PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2012, 12:00am


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E-textbooks can break monopoly

I refer to the letter by Rachel Ko ('Respect hard work behind textbooks', May 11).

She misinterprets the word 'respect' as allowing publishers to avariciously raise their profits to a level at which most grass-roots families can ill-afford.

I do appreciate the effort made by those conscientious editors who work painstakingly and meticulously to research and up-date teaching materials to ensure students receive a good quality education. However, it does not mean that publishers should shift all costs directly to the public. They should share part of the cost. I don't think that a reasonable drop in the textbook price will deal a great blow to publishing companies.

That the publisher provides free textbooks and other teaching materials to schools should never be a reason for charging high amounts. If that is the case, I strongly recommend, as suggested by the government, the 'user-pays' principle, under which schools can purchase learning materials they deem useful and need not squander resources.

The Hong Kong textbook market is monopolised by a few publishing firms. Yet publishers, who benefit from this situation, arbitrarily set unreasonable prices, and on the pretexts of so-called inflation, recent education reform and research, they are always unwilling to compromise on final prices.

Therefore, I support the idea put forward by Education Secretary Michael Suen Ming-yeung, to introduce e-textbooks to ward off any market monopoly, and to ultimately lower the burden on parents through less spending on textbooks.

Nonetheless, careful plans such as ways of updating e-textbooks in the long run, should be made so that the HK$50 million subsidy can be spent appropriately. Also, it is important to make sure that every student should own a computer or it will be hard for teachers to engage in e-learning.

James Au Kin-pong, Lai Chi Kok

Bicycles now allowed at university

In response to Raphael Mak Yui-kan's letter ('HKU should encourage bicycle use', May 10), I am pleased to report that the University of Hong Kong recently reversed its long-standing ban on bicycle use.

Bike racks will be made available close to campus entrances later this year, after completion of the Centennial Campus construction and move-in period. However, as most campus roads are narrow and/or steep and major construction projects are under way and planned, riders will be encouraged to lock bikes on arrival and proceed within the campus by foot.

In the meantime, bike parking is available in the Composite Building.

The car parking staff have been reminded of the new policy and temporary arrangements.

Ann Kildahl, sustainability manager, University of Hong Kong

Officials may worsen pollution

I refer to the comments of Michael Kadoorie, chairman of CLP (''Clean energy means higher power bills'', May 9).

What Sir Michael could also have said is that 'clean energy' won't necessarily even reduce pollution.

The fact is that higher power prices in Hong Kong will drive more companies to set up on the mainland, which has cheaper power costs. Unlike Hong Kong, which has quite good pollution abatement in its power plants, the mainland has very poor pollution abatement.

The central government has admitted that its sulfur reduction equipment is not in use half of the time. CLP plants, in contrast, have been equipped with state-of-the-art sulfur reduction equipment designed to operate continuously.

Hong Kong power plants have good combustion control to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution. My company is trying to make the controls just a little better. Mainland plants have very poor combustion control and high NOx. From my measurements NOx emissions on the mainland are typically more than double those in Hong Kong. Hong Kong plants use gas and very low polluting Indonesian coal. Mainland plants use primarily relatively low-grade, high-polluting mainland coal.

By pricing Hong Kong electricity much higher than power across the border, the SAR is discouraging low-polluting Hong Kong power production and encouraging high-polluting mainland power production. Depending on the time of the year as much as half of Hong Kong's air pollution comes from the mainland. Based on anticipated moves by the SAR government this proportion will rise.

The Hong Kong government should be mindful of the unintended consequences of its short-sighted energy policies.

David Dunn, Beijing

Humans make much bigger mess

I refer to the letter by Jason R. Ali regarding the buffaloes in Mui Wo that make a mess on the playground ('Fence in cattle or put them down', May 2).

Being a parent of two children who use the playground, I have to say that this occurrence is very rare and far less of a problem than the rubbish, cigarettes and mess in general left by people in, around and on the playground, on the beach and in Hong Kong overall.

Perhaps Hong Kong people should be educated first about how to keep a clean environment, that is, put rubbish in the bins not around them, recycle and don't drop your rubbish in the ocean. And how about taking away all those old rusting cars left lying around in Pui O?

Should the government not first think about tidying up areas that are an absolute tip, and while they're at it, get up to date with cost effective, relevant technology for dealing with waste and the city's rubbish before trying to destroy these lovely buffaloes?

The buffaloes make Lantau unique.

We have lived here for 11 years and enjoy them. Overseas visitors to Lantau island like to see them gently meandering around.

If whoever complained about the buffaloes doesn't like them, tell them to go back to Mid-Levels, visit their indoor play area at 'their club' and get a life.

T. Meecham, Lantau

Minimum wage law has not worked

I agree with Fok Ho-ying ('Minimum wage leads to unfairness', May 10) that those people who do less in their line of work should receive a smaller income than people whose job involves more work. Giving them the same minimum wage leads to inequality.

Like your correspondent, I did not agree with the implementation of a minimum wage law. I believe it can encourage some citizens towards idleness.

Employers expressed concern over the law when it was being discussed, because of the additional cost to them of paying a basic hourly rate.

In many cases paying HK$28 an hour was more than they had paid to staff before the law was enacted.

Some companies, in order to maintain their profits, have had to lay off those workers who are either low skilled or not productive.

They have often kept on workers who are productive. I think it could also mean that some university graduates will have difficulties finding work, because obviously they have no work experience.

I think that if the government persists with a minimum wage policy the unemployment rate will increase.

I can understand the reasons the government gave for implementing this law, but I do not think it has had the desired effect. The income gap has not been reduced.

In fact, it is probably more difficult for low-skilled people to find employment now and so they have rely on welfare from the government.

This increases the financial burden on the administration.

Hebe Cheung, Kowloon Bay

Overuse of mobiles is a problem

I am writing in response to Adrian Leung Ho-ting's letter ('Mobiles kill the art of conversation', May 8).

I agree with the point made by your correspondent that 'overuse of mobile phones has become a serious problem'.

Nowadays I would estimate that around half the people you see on our streets are almost constantly using their mobiles.

I don't think they understand the real meaning of conversation.

I think school authorities have to be aware of this and ensure children are taught the correct and responsible use of mobile phones.

The government should also remind citizens about spending too long on a mobile.

I have mentioned this to some friends and it is something we all have to be aware of.

Franklin Ho, Sha Tin