Yasukuni Shrine

Western leaders do not honour war criminals

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 May, 2005, 12:00am

The column headlined 'A lesson for the leadership in promoting core values' (May 2), by Wang Xiangwei, criticised the Chinese leadership for lack of respect for Confucius and Mencius.

The columnist acts as an apologist for the Japanese leadership's annual visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where 13 Class-A convicted war criminals are buried, by saying Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi defended these visits as paying respect to those who had given their lives for their country. Wang adds: 'It is likely he fears the huge cultural backlash a decision to stop visiting the shrine would bring'.

He then associates the Yasukuni Shrine visits with the annual remembrance of the war dead by western leaders. He should know that, first, there are no war criminals interred at sites where western leaders attend their annual remembrance ceremonies.

Second, if the Japanese leadership wishes to promote civilised core values rather than fascist ones, it should remove the remains of war criminals from the Yasukuni Shrine.

Wang's column is particularly insidious in that he weaves totally unacceptable acts of the Japanese leadership together with valid points on what the Chinese leadership should do to commemorate heroic Chinese people who gave their lives fighting the fascist invasion by Japan and occupation of China.

It is Wang who lacks respect for the feelings of the Chinese and many millions of Asian and other people who suffered the barbaric and criminal acts of Japan during the second world war. The way in which he discusses the Yasukuni Shrine shows how out of touch he is with the mood of the ordinary people.

It is doubtful that Mencius, and in particular Confucius, who preached respect for authority, would think much of the tone and language used by the columnist in arguing that the Chinese leadership should underscore and respect traditional Chinese culture and values.


Bickley, Kent, UK

Wen's university lunch

On first glance at the South China Morning Post on Thursday, I thought I might have inadvertently picked up the People's Daily.

On page one was the article 'Wen spreads message of calm on campus' (May 5) with a picture of smiling Premier Wen Jiabao and other big potatoes eating a 'model' 10-yuan lunch. This was accompanied by the gushing article and headline 'Students thrilled by people's premier'. The propaganda machine tells us that the premier wanted the lunch to be kept a secret, even at Peking University on May 4. Get real.

How about analysis of the photo-op as a not-too-subtle show of support for anti-Japan 'nationalists', using 1919-type rhetoric and sentiment to further the cause of Asia's big boy?

Slow news day? Or just one further example of the Post's swing to the motherland?

Thank goodness for cartoonist Harry and the Letters section, two remaining edges in an increasingly blunt instrument.


Democracy in schools?

We read with keen interest the article 'Stop bullying parents and teachers' (April 30), by Philip Yeung, and cast doubt over the so-called institutional democracy for the choice of medium of instruction it repeatedly calls for.

Institutional democracy sounds great. But does it mean that schools are free to do whatever they want to do? In the case of medium of instruction (MOI), it definitely comes with a price, and one which Hong Kong can ill afford. This is borne out by history. Before the implementation of the MOI guidance for secondary schools in 1998, most secondary schools said they favoured English as the medium of instruction. In reality, teaching in most of these schools was actually conducted mainly in Cantonese, though English textbooks were used and the assessment was conducted in English.

Despite the fact that since 1994 the government had started to provide schools with the Medium of Instruction Grouping Assessment information, which informed them of the overall suitability of their students for English- or Chinese-medium teaching, most schools did not make changes to their medium of instruction. As a result, many students experienced difficulties in learning, and their English was not improved. Some even lost interest and confidence in learning. Those who could barely manage were inclined to learn by rote.

Should we turn back the clock now? The working group has great doubts. Given the community's prevailing preference for English-medium teaching and the continued decline in student population, schools would have to take market forces into account when making their decisions. In order to pay heed to parental demand and compete for students, schools would be under even greater pressure to make MOI decisions based on factors other than educational. We do not doubt that some schools would be able to deliver what they preach, but a comprehensive MOI policy cannot be premised solely on the circumstances of individual schools, certainly not those that rank among the top schools in Hong Kong.

Mr Yeung depicted Antony Leung Kam-chung and Michael Tien Puk-sun as businessmen 'terrorising' the education sector. Interestingly, we may have expected them to favour the tyranny of market forces, but this is not the case. The working group, contrary to what Mr Yeung suggested, is not dominated by businessmen. Members are largely academics and professionals in the school sector who know the system inside out and more importantly care about the education of elites and non- elites.

We may not have suggested options which please all, but we have put the interests of our students and the quality of education before all else. And this is a fundamental principle subscribed to by all members, including our chairman, who is a businessman.

Factors like preserving the status of individual schools and protecting their English-medium label are not, and should not be, our key concerns.

PECVIN YONG, secretary, working group on review of secondary school places allocation and medium of instruction, Secondary Schools Education Commission

No more guidelines

I refer to Candy Lam's letter 'MTR hygiene woes' (May 4). She said part of the problem was due to the cooked food outlets and cake shops. She also asked about the need for guidelines for evacuation when people are carrying food.

Well, I can understand Ms Lam's worries, but I lament the fact that we are in an era of guidelines. Why can't we simply exercise our common sense?

We have been told far too often what we should do and what we should not do. Rather than having regulations and guidelines governing us, I think it is time we cared more about ourselves and our environment. This way we and generations to come will learn to take the initiative and carry out civic duties ourselves.


Disney jobs for HK

Recently we have seen several newspaper articles and a television documentary concerning the employment of Hong Kong people at the soon-to-open Disneyland.

The letter from your correspondent Alex Woo ('Hong Kong must admit skills to keep up standards,' May 5) reminds us that before an employer can take on anyone from overseas, he must prove that a Hong Kong person with the same qualifications cannot be found.

I am quite sure that Hong Kong residents are more than capable of filling 99 per cent of the jobs at Disneyland, and I hope our Immigration Department will keep a close eye on this situation. Local union representatives might also take an interest.

J. WILSON, Yau Ma Tei

One human family

I watched a television programme recently on tracing of the male Y chromosome through mitochondrial DNA. It showed that we are all descended out of Africa in one of three waves of migration.

This finding brings into serious question the basis for ethnic differentiation, for patriotism or indeed for religious sectoring since it becomes apparent that we originated from the same people. Even Palestinians and Jews have nearly identical roots.

This scientific truth, if allowed to permeate the consciousness of the world, could lead to enormous changes. Consider that even an ardent Klu Klux Klan member has African DNA. It also makes the staged arguments of politicians and big business stand out as pure greed and familial power plays.

One world, one people. Humans, get over your petty border squabbles and embrace your single family.

A. WILLIAMS, Peng Chau