PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 May, 2012, 12:00am


HK a very secure and tolerant city

I recently spent three months as an exchange student in Hong Kong and what surprised me most was the high level of personal security in the city and the tolerance people showed towards each other.

After losing my wallet the first week and reporting the loss to the police I never imagined they would contact me but they did. It turned out someone had put the contents in a letter box and I ended up getting everything back. This would not happen in many other large cities around the world. I was relieved and grateful.

As a young woman, security and respect are important issues in order to feel comfortable in a crowded, small place like Hong Kong. Whether walking home after midnight, running in the hills or shopping in Kowloon and Causeway Bay, I always felt safe and calm.

Even the most amazing place can turn into hell if you are constantly watching your back and feeling tense. This was never the case in Hong Kong and it makes you want to come back.

Shririn Ordou, Gothenburg, Sweden

Book sheds light on disaster

In the letter ('Forgotten maritime tragedy', April 29) John Jones writes about the torpedoing of the German barracks ship Wilhelm Gustloff in January, 1945, by a Soviet submarine in the final year of the second world war.

The sinking of the former 'Strength Through Joy' Nazi cruise liner is recognised as the greatest maritime disaster, with the loss of thousands of lives.

Many of them were refugees who were fleeing the German port of Gotenhafen - now Gdynia in Poland - and the wrath of the advancing Soviet army.

The true losses may never be known, but it is thought 10,000 people were crammed into the ship's bowels and only about 1,000 were rescued.

As Mr Jones states, the Wilhelm Gustloff has been overshadowed by the media interest in the 1912 Titanic disaster.

The Gustloff was deemed to be a 'war loss' by the losing side, and it dimmed from the collective memory in the West in spite of the catastrophic losses.

The attack also happened in Soviet-controlled waters and Moscow was in no mood to share details surrounding the sinking, or what happened afterwards, as the cold war developed.

But scraps of information surfaced over the years as the fate of the ship, the survivors and the crew of the Soviet submarine S-13 came to light.

My journalist father came across mention of the sinking in a military magazine. Intrigued, he asked the librarian at Britain's Imperial War Museum if he knew about the Wilhelm Gustloff.

The librarian shortly produced a pile of information. 'I've been waiting for years for someone to ask me for this', he said. It was a goldmine.

The result of an exhaustive Europe-wide search for papers, people and information by my father and two colleagues was The Cruelest Night, published in 1980.

Moscow-based co-author Johnny Miller tracked down the story of Captain Marinesko, the flamboyant Russian submarine ace who sank the Gustloff but who fell foul of the KGB and was banished to the dreaded gulag of Kolyma. Ronnie Payne interviewed Admiral Doenitz, the U-boat chief who masterminded the German 'Dunkirk' from East Prussia and ruled the Third Reich for a few weeks after Hitler's death.

The Cruelest Night unlocked many of the mysteries of the world's greatest maritime disaster and led to a broader interest in the sinking. But even today, the fate of the Wilhelm Gustloff is unknown to the general public.

Chris Dobson, Mid-Levels

MTR cannot match Tube's bargains

Jake van der Kamp's valiant defence of the MTR's latest fare hike ('MTR's highest fare still far stop from financial burden', May 13) conveniently omits a few facts that make his comparison with the London Underground rather misleading.

As a Londoner, it is not often one gets to sing the praises of the city's much maligned Tube.

However, on fares it is worth noting that children, the disabled and senior citizens all travel free and that the vast majority of Londoners purchase season tickets and day passes that allow unlimited travel on all public transport.

In reality, few travellers purchase the expensive single-fare trips cited as a comparator by van der Kamp.

The government and MTR would do well to consider introducing similar concessions to safeguard the mobility needs of all Hong Kong residents.

Che Singh, Sha Tin

Let transport firms pay for cheap fare

The HK$400 million government transport scheme which gives a flat fare on the MTR and buses to the handicapped and elderly has proved controversial.

Some people have argued that the public transport operators rather than taxpayers should pay for this fare subsidy.

I agree with this position. HK$400 million places a heavy burden on the public purse, but not on the transport firms.

Siu Man-ting, Tai Wai

Graffiti is generally vandalism

If all graffiti looked like the photos in your report ('Drawing life lessons from graffiti', May 13), maybe the city would be better for it.

But if such reports continue to refer to graffiti as an 'art form', or 'street art', this gives some people licence to practise what it generally is: vandalism. Walk around parts of Wan Chai or the fringes of Central, and see this is not art at all.

I'm all for providing controlled areas for workshop participants. But I don't want Hong Kong turned into the mess many European cities have become, because not everyone is as talented or well-meaning as the people featured in your story.

Jim Kushner, Wan Chai

Smartphones can become addictive

I agree with the views expressed by Adrian Leung Ho-ting ('Mobiles kill the art of conversation', May 8).

Smartphones are widely used in our society. It seems as if almost everyone has one of these devices. I accept that it is important, as it helps us get information, but I draw the line at people using it when they having a meal with friends.

The problem with these phones nowadays is that there are so many applications. There is no limit to the number of games you can download.

As a consequence some people have become addicted. When they meet friends they still concentrate on their phones.

Also, other people are over-dependent on it for work; financial analysts, even when they are out of the office, will be constantly looking at it to check stock market fluctuations.

It is particularly bad here because it is so competitive, and it means many professionals can always be contacted by clients, even when they are supposed to be relaxing.

This is a problem that is connected with our society and I am not exactly sure how it can be solved. But I think that, as some people become obsessive about these phones, they see relationships with friends deteriorate.

Educating people now could lead to this problem being reduced in the future.

People also have to help themselves.

If they realise their lifestyle is having a negative effect, they can find a job that is less competitive and enables them to relax more.

Alex Chow, Sha Tin

Korea's bus system is so efficient

As I read Nancy Siu's letter ('Make buses run on time or fine them', May 4), it made me think of a recent holiday in Korea.

I spent two weeks travelling on old, inexpensive buses. Sometimes passengers would get on board laden with local produce.

The whole scene reminded me of the famous Korean TV drama Winter Sonata.

What really impressed me was that, despite their vintage, the buses kept to their timetable.

For example, in the city of Suncheon in Jeollanam-do, with a population of around 250,000, the stations had a quick-response system stating the times of bus arrivals. And you could phone the Korea Tourism Organisation any time to ask for information. They also had special entrance lanes at the underground for senior citizens.

Every day, I take the No 15 (The Peak) bus and very little information is provided to the many tourists who travel on it.

G. Chan, Mid-Levels