A step towards equality for gays in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 August, 2005, 12:00am

When the court declared unconstitutional a law that prevented a gay male couple, if one was under 21, from making love, it was a small victory for gays ('Biased law on gay sex overturned by judge', August 26).

In the case against 20-year-old homosexual William Leung, provisions of sections of the Crimes Ordinance, which prescribe life imprisonment for consensual anal sex between men under 21, were overturned because they violated the Basic Law.

Homosexuals are still the minority in society; their sexual orientation is not accepted by the majority. But they should not be discriminated against. The current provisions forbid certain sexual acts between men, while allowing the same acts between heterosexuals and between lesbians. This is unfair. The law should guarantee the equality of all. It allows sex for heterosexuals and lesbians above 16 years old, while prohibiting homosexual sex until a man is 21.

Gay men have their own society. They are not trying to change anyone else's behaviour, but just want to enjoy the same rights as others. They should not have any problem because of their sexual orientation. They are worthy of respect.

Some people worry that if the law is amended, it may encourage more people to engage in dangerous sexual acts. There is no doubt that anal intercourse is a dangerous sexual act. Teenagers may not know this, and try it out of curiosity. However, the situation is the same with heterosexual intercourse. Isn't 16 years too young for sexual activity? Why don't we let gay men enjoy equivalent rights of sexual expression in private? Instead, we prohibit anal sex because it is a dangerous act.

Addressing society's concerns, the government should act to prevent them becoming true. It should educate citizens, especially teenagers, on the importance of amending the law, as well as the dangers of anal intercourse.

Building a totally equal society is difficult. This is a small step towards equality.


'Amber' is advice only

Regarding the letter 'Issue a rainstorm warning that we can understand'(August 25), I think that L. Li, like many other Hongkongers, has criticised the Observatory unfairly.

I experienced the winds in that 'amber' rainstorm last Saturday. I realise the danger we were exposed to, with strong winds seemingly blowing me back a couple of steps for each one I took forward. My weight is about the same as L. Li's.

My shoes were filled with water, my clothes soaked, yet I do not think that it is the Observatory's fault. According to its guidelines, the amber rainstorm signal should be hoisted when 30mm of rainfall is expected in the next hour. The red and black rainstorm signals are only hoisted when 50mm or 70mm of rainfall are expected to fall, respectively.

The Observatory advises that we stay out of heavy rain, and it is our own problem if we choose to leave the safety of our homes. It is for us to decide whether we want to be exposed or not. There is no rule that says 'one must stay at home when the amber/red/black rainstorm is hoisted'. These are suggestions. L. Li decided not to stay at home, and instead, walked to the office two minutes away.

That was her decision, and not the Observatory's. It is impossible for the Observatory to issue warnings for each individual's situation.


Big stake in car parts

I refer to the letter 'Boost car-parts industry' (August 24).

The government is investing a significant amount of resources into boosting the local auto-parts and accessories industry and is supported by local organisations, including the Productivity Council, Jockey Club and Vocational Training Council (VTC).

The government is setting up an auto-parts research and development centre, likely to be based on Lantau, costing several hundred million dollars. The centre is supported by a consortium of local auto-parts and accessories companies, local universities and the VTC. The consortium is managed by the Productivity Council.

The centre's main theme will be R&D to improve the quality of design, creativity and innovation through industry-led partnership projects. This should greatly support Hong Kong companies in more effectively penetrating the rapidly expanding mainland auto-parts and accessories markets, and eventually to better compete on the world stage in these fields.

In addition, the VTC has recently introduced a new course, 'Higher diploma in automotive technology and systems design', to provide the critically important graduates who will eventually become the future movers and shakers in this exciting venture.

The new course will operate from next month and is offered by the department of automotive engineering at the Institute of Vocational Education. Over recent years the department has built up a sound track record of joint research projects with local university partners. Graduates will gain an in-depth understanding of all theoretical and practical aspects to likely become the preferred future employees in this important new field.

To assist the automative engineering department serve the local community - particularly in R&D projects aimed at reducing vehicle-related air pollution and on road-safety issues - the Jockey Club Charities Trust has donated $16.61 million. This will be used to build and equip the new Large Vehicle Testing and Emissions Centre on the Institute of Vocational Education campus. It is planned that the new centre will become operational by mid-2007 and will be supported by a light vehicle emissions test cell and three concept-investigative laboratories plus an automative engineering database. For more details, visit the website, http://aedatabase.vtc.edu.hk (automotive engineering department link).

All of these preparations are being carried out in a timely fashion regarding the reported imminent introduction of a car manufacturing plant in Hong Kong by Geely Automobile Holdings. The Productivity Council and Geely recently agreed to develop the first Hong Kong-made passenger car and other related automotive components.

IAIN SEYMOUR-HART, fellow of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers

Food: a mainland view

A number of food problems have emerged in the mainland in recent days. People feel uncomfortable, choosing food with great care. Some have lost confidence in all food made on the mainland.

Problems like carcinogenic chemicals in fish that Hong Kong imports have two main reasons. First, the market mechanism has not been perfected yet, so some small retailers use illegal ways to produce foodstuff to make big money.

Second, some farmers lack knowledge about their business. They want to reduce cost, so they put many fish in the same tank and use anti-inflammation powder to cure the injured ones. This leads to fish contamination.

Now the central government has widened its power to enhance the management of markets, each local authority should take effective measures to avoid these problems happening again. They should also take care of the farmers, giving them the right instruction.

We should put more confidence in the central government and in markets. Imports to Hong Kong should gradually resume as products test safe.


Disney inconsistent

Let me get this straight: Disney has the technology and is using it to reduce noise and environmental pollution at the company's theme park in California. However, Disney chooses to use a much more polluting system for its fireworks in Hong Kong.

Everyone's health, wherever they live, should have equal value. Why does Disney give a lower value to the health of Hong Kong people? And why is our government giving support to such callousness?


Extremist Robertson

I am annoyed by prominent Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson's call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

A presidential candidate in 1988, Robertson's views are often taken literally by followers of a faith who twice helped President George W. Bush win election. He is an extremist and his views should be vehemently opposed by the US government.

If any leading non-US personality had promoted the assassination of a US president, that person would be condemned by his own government, probably arrested, and his life thereafter would be under the microscope of US intelligence agencies. Also, it is ironic that Robertson's country boasts its credentials as a peace broker.