Filthy air makes more Hong Kongers consider leaving

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    Civic Exchange press release:

    Opinion survey shows more people considering emigration due to air pollution.

    The public highlights roadside pollution and government inaction as key concerns

    Hong Kong – 1 December 2010 Public policy think tank Civic Exchange today released a public opinion survey entitled “Less Talk, More Action”. The survey shows that one in four people are considering emigration in response to the public health threats of Hong Kong’s air pollution, up from one in five in December 2008, when a similar survey was conducted.

    All groups, including professional drivers, who were surveyed as a specific group for the first time, identified roadside pollution, freeways, tunnels, and street canyons as the four sources that were most impactful to their health.

    “Despite the March sandstorm, the public understands clearly that the high daily concentrations of roadside pollution, poses the greatest threat to their health, and many are thinking hard about leaving,” said Christine Loh, Chief Executive Officer of Civic Exchange.

    The survey, which was funded by ADM Capital Foundation, highlighted seven key findings, also showed that while people in general are discussing air slightly less than in 2008, the best educated and richest groups in the community are talking the most, especially with their bosses.

    “While conversation levels remain high, it is those who can vote with their feet – by leaving – that remain the most vocal. They leave behind the elderly and young and the less affluent, including many professional drivers, who suffer largely in silence because the articulate and influential have left,” noted Professor Michael DeGolyer of The Hong Kong Transition Project, Hong Kong Baptist University, who conducted the survey for Civic Exchange.

    While most people believe that the government considers their health and children’s health most when setting air pollution policy, and generally trust the information on air pollution that the government provides, many people do not trust the government to set and enforce air pollution standards.

    “We now have evidence that the government’s failure to release the new Air Quality Objectives, and its inability to introduce meaningful measures to tackle roadside emissions is eroding public trust. Simply stated, the public’s message, is: ‘we trust what you tell us about air pollution, but not what you’re actually doing about it, so we want to get out more than ever’,” added Ms Loh.

    Civic Exchange also pointed to two global surveys that provide independent support for these findings:

    •    A November 2009 Gallup survey assessing the potential net migration from 135 countries, rated Hong Kong at -15% – the same as Iraq, while Singapore, which topped the list, rated +260%.

    •    In April 2010 another Gallup survey found that 70% of Hong Kong people – more than anywhere else on the planet – were dissatisfied with air quality.

    Commenting on the findings Professor DeGolyer noted that Civic Exchange surveys clearly identified a major reason why people are thinking about leaving Hong Kong. Conversely the Gallup migration survey provides independent support for the surprisingly high numbers of people planning to leave town identified by Civic Exchange’s 2008 and 2010 surveys.

    He also noted that nearly half of professional drivers were concerned about the maintenance and safety of their vehicles. “When drivers are about as concerned about the air they breathe as about the safety of the cars and buses they drive, then you know they take both issues seriously, and that both issues should also concern the public.”

    Survey methods

    The survey included 600 randomly selected members of the public aged 18 and over, and 415 randomly selected professional drivers1 Thirty of the respondents from the general public sample happened to be professional drivers, and their responses were counted in both samples. In total, 985 people were interviewed.

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    From Wall Street Journal, yet another international media article highlighting Hong Kong's shameful air pollution; includes:

    A new survey conducted by the British Chamber of Commerce and marketing consultants TNS finds that while 96% of the Chamber’s 500 member companies call the business environment “somewhat” or “very” satisfactory, the performance of the city’s government comes in for a drubbing.

    … businesses were roundly critical of the government’s efforts to combat air pollution. Of the respondents, 94% reported being disappointed by the government’s efforts to improve Hong Kong’s dismal air quality, a source of particular concern for employees with young children. That number has risen significantly since 2010, the Chamber reports.

    Businesses’ Biggest Hong Kong Complaints: Pollution, Schools



    From S China Morning Post today; sad to learn of Eric Bohm, CEO of WWF Hong Kong, being prompted to leave Hong Kong because of the terrible air pollution – and having such a gloomy view of government's uselessness in the face of it.

    Pollution fighter flees bad air

    Government's failure to address pollution and lack of long-term 'green' vision is finally forcing the head of the WWF, Eric Bohm, to quit the city after 30 years

    Cheung Chi-fai

    May 10, 2012


    Eric Bohm always feels outraged when he sees coach and car drivers leave their engines running outside his office next to the Peak Tram station in Garden Road, Central.

    They are in breach of the law against idling engines and, if he isn't in a hurry, he will go out and challenge the drivers to switch off.

    But not any more.

    The 68-year-old chief executive of WWF Hong Kong, the city's largest green campaign group, is leaving the city he has spent the past eight years trying to save from further environmental degradation.

    And his departure is a direct result of that continued degradation.

    "My wife has asthma and the air quality here is not good. She had pneumonia twice last year, triggered by bad air and irritation. So I say enough is enough," he said.

    Bohm, a Canadian who has been in Hong Kong since 1981 and worked as a financial controller before joining the WFF. He will migrate to Britain with Diane, his wife of 44 years, and be reunited with their daughter.

    Bohm said he was reluctant to leave the city and would miss many things – the food, the people, the opportunities and the ice hockey team he founded.

    But his disappointment over the government's inability – and lack of courage and determination – to address air pollution has finally become intolerable.

    He hopes matters will change under the new government of chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying, who, along with the environment secretary he will appoint, should have the "courage of conviction" to defend good environmental policy.

    He said Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's administration lacked vision. It took the wrong approach by filling the city with more highways, another airport runway and more concrete. He said: "I hope C. Y. Leung's government will come in with [a vision of] what Hong Kong should look like and get that message across to the public."

    Bohm said the problem was not that citizens did not care about the environment, but that the political system had become a stumbling block to environmental progress.

    He cited the idling-engine ban as an example. The ban was heavily toned down after a political outcry from the transport sector.

    "There is a very high level of public participation in Earth Hour. You know from it [this campaign] that the Hong Kong public is on that wavelength. So what is the problem?" he asked. "The problem is the political representation system, which looks after vested interests before it looks after the general [public's] interest."

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