We demand that the society's rights be respected

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2005, 12:00am

Some letters have protested about the granting of a contract by the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) for the Society of Truth and Light to run a course on human rights.

First, it must be made absolutely clear that the society was awarded the contract through open bidding. In the past few years, we organised seminars and courses on human rights, the media and gambling, and these were well received.

Second, we are always concerned about human rights. What we also emphasise is that human rights must go hand in hand with responsibilities, so as to establish a balanced society. Maybe our view on human rights does not fit with that of some people, but we have as much right to our view as they have to theirs.

Third, the course does not promulgate the society's view on human rights. It aims at helping participants view human rights from a macroscopic perspective. The society merely acts as a co-ordinator of the course, making administrative arrangements for its successful conduct. Most of the course instructors are not staff members, but experts from different disciplines: for example, a barrister-at-law, ex-legislative councillor, experienced journalist and social worker.

Unless these protesting individuals and organisations are privy to what will be said and taught in the course, it is irresponsible of them to protest before it has even started, not to mention how unfair this is to the instructors. At the end of the course, comments will be gathered from participants, and the EMB can judge for itself whether it has chosen the right organisation. Public comments will also be gathered.

Fourth, the society does not shy away from what may be unpopular, or even politically incorrect. It is always prepared to discuss and debate its views with members of the public, based on facts and research findings. We demand that our rights be respected as we have respected the rights of other segments of society.

HELEN FU DAN-MUI, Society for Truth and Light

Fundamentalist danger?

I feel compelled to express my concern about the danger of giving an educational role to the Society for Truth and Light.

I have nothing against the society or any of its members. I am sure they are very good people, and they have their right to their beliefs if they gain comfort from them.

However, I understand that it is a fundamentalist group (I am a former member of one), and that is why I am concerned. Fundamentalism is one of the great dangers to peace, because each variety of fundamental belief claims to be right.

That is not only confusing for young people. It also creates prejudices and feelings of superiority as believers claim to be chosen by God. Many wars in history have emanated from religious fundamentalism. The supreme example is the recent accusation that US President George W. Bush claims he was told by God to wage war in Iraq, and much of his support in elections comes from Christian fundamentalists. I hope that the introduction of liberal studies under Hong Kong's education reforms will help to remove prejudices from the minds of children about religion and racism.

Children should be educated to understand the different religions without being obliged to accept any one. Liberalism in social subjects should explain to them how different areas of the world, different climates, food-production systems and culture result in different skin colour and customs, while human beings are by nature alike and none are superior. Rooting out prejudices is essential if we are to experience peace on Earth.

ELSIE TU, Kwun Tong

Halt the ad assault

As a Hongkonger, I am bombarded by advertisements from the moment I wake up.

There are telephone calls from computers with pre-recorded messages, or automated surveys that exploit our habit of picking up a ringing phone; junk fax mails of my high-quality paper selling everything from flats to beauty products; rooftop neon signs that block the view and mar the skyline; oversized signposts with glaring illumination at dusk; and, of course, the intrusive broadcasts on public transport.

Hong Kong has turned into one huge advertisement. Just look at the nightly show of light over Victoria Harbour - it is nothing but an advertisement selling this city.

What has this intensity of advertising done to me? It has kept me asking for more in life. I am never satisfied. And it has numbed me of the ability to appreciate a life that is relatively simple and less materialistic.

I have asked my bank and other service providers to stop sending me promotion material. I hardly ever buy magazines that are loaded with ads. I recycle all junk mail. I also divert my phone calls to a paging service after work, to give me time to relax at home.

The sad truth is that more and more resources have been used in advertising, making them bulkier, brighter and louder than ever. But if every consumer behaves the way I do, the cost-effectiveness of advertising must be pretty low. Reducing advertisements can most certainly help save our environment.


Resist pressure tactics

They can cancel your function room, which you booked a month in advance, and give you a flimsy excuse such as a pipe leak.

This is what happened to veteran democrat Szeto Wah, who booked a conference room in the Conrad Hotel for a political forum on human rights and democracy and invited a speaker from Canada ('Anger as hotel wipes forum booking', October 1). The public was invited to attend.

It is shocking that this can happen in Hong Kong, an international city - that the mainland can still directly and indirectly use pressure tactics here. What hurts me more is that this hotel belongs to America, which boasts about democracy and human rights.

It is plain to me that Conrad Hotels succumbed to pressure from the mainland, which is bad for the image of Hong Kong hotels, famed abroad for quality service. This incident proved that the customer here has no value and voice.

If Hong Kong people do not protest against - instead of timidly tolerating - such pressure tactics, then we should expect more such incidents.

A. L. NANIK, Tsim Sha Tsui

State why no dividend

Hong Kong is already a premier financial centre, and I hope this suggestion will help to establish the city as a leader in the financial world.

I believe that if publicly listed companies make a profit, there should be compulsory and regulated distribution of dividends. And that if a profitable company does not propose a dividend, it must explain why.

Many companies inform shareholders that their profits have been increased by a large percentage and yet they do not declare an interim or final dividend. They are protected by the company prospectus, which usually contains the statement that dividends are distributed at the discretion of the board of directors. I understand that this policy is the same everywhere, and that Hong Kong is only following the practice of stock exchanges in the United States and Britain.

It is only fair to investors that they get regular returns from the companies in which they invested. For this reason, company laws should not allow companies to say that the dividend policy is at the discretion of the board.

There should be explicit company laws which require publicly listed companies to distribute a fixed percentage (up to about 50 per cent) of their annual profits as dividends to their shareholders.

If Hong Kong can establish a law on dividend practice to bring fairness to shareholders, it will become the international leader in this field as no other country has such a law. Because this law will introduce fairness, other countries will have to follow suit.


Stairwell puffs

As a non-smoking solicitor, I refer to the letter 'List tobacco's lawyers' (October 7), by J. Garner. What about those lawyers who profess to uphold the law in all its minutiae, yet scurry into the stairwells of the prestigious buildings in which their law firms are located for an illicit puff between clients?