Keep education allowance for civil service families

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 July, 2005, 12:00am

I refer to the article 'Let bygones be bygones' (July 18), by Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, on the decision of the Court of Final Appeal on civil service pay cuts.

The court's decision was not surprising to me and after your vitriolic leader ('Pay ruling a step forward for reform', July 14), the more conciliatory and balanced tone of Dr Cheung's article was refreshing. However, I wonder if his exhortations for both sides to put the issue aside and work together are wishful thinking, given the administration's avowed aim to cut allowances further.

As a police officer and Hong Kong resident for 22 years, I am quite aware that there is no sympathy in the community or the media for the 'conditions of service' that are now referred to as fringe benefits. This brings me to the question of education allowances, which are likely to be abolished in the near future. Though childless myself, many of my colleagues are recipients, and I note that the effect of allowances has been that a large number of otherwise ordinary Hong Kong families have been able to educate their children in a manner which would otherwise have been completely beyond their reach. The majority of recipients are low in rank, live in small flats, survive on small salaries and have to endure family hardship to better educate their children, in spite of the extra that the scheme provides.

They are not the 'fat cats' the civil service is so often portrayed as being comprised of, but are as representative of the ordinary citizen as any other group, maybe more so as they are among those who pay some 89 per cent of all income tax. They deserve to keep this allowance.


Helping young doctors

In recent years, owing to inadequate resources, the Hospital Authority introduced various kinds of employment contracts for young graduates. Salaries and benefits have been cut year after year.

The result of the policy is that young doctors have been offered different pay and conditions for the same work. This not only created inequality, but resulted in low morale among them. In the past two months there has been another exodus of consultants as well as many middle-tier specialists.

The other damaging effect is the limited duration of the employment contract provided by the authority, coupled with the fact that we still lack a structured and well-organised training programme for the trainees in various specialties.

Every year, young doctors need to struggle for a training post or an employment contract to complete the required training. They are overwhelmed by anxiety and insecurity, to the extent that their performance in daily work is severely hampered.

We are determined to remove obstacles hindering the training of young specialists. The first task is to look into the present contract system, which is seen as blocking the way for aspiring young doctors to become qualified specialists. We are also concerned about the future direction of the authority, particularly in personnel policy as well as in providing a training programme. Input from trainees will be essential in formulating a training policy.

DR KWOK KA-KI, Legislative Councillor

Locally sourced rubbish

Rather than pointing to our Guangdong neighbours, we should seriously look at the practices of us Hongkongers when it comes to the origin of marine rubbish.

Through our in-house marine conservation patrols, we frequently witness pleasure vessels discarding black bin bags full of rubbish when returning from a charter, fishermen throwing polystyrene boxes and trawled rubbish back into the sea and beach-goers leaving rubbish behind.

With the Marine Department's limited resources and marine police's inability to prosecute offenders (how many fines have been issued for littering at sea?), then it is up to all of us to protect Hong Kong's greatest natural assets. It is not a question of blame; it is about understanding that the sea is not a sink and that all rubbish, however small, should be taken home and disposed of properly. And the saddest part of all is that what you see on the surface is magnified 10 times underwater.

CHARLES FREW, Asiatic Marine, Sai Kung

Chinese takeover offers

If anyone needs any further evidence of America's despicable, selfish and double standards when it comes to economic interests, they have only to look at the rapidly unfolding public and political opposition to takeover bids for large US companies by Chinese organisations.

Corporate America travels the world preaching the merits of globalisation of trade and industry, but it fails to mention that this really means US domination of other nations' trade. There are currently takeover offers on the table for the giant US oil company Unocal by the Chinese company CNOOC and for the Maytag Corporation by a Chinese syndicate led by the Haier Group.

See how the Americans now scream. Public fervour against these proposed acquisitions is now being 'stir-fried' by American industrial and union lobbyists. It is reminiscent of the anti-Chinese immigration hatred incited in the US, which culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Any further takeover attempts of American corporations by Chinese companies might well see the passing of an equivalent of a 'Chinese Companies Exclusion Act'.

P. A. CRUSH, Sha Tin

UK creates terrorists

I was startled to read that Peter Lok ('Terror in Iraq', July 18) thinks there are two stories about who started bombing civilians in the second world war. The opening attack of the war, on Warsaw by Hitler's forces in 1939, was the first such blow against civilians. London was certainly attacked before Berlin. Without denying the later horrors of Dresden or Nagasaki, there are not 'two different stories': there is truth and falsehood.

Nowadays, differences between 'destroying the enemy's will to resist' and 'terror', and between individual and state terrorism are less clear. Whatever the results of President George W. Bush's Iraq folly, it is not correct to say coalition forces are terrorists equivalent to the insurgents. The coalition does not aim to inflict terror on civilians, while insurgents kill fellow Iraqis indiscriminately.

That said, it is wishful thinking for UK politicians to declare that Iraq 'has nothing to do' with the London bombings. Why do we persist in denying what disaffected Muslims tell us: they object to people coming from overseas and sticking their noses and their armies into their communities? Eighty per cent of the UK's Muslims believe the war in Iraq is a war on Muslims.

How do you marginalise terrorists when you make their frustrations mainstream opinion? Having created thousands of extra terrorists, and given them a perfect urban training ground, the US-British axis will be a study in geopolitical folly for years to come.


Straight-sex danger

Anna Chan (July 18) suggested that before it can be claimed that homosexuality has any 'validity' as an alternative sexual orientation, one must produce proof that homosexuals are as faithless and unhealthy as their heterosexual counterparts.

Is Ms Chan simply against promiscuity? Has the apparently higher occurrence of HIV infection among gay men in some countries justified her thinking that homosexuality is not acceptable?

In some African countries, HIV is transmitted overwhelmingly through 'straight' sex. Can this support the argument that heterosexuality is not acceptable there? We also have prostitution - a breeding ground for unruly, risky and irresponsible sex - catering exclusively to heterosexual men. Let us not perpetuate our prejudices by dressing them up as 'facts'.

SEAN MOK, Cheung Chau