Legco chief set terrible precedent
Many Hongkongers failed to see the dire consequences of the abrupt halting of the debate in Legco regarding the by-election amendment bill.
Our Legislative Council is already lopsided.
Half the seats are controlled by pro-establishment lawmakers who have been chosen by a small percentage of the population.
In this set-up, any bill proposed by the government can be pushed through by a simple majority vote.
The debate process in the legislature is the only way to get across to the public the serious problems that exist with some proposed legislation (like taking away the right to nominate a candidate or standing for election, as outlined in the by-election bill).
When it comes to unjust laws like this amendment bill, a filibuster is the only way in which lawmakers can buy time and raise public awareness about what is at stake.
Legco president Tsang Yok-sing set a terrible precedent by crushing the debate, a decision which was based on his personal judgment.
In future, the government can do the same to silence dissent. It will be able to push through any bills without debate, denying the public the right to be informed, and turning Legco into a chamber which rubber-stamps laws.
Virginia Yue, Fanling
Tsang made right decision on debate
I disagree with the opinions expressed by Albert Cheng King-hon in the article ('Tsang gave up his neutrality, and the legislature's credibility', May 23). The president of the Legislative Council, Tsang Yok-sing, has discretionary powers.
He can make appropriate decisions when it comes to lawmakers and procedures ('Halted filibuster starts new storm', May 18).
Mr Tsang was considerate enough to allow lawmakers from the minority parties to put forward numerous unrelated questions and amendments for discussion. But none of them was substantive.
It is very lucky for Hongkongers that we have such an excellent Legco president who had the presence of mind to know when it was appropriate to use the guillotine in the Legislative Council chamber. Hong Kong citizens are not so stupid as to think that everything is done at the instructions of Beijing.
Tommy Chan Tam-yee, Sai Ying Pun
Beijing can dissolve Basic Law
I refer to the article by Dennis Kwok ('Judiciary's rightful role in Hong Kong', May 22). Mr Kwok stated that the 'Basic Law is not a contract which the mainland authorities can unilaterally reinterpret or tear up on a whim', however that is exactly what the central government in Beijing can do.
The Basic Law itself allows the National People's Congress Standing Committee to interpret the Basic Law even if the Hong Kong SAR government did not request it.
The Basic Law also allows the NPC to unilaterally amend the Basic Law.
Since China is a unitary state, the Hong Kong government is devolved from the central government.
Regardless of the level of autonomy granted to Hong Kong by Beijing, the central government has the power to take any unilateral action.
Hong Kong does not enjoy any reserve powers and does not share dual sovereignty with China.
China is the sole sovereign and can even dissolve the Basic Law and Hong Kong SAR government if it wishes to.
Peter Call, Wan Chai
No fare rise if cabbies keep smoking
I refer to the report ('Taxi passengers face HK$2 rise in flag fall fee', May 22).
I do not necessarily want to disagree with the Transport and Housing Bureau's proposal for the HK$2 rise, but I would question the grounds on which it is based.
What is included under the heading of 'operating costs'? Most taxis these days use liquefied petroleum gas and that type of fuel, which only taxis are allowed to use, does not seem to have fluctuated much during the past 12 months since the last fare rise.
If the Executive Council is of a mind to endorse this proposal, I would ask it to place a rider regarding drivers smoking in taxis.
This seems to have become more prevalent as no real enforcement action is taken against offenders, even though it is horribly anti-social and illegal.
I now immediately get out of any taxi which smells of smoke.
I previously raised the issue with my local Legco member - to be advised to take a photograph of the offender and send to the Tobacco Control Office. Don't worry about the practicality, or even the legality, of trying to drive and photograph a smoking taxi driver at the same time.
If taxi operators and drivers want the fare raise, they should police their own fraternity and ensure a smoke-free environment for taxi passengers.
G. Davies, Jardine's Lookout
Low-skilled victims of exploitation
The minimum wage law was introduced to help families at the grass roots who survive on very low incomes.
However, it would appear that a lot of them are not deriving any benefit from it because they cannot cope in this competitive market. Therefore, they continue to be paid less than the statutory hourly rate and are afraid to come forward for fear of being laid off.
This is unethical behaviour by employers. These workers need help and such employers should be given a warning.
The offer of more welfare benefits to grass-roots workers is only a short-term solution.
Many of these workers, some of whom are elderly, often have low levels of education.
Therefore, the government must give these workers opportunities to upgrade their skills. More courses must be made available so they can become more competitive in the job market.
Chan Wing-lam, Tsuen Wan
Simple plea for agents to be honest
There have been some weak and laughable arguments from developers and estate agents before in support of misleading gross floor area flat valuations.
But when William Leung Wing-cheung, chairman of the practice and examination committee of the Estate Agents Authority, claimed it was 'a colossal task to transform the industry's habits', while announcing new guidelines, the charade hit new lows ('Size matters in new code on flat sales', May 23).
Is he referring to the difficulty of teaching his membership how to use a tape measure accurately or breaking the lucrative habit of disingenuous marketing that has prevailed for years?
Such feeble excuses should not be accepted for watering down legislation for the advantage of big business.
Why can't developers and estate agents just be transparent and honest, or is that too much to ask?
Robert Karlson, Lantau
Kim Jong-il definitely not Confucian
Michael Fahey refers to Chiang Kai-shek and Kim Jong-il as '20th century totalitarian Confucian politicians' ('Taiwan's economic standstill belies Ma's pledge of growth', May 24).
Due to the decades-long civil war with the communists in China and the war with Japan, Chiang was certainly authoritarian, but he was nowhere near as rigid as either Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-il. Whether someone is totalitarian or not is a matter of degree.
Also, I think it would be rare to see Kim Jong-il referred to as 'Confucian'. It wouldn't be the first word most people would associate with Kim.
Fahey is too reckless with the use of the words 'totalitarian' and 'Confucian'.
John Chiu, Wan Chai
Registering as organ donor so easy
You have rightly chosen to publish a number letters lamenting the low rate of organ donation in Hong Kong.
However, none of the letters have told your readers how to do it.
It's incredibly easy. Go to the website (www.organdonation.gov.hk) and register online or download a registration form which can be mailed or faxed to the Department of Health.
P. G. Harris, Lantau