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HK chamber urges Tsang to think big on air pollution

South China Morning Post – 28 June 2011

The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen urging him to take action on roadside pollution. “What Hong Kong people have been yearning for … is to see the return of the blue sky, so that we might wrestle back the place we used to know from the smog’s stranglehold,” the HKGC says in the letter, which is signed by its chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk.

The letter calls for action on a number of fronts and urges Tsang “to think big,” in his final year as chief executive.

It takes on board, without mentioning them, the arguments that have been pushed by the Civic Exchange and Clean Air Network. The letter says a regional solution is required to deal with the overall air pollution. “But for residents going about their daily lives and people working in much of the urban areas,it is roadside pollution that brings tears to our eyes.” It urges the swift replacement of old buses and trucks still on the road. The chamber says that when it consults its members about what they would want if they had one wish, “The resounding response is clean air.”

The chamber says there is an overwhelming desire within the community for faster progress, noting that the two-year trial scheme involving six hybrid buses, “falls far short of the sort of progress that the vast majority of our community has been hoping to see”. In a plea that is verging on the passionate, the chamber says, “Chief executive, you must lean on the clean air issue and display your leadership in hastening the delivery of a solution,” since it is driving away business, “and harms the health of those who stay”.

Turning to other matters, the chamber urges the chief executive to take steps to ease social tensions by giving people the wherewithal to compete in Hong Kong’s knowledge society through training and education. It asks for greater sensitivity from the government in its handling of the minimum wage, lower taxes for small and medium-sized businesses, and a general reduction in profits tax. The chamber wants closer discussions over the crafting of the competition law to ward of unintended consequences of its implementation. It also criticises the government’s action on the provision of international education places, which it says smacks of “short-termism”. Providing more places, the chamber says, is not just an issue for expatriates; it is also desired by local middle-class families for their children.

So come on Donald. You’ve got one more year to think big. Don’t waste it. You can be the man that finally does something meaningful to clean Hong Kong’s awful roadside pollution, which is increasingly being recognised as a serious threat to public health.

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