Elsie Tu

Why hound the English Schools Foundation?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 January, 2005, 12:00am

Would the government please explain why it is apparently hounding the English Schools Foundation?

If the government wants Hong Kong to be 'Asia's World City', it will have to offer Asia's world language, which is English.

Hong Kong has offered that for some time and the ESF system is the major provider of English language education in Hong Kong. Jeopardise this and international people will not be able to come here and work, or stay and work. Nor will local people have the choice, which they have now, to opt for such an education, which is affordable for a wide band of people. Also wasted will be the expenditure on promoting the 'Asia's World City' programme, not to mention the ESF's contribution to the Hong Kong economy and the overall relief it provides to the government's education budget.

Generally, the ESF system seems to me to be relatively efficient, appropriate in terms of the government's stated policies and affordable. No organisation is perfect and no doubt the ESF could put the government's subsidy to better use.

But if efficiency and expenditure are the real issues, should one not look at the following: civil servant's pay, which when considered in its entirety (subsidies, pensions and other perks) is way above that for comparable jobs in the private sector; and subsidies of all sorts for the property market?

Taken together, I think these two policies are the budget deficit. To cover them, we are now being asked to consider all sorts of new taxes, which Hong Kong has never borne before and which are contrary to its spirit and are certain to damage its appeal internationally, not to mention having a detrimental effect on its own people.

In fact, I understand that the ESF subsidy is about one-third of that paid by the government for overseas education bills (comparatively no positive effect for the community) for the children of top civil servants who are now overwhelmingly locally born Hong Kong people. The rest of the population of Hong Kong has to make do with what it can afford. If reforms are to be made, is this expenditure efficient, appropriate or affordable? The answer is obviously 'no'.

I think a constructive dialogue to maximise the benefit to Hong Kong and its people of the ESF system is a wiser course of action than the current dispiriting tone of the debate which is an extension of the spirit that gave us the levy on foreign domestic helpers. Neither does Hong Kong's reputation internationally and its economy, or its soul, any good at all.


My point on Ms Tu

The racist overtones and scurrilous remarks of the letter headlined 'A Hong Kong icon' (January 15), by 'Name and address supplied', says more about him or her than about me and has the same problems as Elsie Tu's letter.

It purports to answer unasked questions and makes unsustainable assumptions on a range of irrelevant points, including that Ms Tu worked closely with three governors before Chris Patten.

Check the back issues of the newspapers and Hansard. Facts are better than anti-colonial rhetoric and self-serving assumptions. Bear in mind that I did, if only very occasionally, literally work alongside Ms Elliot/Tu in the early 1980s. It was both instructive and a privilege.

Hansard should show that she spoke in my defence against lazy members of the Legislative Council who could not be bothered to read the paperwork I had sent them. Many years on I have not forgotten Ms Tu's kindnesses and that is the nub of my bewilderment.

I repeat, I believe it should have been Ms Tu, and not anyone else, who was helping Link Reit objector Lo Siu-lan. This was and remains my only point. At that time I thought of Ms Tu in much the same way as I later thought of the late Pam Baker (Hong Kong lawyer and human rights activist).

And how on earth did 'helping' become marching?

I do not give a toss who other people marry and divorce. It is none of my business and none of the anonymous letter-writer's either.

PETER BERRY, Lamma Island

Pondering a lifestyle

The news of late has me a little bewildered. Let me see if I have it right: don't smoke, don't drink to the point of enjoyment, only rarely eat food you actually like and then in minute quantities, and don't spend your free time resting - you must exercise.

And the point of this continuous stream of advice is a longer life.

I think I'll go have a smoke and give this popular wisdom additional thought. I must have missed something.

S. R. MILLER, Mid-Levels

Ethics of goodness

My gratitude to John Morris ('Questions about ethics', January 17). His simplicity hits the nail on the head: you cannot buy an ethical fortune in Sogo because you cannot buy ethics.

On the other hand, if he is Oscar Wilde's cynic, who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, and is simply disappointed with his failure to find that fortune, it is because he is looking in the wrong place. If he went to the Courtauld Institute of Art or the Getty Museum instead of Sogo, he would get a dividend from someone else's free gift - a social-artistic dividend, not a financial one. At the personal level, I hope he would agree that giving money to tsunami relief, even though not called for by simple Simon Patkin's 'rational self-interest', can be driven by ethics. It is not so hard to be good these days, if you try, as public response to Operation Santa Claus shows.


America's new villains

I enthusiastically applaud Deepak Lal's stunning geopolitical analysis 'Long live the American empire' (January 12).

He is absolutely right. Not only are Islamic terrorists modern-day pirates, but Osama bin Laden is Johnny Depp's ugly unsuccessful half-brother. Anyone who loves movies will tell you how much better Osama would have been as a pirate of the Caribbean. No wonder he hates American culture.

In addition, President George W. Bush is Tinkerbell, inexplicably and cruelly afflicted with a cowboy, crotch-thrusting gait. Dick Cheney is Nemo; lost, cute as hell, but damn determined to swim through any sewer to get home. Donald Rumsfeld is Jafar. You gotta be tough with slippery Aladdin. Arabs on flying carpets and in suspect caves may be a threat to civilisation.

Condoleezza Rice is Aretha Franklin (I'm joking, of course, that's plain silly). But Jacques Chirac is definitely the sleazy Pepe Le Pew. Pacifists, anti-globalisation activists and Europeans are short hairy things with big feet from New Zealand.

Britney Spears should replace Kofi Annan at the UN. Yasser Arafat is sharing a flat with Elvis in Yuen Long and I am Betty Davis.


Where's flower seller?

Why was a frail old man we used to see in Central trying to make a few dollars by selling white flowers on the street and doing no harm to anyone moved on by the authorities because he was obstructing a pavement, while they allow hundreds of salesmen in every major street there to promote apartment sales?

Strolling in Central, I was pestered many times by these salesmen, pushing flyers into everyone's face and being a total nuisance. In Theatre Lane it was a nightmare. Come to that, why are so many salesmen allowed to cause obstructions in the street - everywhere in the city we see salesmen for the internet, television and phones setting up stalls? Are they licensed to do this? I just feel sorry for the flower salesman.

M. JONES, Central