tobacco and Alcohol Control Office website, we find information on smoking cessation and no specifics about law enforcement.

Who doesn’t know smoking is bad for their health? The sad reality, however, is that many people still choose to smoke. Instead of standing on the moral high ground and staying in an ivory tower, the government should put more resources into cracking down on criminal acts. The black market in cigarettes undoes all the well-intentioned efforts to contain the harm of smoking.

The incoming chief executive, John Lee Ka-chiu, pledged he would push government departments to work together to enhance governance. I hope this is one area he will look into.

Jasper Law Ting-tak, chairman, North District Council

Bring in foreign-trained doctors sooner

A shortage of doctors has long been a problem in Hong Kong. Last year, the Legislative Council passed an amendment to the Medical Registration Ordinance, allowing non-locally trained doctors from a list of approved institutions to practise in Hong Kong without sitting the local licensing exam.
However, as far as we can tell, the speed of ushering in foreign-trained medical doctors has been slow. Only in April was the first batch of recognised medical schools announced. The list includes the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University of Toronto, McGill University, Johns Hopkins University and the National University of Singapore. These are prestigious universities, many of which have a better reputation than our local ones.
The second batch of recognised institutions was announced earlier this month.
One potential issue with foreign-trained doctors is the medium of communication. For example, doubts were at first raised about whether mainland-trained doctors would be sufficiently proficient in English to work in the city, but the committee that vets the list clearly thinks so, as Fudan University has been included in the second list.

The graduates of the institutions listed so far should have no problems communicating in English.

However, in Hong Kong, given many locals’ lack of English proficiency, doctors who don’t speak Cantonese might still struggle to communicate with patients.

Communication issues aside, Hong Kong should also ensure we offer these elite doctors enough to make them want to establish their careers in the city.

Many Hongkongers would like to see the shortage of medical doctors addressed, to enhance our healthcare service and reduce the workload of local doctors. Many hurdles remain, apart from the long-standing resistance of the local medical community to opening the door to foreign-trained doctors.

I do hope our new government will hasten the pace of change for the well-being of Hong Kong people.

Randy Lee, Ma On Shan

With recession likely, it’s time to watch our spending

Hong Kong needs to be prepared for a global recession as interest rates around the world rise to combat inflation. We may be hit with a double whammy of a closed border due to Covid-19 and a declining economy. It might be only a matter of time before we see more jobs being cut and more companies closing their offices locally.

It’s prudent to spend wisely in the coming six months because nobody knows what will happen as central banks keep fighting inflation. It’s a tough time for investors.

Rishi Teckchandani, Mid-Levels