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Government fears the underclass

South China Morning Post Letter

My 10-year-old son and I read the report on the new air pollution guidelines and he asked me why the government did not take action to reduce at least the locally produced pollution like nitrogen dioxide (“Challenge leaves us all out of breath”, January 19).

The government tells us it is because of the cost.

Why then, he argued, could not a rich government like Hong Kong’s bear the cost of this?

The answer is simple, I told him – the administration does not value human life as highly as other governments do. Sadly, no matter what the rationale is, it comes down to this.

How is it that an unelected government seriously worries about the effect of a 20 per cent increase in bus fares (Secretary for the Environment, Edward Yau Tang-wah, was quoted in the article as saying fares could go up by 20 per cent)? This sort of statement is scaremongering.

The government would be afraid to allow fare increases even if the costs to the transport companies (remember they are the polluters using outdated vehicles) increased and they demanded it.

Instead, it uses fear of large fare increases to bully the growing underclass to accept officials’ arguments that their hands are tied.

In actual fact, such fares could not be imposed without a huge fallout from the middle and lower-income classes. I suspect that the inability of the administration to act in enforceable areas under its purview, like roadside pollution, is directly attributable to its fear of the underclass it has failed.

The issue of pollution in Hong Kong is tied to income disparity so glaring that the government would have a problem approving (even modest) fare hikes and uses the threat of this occurring to justify its inaction on our substandard and deadly air quality.

Catherine LaJeunesse, Sai Kung

Description: No effective action over roadside pollution.

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