Let's debate same-sex unions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 February, 2006, 12:00am

Britain is not doing Hong Kong any favours by offering same-sex civil marriage ceremonies at its consulate here ('Gays seek nod to tie knot in British consulate', Sunday Morning Post, February 19).

One need only consider the plight of the children of divorced couples in Queen Elizabeth's own progeny to see poor examples of child care. Meanwhile, in Canada, which has also approved same-sex marriage, the record for children grows worse. Its Supreme Court has approved 'swing clubs', where members can forgo their wedding vows and have sex with any person or persons in a mass orgy. And a report proposing the acceptance of polygamy in Canada has been tabled.

So where does the quest for greater sexual adventure give way to the needs of children? I hope that all of the considerations involved in same-sex marriage will be publicly discussed in Hong Kong and not brought in on tiptoes on a roundabout route and foisted upon an unsuspecting citizenry.

That gays are much different from the rest of us in most respects is not the question. Whether homosexuality has a track record for positively influencing the development of children is a contentious issue. Let's have a full and open debate before being forced to accede to policies which have hurt children in other lands.


Treaties guard gay vows

As of last December, Britain provides legal status, in the form of a civil partnership, to same-sex couples. Under the Civil Partnership Act, partnerships may be registered at a British embassy or consulate, provided that certain criteria are met. The overseas government, in this case the Hong Kong administration, must not object to it.

However, the grounds for any objection must be lawful under both international and Hong Kong laws. The two international human rights covenants incorporated into the Basic Law forbid discrimination in sexual orientation. For the government to object to civil partnership registration at the British consulate on grounds of sexual orientation would constitute unlawful discrimination in violation of Hong Kong's international treaty obligations, the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.

The fact that neither the mainland nor Hong Kong recognises same-sex relationships does not justify such discrimination. In fact, under the British law, the lack of recognition for such partnerships is a criterion for registration overseas. One should not forget that same-sex couples are denied equal access to marriage in Hong Kong.

Except in the case of a grave crime by a consular officer, the British consulate is exclusively within the jurisdiction of its government.

PHIL C. W. CHAN, editorial board member, International Journal of Human Rights and Journal of Homosexuality, Hong Kong

Wind is cost-effective

The commissioning of a wind turbine on Lamma Island ('Second breath for wind-power quest', February 24) has generated great interest.

But some erroneous statements or misinformation have crept in. It is argued that the cost of wind-based energy is higher than that of fossil fuels. This is incorrect, because the environmental costs associated with fossil fuels are never computed into the price. If they were, the cost may be multiplied.

It is also argued that wind turbines cannot meet our energy needs. This is obviously true, but misleading. Alternative energies should not be thought of independently. Using the multiple sources available - such as photovoltaic, solar, wind, biomass, waves and hydropower - we would possibly end our dependence on fossil fuels.

Some oppose wind turbines on environmental grounds, such as the risk they pose to birds or their noise. However true that might be, pollution generated by coal-fired power plants and the associated mining are far more devastating and noisy than any wind farm. The Danish - so environmentally aware - seem to have considered all this insufficient to stop wind-farm development. Also, wind turbines are commonly considered a blot on the landscape. But a wind turbine is no less ugly - or pretty, if you wish - than, say, a car, and nobody complains that cars are ugly. And is a conventional power plant pretty? What about oil spills or the aesthetic impact of mining?

Alternative energies are not a panacea if we do not change our energy-hungry and wasteful habits. Still, they are not an option but a necessity as we begin to understand the dramatic consequences of heavy reliance on fossil fuels. When wind turbines dot our landscape, we will look at these gentle giants, and say: we now live in a better world.


Terms for pig-hunters

I refer to the letter by D. Thomas 'Such poor shots' (Sunday Morning Post, February 12), and wish to explain the police role and responsibilities with regard to wild-pig hunting and the licensing of authorised civilian hunters on such hunts.

The civilian hunting teams operate with a special permit issued by the director of agriculture, fisheries and conservation, who also requires that they follow a 'code of action for wild-pig hunting'.

Civilian wild-pig-hunting teams are normally only deployed when there is no imminent danger to the public. Should a wild pig pose an imminent danger, the police take over.

The police commissioner is responsible for issuing arms licences to civilian hunters, who are required to pass a firearms qualification test first. These licences are renewable annually, and require that the applicant pass the same test.

To ensure public safety, additional conditions for the arms licences require civilian hunters to wear conspicuous clothing; place reasonably prominent bilingual warning signs at all entry points to the hunting area; take out an insurance policy; and prove their medical fitness for hunting.

CHOI WONG FUNG-YEE, chief superintendent, police public relations branch

Mosque: no bias

I wish to comment on Ho Wai-yip's letter 'Mosque: we must be fair' (Sunday Morning Post, February 19), which asked whether there have been double standards or discrimination.

There has been no such thing. Under the policy, premiums are chargeable in all land grant cases. Depending on the specific uses proposed, and the support from policy bureaus, the amount charged may be nominal - that is, something less than 100 per cent - or a full-market-value premium. The premium for the mosque development in Sheung Shui was assessed by the uses proposed. A nominal premium was charged for some, including the use of the mosque, imam's quarters and a home for the elderly and its staff quarters. A full-market-value premium was levied for the remaining parts, including visitors' accommodation and a canteen. The Heung Yee Kuk grant was treated in the same way. The uses proposed there qualified for a nominal premium.

The basis of the premium assessment has been explained to the mosque applicant, and the deadline for payment of the balance of the premium has been extended.

J. S. CORRIGALL for director of lands

Religious bigotry

The letter about 'idolatrous' worship ('Idols taboo for Christians', Sunday Morning Post, February 19) prompts me to point out the religious bigotry in this incendiary argument. It was the same argument that some Muslims used to demonise Buddhism and carry out the abominable destruction of the Buddha statues of Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in 2001. All the while, Muslims around the world - some of whom are now displaying self-righteous anger, with violence directed at Denmark - maintained a stony silence. Where was the Muslim outrage then?