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The harbour during a typhoon on October 13, 2021. Photo: Nora Tam

Letters | How does John Lee intend to defend Hong Kong against the rising sea?

  • Readers discuss Hong Kong’s lack of climate resilience measures, the vaccine pass system, the need to address the city’s mental health, and yoga in schools

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I watched in earnest to see if there would be any mention of protection measures against sea level rises induced by climate change in Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s three-hour speech. Well, I was disappointed. But this might be too small a detail for me to be too finicky about. To be fair, in the speech, there was considerable coverage on, and the government has pledged commitments towards, carbon emission cuts and green energy use goals.

I hope there is a deep understanding, especially among government officials, that global warming and climate change are broad terms used to represent multiple and complex issues arising globally, not only from natural phenomena but also from global governance, industries and societal responses. Making Hong Kong’s small climate change adaptation and mitigation contributions as a responsible member of the world community is essential.

However, merely meeting our carbon commitment is not enough to protect us from the already grave environmental consequences.

Rising sea levels could sink Hong Kong, yet we are still unprepared

I suspect few people appreciate the true risks. There is a time lag between global temperature rises and the melting of the polar ice sheets, which means we are already “locked in” to a definite rise in sea level. Even if global emissions are, by some miracle, reduced very quickly and keep the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, the sea level will still increase by 29 to 59cm in the next 100 years.

Around 680 million people, about 10 per cent of the world’s population, live in low-lying coastal regions vulnerable to flooding. Scientific evidence shows the rate of Antarctic ice mass loss has increased sixfold since the 1990s while the sea level has risen by around 20cm in the last 170 years.

As we talk about climate resilience in Hong Kong, do we have any plans for countermeasures before it is too late?

Edward Shen, Happy Valley

Drop vaccine pass but keep masks on, please

Despite the official defence of the need for the vaccine pass, I can think of three reasons to abandon the scheme.

First, it is a huge disincentive for overseas visitors, whether they have come for business or pleasure. The possibility of an amber code (for those under medical surveillance) or a red code (for those in isolation after contracting Covid-19), whether correct or in error, barring them from restaurants, clubs, gyms and cinemas makes Hong Kong a highly unattractive place to visit.

Second, it should come as no surprise that many people with mild cases of Covid-19 do not report their condition and even ignore the restrictions. If a person feels really unwell, they will probably go to the hospital anyway. And if the symptoms are mild, the person is likely to rest and treat it like having the flu.

Third, as if children didn’t have enough to scare them already, what with masking and quasi-mandated Covid-19 vaccination, they have the extra pressure of wondering which colour will come up when trying to meet up with friends and family.

While I support the mask mandate, the social distancing diktats are a joke. Have the proponents tried to adhere to the rules when entering a lift in a commercial building? Or moving around Central or Causeway Bay during lunch time? Or taking the bus or train during peak hours? Yet we limit the number sitting at restaurant tables – what nonsense.

The vaccine pass system is, in my humble opinion, broken and useless for locals and a turn-off for visitors. The mask mandate is supported by most people I have spoken to, but all the rest is seen as unnecessary.

George Forrai, Mid-Levels

Don’t forget people’s mental health needs

As Hong Kong gradually opens up to the rest of the world, the clamour for stabilising the economy and the city’s international status is prominent. I want to draw our attention to also focusing resources and policies on dealing with the impact the last few years of anti-pandemic measures have had on Hongkongers’ mental health.

For instance, residents at care homes who lost friends and companions during the fifth wave should receive all the emotional support they need to recover. Campaigns and other outreach targeting their needs should be done.

Our healthcare professionals who worked on the front line of the pandemic should also be targeted for support. Healthy minds make for a healthy city. Schools and organisations should make adequate provisions to cater for the mental health needs of students and workers.

Having these measures in place can help reduce the rates of crime and suicide in the city. Let’s not forget to keep hope alive and ask for help if we need it.

Adeoti Joy, Causeway Bay

Help students by offering yoga in schools

I refer to “The benefits of yoga for children: they’re less anxious, not as stressed out and are more resilient” ( October 11). Mental health is among the main causes of poor life outcomes for young people.

Hong Kong schools should make yoga an extracurricular activity for students. While yoga can help relieve back pain and strengthen leg circulation, it can also help ease stress.

Yoga can be good for children of all ages. Providing children with a yoga lesson every day can help moderate their behaviour and, most importantly, ease the effects of pressure from their schoolwork.

Nicola Hui, Kwai Chung