PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 May, 2012, 12:00am


Rule of law issues cause for concern

I refer to the debate about who should control the process that decides whether to press charges at the end of investigations involving senior government officials.

Grenville Cross, former director of public prosecutions, argued that the secretary for justice should recuse himself and leave the control of sensitive cases to the director of public prosecutions ('Too hot to handle', May 4). But current director, Kevin Zervos, disagreed, claiming that the Department of Justice's established mechanisms ensure fair and impartial case management ('Prosecution processes accountable', May 9).

Mr Cross emphasised the rule of law and quoted outspoken judge Lord Denning, who, ironically, as a BBC report noted, felt no qualm changing 'any rule of law that stood in his way'. The contradiction between Denning's words and deeds evinces a fundamental problem of common law about who watches the watchers.

Mr Zervos emphasised whether the prosecution system fairly serves the public interest rather than who or whose office controls prosecution decisions. But this approach poses questions about how to justify legal interpretations of fairness and balancing public interest.

Consider the BAE Systems case. The House of Lords upheld the Serious Fraud Office's decision to discontinue investigation of alleged corruption, averring to the need 'to balance the rule of law against the wider public interest'. But the company was investigated and tried in the US, because a US bank was implicated. US District Judge John Bates ruled that 'BAE's conduct involved deception, duplicity and knowing violations of law on an enormous scale'. The rule of law is valued only if the law serves public interest which varies and is culture-dependent.

Would objective observers find it agreeable that there has never been a native Chinese-speaking director of public prosecutions, a job that inevitably involves public interest, in our predominately Chinese-speaking city? In self-styled cosmopolitan but in fact snobbish England, Denning [in a book] seemed to suggest that black people were unsuitable jurors probably because he found them not fully assimilated.

Mr Zervos advocated transparency and accountability for the prosecution system.

These qualities must meet the criteria not only of the legal profession which is dominated by the city's less than half a per cent native English-speaking minority, but also of the public to ensure good prosecution practice.

Pierce Lam, Central

Textbook impasse can be solved

I would like to offer an interim solution to the ongoing dispute between the government and textbook publishers.

By spending a relatively insignificant sum, the government could reimburse the expenses incurred by parents for purchasing textbooks for their children studying in primary and secondary schools, as a one-off policy, in the current school year. The books would then be returned to the respective schools after the summer break and be redistributed to the next batch of students.

This policy works in California's public schools and parents do not have to buy textbooks for their children. Not only will it stop the bickering, but it will also allow time for the Education Bureau to introduce e-learning at a later stage.

It will be environmentally friendly since thousands of used textbooks do not have to be destroyed each year as waste.

Herbie Au Hok-lam, Sha Tin

Worst-case scenario drill is needed

It was worthwhile for the government to carry out an emergency drill in April [to test the response to a nuclear accident], but it was based on a mild scenario.

A drill involving a larger-scale evacuation is still needed. While the general public can hope for the best, it is the government's duty to prepare for the worst. It is unrealistic to pretend that in the world we live in, any disaster will only be mild and few people will come to harm.

The difference between the April drill and a possible crisis comes down to scale.

Hong Kong is small and densely populated. If there was nuclear fallout and a large or full-scale evacuation was required, what plan does the government have to evacuate as many citizens as possible? It is not a hypothetical question. Titanic was designed to be 'unsinkable', but it sank. It would be prudent to plan for the worst.

Many questions need to be answered, such as how to manage traffic so that most people can be sent to ports and airports in the shortest possible time.

Should all private vehicles be taken off the road to give way to public transport? How will flights be arranged so that people can leave Hong Kong as soon as possible?

Do we have enough riot police to maintain law and order? Where will people with no foreign right of abode go?

Without an emergency plan based on a more hostile situation than the April [Daya Bay nuclear emergency drill], these questions, among many others, will simply go unanswered

Leung Ka-kit, Yau Tsim Mong

Adults set bad example on MTR

I always take the MTR to commute to and from my workplace.

I arrive at Tiu Keng Leng station between 7.15 and 7.30am. It always disappoints me when I alight as I am met by a chaotic scene.

People on the platform, mostly adults, do not appear to feel that alighting passengers have a right of way.

They even crowd around the area marked with a green exit arrow in an effort to get on first. There are also a lot of students in the station at this time in the morning. Do these adults not realise that youngsters will copy their behaviour?

The MTR Corporation should launch a publicity campaign in an effort to educate passengers to be more considerate. It also needs to send more station assistants to the platforms to ensure orderly boarding and alighting.

If it is going to raise fares, it should at least ensure commuters can enjoy a safe and comfortable travelling experience.

Tony Au, Tseung Kwan O

We can easily do away with charcoal

I refer to the letter from Alastair Sharp, of Samaritans Multilingual Suicide Prevention Service ('Evidence is clear - locking charcoal in shop cabinets helps cut suicide rates', May 15). I do not understand why charcoal is sold at all in Hong Kong.

Many years ago, on a visit to Australia, I saw that barbecue sites there had liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) barbecues where picnickers paid for the gas they used.

I thought then what a wonderful, clean way it was to cook instead of the waste that is always left over from Hong Kong-style barbecues pits.

If we changed the barbecue sites over to LPG, this would prevent the charcoal being readily available to people who wanted to commit suicide as stores would have no demand to supply it.

LPG barbecues would also help to maintain a cleaner environment as picnickers would not need barbecue forks, extra netting and rolls of aluminium foil to cook in the old-fashioned barbecue pits.

People who need charcoal (and I don't know of any uses for it other than for barbecues) would then need to order in large quantities from a registered supplier.

Gill Wright, Jardine's Lookout

Redevelop underused PLA sites

The government is considering extensive land reclamation to accommodate Hong Kong's rapidly increasing population.

I suggest that a more immediate solution, which could also reduce significantly the land reclamation required, should be investigated.

Under Article 13 of the Garrison Law, 'when the central government considers that any military sites used by the Hong Kong garrison are no longer needed for defence purposes, it can approve the return of these sites without compensation to the HKSAR government for disposal'.

Many military sites appear unused by the PLA, including empty residences thereon, and it would appear appropriate for the central government to return them for development.

These military sites are already well served by the public road system and utility services and thus could be much more speedily (and cheaply) developed than as yet unconstructed, and relatively remote, land reclamation sites.

This would appear a golden opportunity for the new chief executive to lobby the central government and show he truly has the interests of Hong Kong at heart.

Doug Miller, Tai Po