Closed-door deal in choice of artist
The Hong Kong Arts Development Council announced that artist Lee Kit was selected to represent Hong Kong at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 ('Boost for HK at Venice visual arts 'Olympics',' June 23).
Many have welcomed the news. However, others are unhappy with the way he was chosen. The selection process differed from previous years. In the past, local curators, artists and other citizens could compete fairly for resources allocated for the Venice Biennale, but this time that was not possible.
Essentially what happened was a closed-door deal between the council and M+ (the West Kowloon arts hub museum).
This was a private deal which removed the previous open-call system, a channel for public participation which had been in place since 2001. I see this as a step backwards.
Some might argue that many countries use the model now adopted, but this is irrelevant. This has to be seen in context.
An existing cultural right available to the public has gone. Such a change, however, took place without any extensive consultation with stakeholders in an open and reasoned manner.
What we are seeing now is an abuse of institutional power and neglect of the public's cultural rights.
This is a serious matter and the Arts Development Council and M+ unfortunately demonstrated a lack of the necessary political sensitivity needed for the development of art in our city.
Lau Kin-wah, Pok Fu Lam
Lobbyists intolerant on smoking
I refer to the letters by Annelise Connell ('No room for ignorance of liquor laws', June 30) and by James Middleton, chairman of Clear the Air ('Minor law changes can curb smokers', July 3). They were responding to my letter ('It would not be feasible to make bar owners responsible for illegal smokers', June 27).
When Ms Connell was chairwoman of Clear the Air, it conducted an anti-smoking campaign and objected to the renewal of some 1,600 liquor licences, intimidating bar owners into submitting to its demands to go smoke-free.
This caused licensees much stress waiting for delayed renewals, not knowing whether their businesses would collapse because of spurious objections.
This practice was stopped by the Liquor Licensing Board when it belatedly woke up to Clear the Air's underhand methods, but not before much harm had been unjustly caused to the small businesses.
Who are such people, who seek to impose their uninvited view on others whose opinions do not coincide with theirs?
The anti-tobacco lobbyists cajoled the government into passing the smoking ban in licensed premises but without any widespread call for this from the greater population.
It was so simple before. If you didn't like a smoke-filled bar, you simply walked past until you found one which was smoke-free by choice of the landlord.
Yes, this is all about choice, something these lobbyists either lack the ability to understand, and so balance fairly all the issues, or are simply too bigoted and intolerant to comprehend.
Smokers, having been pushed out of bars by ill-considered legislation, now huddle together on pavements blowing smoke into the eyes of those trying to walk by.
Concerning Ms Connell's suggestion that licensees are too mean to employ bouncers, this is exactly what local triads crave. Many bouncers are triad-linked, and to make licensees accountable for any smoking infringements would merely push them into the hands of triad protection rackets.
I can assure Ms Connell that far from 'raking in profits' as she alleges, most bar owners are today barely holding their heads above water from crippling rents.
Clear the Air and other self-appointed anti-smoking vigilantes aim their attacks at small and vulnerable businesses but seldom dare to confront the tobacco giants or the government for 'raking in profits' and huge tobacco tax receipts.
P. A. Crush, Sha Tin
More action needed over tainted milk
The most recent cases of tainted food on the mainland concerned Bright Dairy & Food's Ubest brand of milk. Also, Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial recalled products that contained mercury ('Hundreds of cartons of alkaline-tainted milk recalled', June 29).
Will milk producers ever learn?
It is the failure of these companies to comply with rules and regulations that has caused mainlanders to turn to Hong Kong's milk products, increasing prices in stores here.
Despite regulations being tightened in 2008, it is apparent that sweeping reforms have yet to be implemented.
Mainland authorities must ensure greater transparency.
Further criminal sanctions should be imposed, and laws should be enforced. It is of paramount importance that the mainland improve the dairy industry's battered reputation.
If public confidence is regained on the mainland, there will be less pressure on Hong Kong's milk industry.
Samantha Datwani, Pok Fu Lam
Compulsory sex education essential
I believe that better precautionary measures are the key to preventing unwanted teenage pregnancies.
However, given deep-rooted Chinese traditions in Hong Kong, sex is often equated with immorality.
The discussion of sex education is seen as a taboo subject, especially among older people.
Without such discussion young people are ignorant, and this undeniably leads to a sharp rise in teenage pregnancies.
When these young people become pregnant, it can damage them physically and mentally.
They may try to get an abortion, seeing this as a solution to all their problems.
Without education, they have distorted values.
The government needs to address this problem with compulsory sex education in schools.
If we do not deal with it soon, then the difficulties that are associated with teenage pregnancies can only get worse.
Lilian Chung Ka-long, Hung Hom
Reduce the students' workload
As part of the new generation of Diploma of Secondary Education students under the new senior secondary system, I am aware that it has come in for criticism and I would like to share some of my views with readers.
With flexible subject choices, students were free to list their elective subjects, eliminating the traditional constraints like pure science or art.
The aim of the Education Bureau in this regard was to broaden teenagers' horizons. The subject which provoked the greatest discussion was liberal studies. The six modules helped pupils to understand how different aspects of society operate and thus encouraged them to think critically.
However, the exam was flawed, with students having to concentrate on their writing speed rather than proving their ability to acquire knowledge of the subject.
In future, the exam period should be extended or the number of questions reduced.
Also, Form Five and Form Six students faced a heavy workload and this reduced the available time they had to pursue leisure activities.
This problem was exacerbated by the independent- inquiry aspect of liberal studies, which was coupled with school-based assessment. Pupils found themselves having to do a lot of revision for internal tests. This took away from other important academic studies.
To deal effectively with this problem, I think the school-based assessment needs to be reduced by one-third so that students can enjoy a more rewarding senior secondary life.
This was a new format so it was inevitable that there would be unforeseen difficulties.
Despite the fact that the assessments proved to be really tough, the new examination and subject format did open up more possibilities for pupils and offered them a wider range.
Pupils should feel proud of what they have achieved, whatever their examination results.
Frankie Wong, Tin Shui Wai
Let's be fair over illegal structures
The issue of illegal structures has been dominating the headlines in the media and it is getting to the point now where it is really ridiculous.
If they are going to be fair, our media bosses should open their homes to public examination so that we can see if they have any illegal structures.
It comes down to the principles of integrity and fairness, so they should let people see their residences.
K. W. Cheng, Happy Valley