talk back

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 May, 2003, 12:00am


Q What slogan should Hong Kong use to promote itself?

'Region of Diversity' sounds nice. Diversity covers urban, rural and coastal areas. For urban Hong Kong, the 'City of Life' explains a lot. Shopping and glittery nightlife are the highlight, while the daytime life in our city should not be neglected. In the morning, introduce visitors to our unique cultural life, such as the elderly performing tai chi in Kowloon Park.

With our natural landscape, a recent proposal to develop the eco-tourism industry is valid. However, environmental protection should not be neglected for the sake of simultaneous development. It should be done to benefit both our natural environment and our tourism industry.

Coastal areas like Hoi Ha Wan are well known for the diversity of precious species. But again, no perfect plan has been presented without drawing protest from environmentalists and nature lovers. 'City of Life' covers something specifically about Hong Kong while 'Region of Diversity' covers a bigger picture.

Lau Ka-hoi, Tseung Kwan O

Q Should GM food labelling be mandatory?

Consumers have the right to know what they are putting into their mouths. Companies should not be so cruel as to earn money from their loyal customers, but leave them with little information about their products. It would be quite ridiculous of the government to require all GM products to pass a safety assessment but make labelling of GM content a voluntary practice.

I don't think printing a caption on the package of a product would cost more than the chemical analysis to determine GM content. So why can't the government and the food traders take it one step further? Are the food traders afraid of the possibility that people may hesitate when buying GM-labelled food? Is the government afraid of the food traders in turn? I can't deny that some people equate GM food with hazards. I think the government has an obligation to educate the public more about GM food. The general public should be informed that GM food is not necessarily evil when thorough tests have been conducted.

Wong Kwai-sheung, To Kwa Wan

Q Has the government taken the right decision about reopening schools?

In the furore over the decision to allow international schools to reopen ahead of government schools, the word 'discriminatory' has been bandied about rather freely.

The government is not being discriminatory - for once it is being realistic! There was no shortage of news reports on the disastrous first day back for local secondary students and thankfully it gave definite pause to the government's plans to reopen the primary schools.

It is not the fault of the government schools that they were ill-prepared and ill-equipped to handle the return of their students. How does one cope with over a thousand students waiting to have their temperature taken when all you have is one thermometer and 20 disposable thermometer caps? Schools were provided with a few hundred masks and then told to recoup the cost by charging students.

It should not cause offence when simple truths are told. In most cases, class sizes in government schools are large, teachers are overburdened and toilets very often do not provide basic items such as soap, toilet paper and disposable hand towels. Many parents, already bearing the brunt of pay cuts and layoffs, simply cannot afford the extra expense of surgical masks. The government did not address this issue.

In other countries hard hit by Sars, people in need have been provided with thermometers and free masks. Also in other countries, it is a given that school toilets offer soap and paper products to ensure proper hygiene.

In making the decision to prolong the closure of local primary schools, the government recognised that these schools were not prepared. It was recognised, however, that international schools were prepared, and again this is just a simple truth not meant to cause offence. International schools operate on different academic calendars, usually reflecting the school year of the home country. There was not the same flexibility to adjust the school year, especially for older students tied to exams in other countries. How can one use the same standards when comparing apples to oranges? To insist that international schools remain closed when they are well prepared to meet the demands of this health crisis makes no sense.

No one is looking down on parents who send their children to government schools either by choice or necessity. It is the government that should be held accountable for not fully addressing the lack of proper equipment to handle Sars. Short of supplying schools with all the necessary items, the decision to keep government schools closed is wise. Allowing international schools to proceed with their school year as planned, provided they are fully prepared to offer a safe environment for students, is just common sense.

Name and address supplied

I read the article in which people were saying that education officials are discriminating against the local community while remaining loyal to foreigners. One person even called it 'blatant discrimination' to allow international schools to reopen ahead of government schools.

Yet there could have been no bias, as the majority of education officials are Chinese. In fact, I think that education officials are showing more loyalty to Chinese than foreigners since they are keeping Chinese students out of any contact with other people.

Abbai Mohammad Ibrar, Kwun Tong