H5N1 virus

Bird flu nothing to do with DNA

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 March, 2006, 12:00am

I was very pleased to read in the Sunday Morning Post that Permanent Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Carrie Yau Tsang Ka-lai was advising people not to abandon their pets because of fears that they could transmit bird flu to people.

But the basis for her statement was, frankly, scientifically embarrassing. The DNA makeup of an animal has nothing to do with the propensity for it to be infected or to transmit an infectious disease.

Is Mrs Yau trying to tell us that the DNA of a chicken is more similar to humans than that of a cat? If she is, then she is mistaken. And where does the discussion about pigs suddenly come from? Yes, pig farms cause pollution and they may not be compatible with an urban population like Hong Kong but where does she come up with statements like 'the biggest danger comes from poultry. then pigs'?

Has the administration tested local pigs and imported pigs for bird flu? If so, can we see the results please? Is the administration planning to stop the importation of live pigs from China - the greatest source of bird flu - if these animals are really such a threat? I have heard no policy intention to do this either.

Why does policy not reflect the rhetoric? Perhaps Mrs Yau's scientific advisers should learn some science first.

One of the main reasons why the public panics when it reads about cases of bird flu in cats is because the administration exacerbates this hysteria.

There is nowhere else in the world where a swimming pool is vacated because a bird accidentally falls into it; where police cordons are placed around dead birds found on the ground; where government departments encourage people to kill pigeons and crows; and where the administration is actively trying to cause the death of all agriculture and using bird flu as a feeble excuse.

The public panics because the government tells it that it should. Blame yourself, Mrs Yau, not the poor, unsuspecting public.


Milosevic, a Serbian hero

The death, or possible murder, of Slobodan Milosevic was celebrated in the western media with headlines such as: 'Death of a Dictator' and 'Butcher of Balkans Dies'.

These refer to the former president of the federal republic of Yugoslavia (now known as Serbia and Montenegro) and leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia. Milosevic was detained by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. He was denied access by the tribunal to medical treatment in Russia and this may have contributed to his death. Milosevic was never found guilty, and in Serbia there has been no opportunity - without foreign interference - to draw any uniform conclusion about his role in recent history.

Milosevic dedicated his life to the service of his country and led it through a turbulent time. His non-guilty verdict at The Hague would have shown up the guilt of others, perhaps of those involved in orchestrating and conducting 72 days of Nato-led bombing and devastation of Serbia in 1999.

Throughout the 1990s, Serbs were dragged into a series of conflicts across the former Yugoslavia. Western powers positioned themselves against the interests of the Serbian people. The reality of the wars of the 1990s in the Balkans was the suffering of many people on all sides.

Now, Serbs want to be considered for what they are: a civilised European nation with rich cultural and historical heritage and human and natural resources that deserves a place in the international community.

Milosevic died an innocent man. He deserves a place in history to remind people of a very difficult period that the Serbian nation went through.


University of Hong Kong

Unthinking racism

Regarding 'Slow probe into Chinese murders raises bias claim', (March 16), American activist Steven Wong blames the anti-Chinese discrimination on the media. Take, for instance, this very article. Why does the article call Asian members of the American community 'Asian-American', whereas Imette St Guillen, who was murdered, is not French-American, Romanian-American or whatever?

The article's assumption is that she is simply an American. Is there a difference between these Americans? Apparently so, in the media's view. This media practice is what top British policeman Sir Ian Blair described recently as 'institutional racism'. Of course, there are other cultural factors at work here, but eliminating unthinking racism in the press is a good start.


It's a free market

Regarding 'Oil firm chief hits out at ridiculous prices', (March 16). The same firm, Caltex, paid $125 million in 1997 for a piece of rock on a hillside in Pok Fu Lam Road and spent millions more to build a petrol filling station there.

Perhaps Caltex Companies (Greater China) chairman Peng Xiaofei should be asked to comment how Caltex was able to justify paying that much for a site and whether the investment has paid off.

The bidding over the past three years for filling stations has shown the free market at work and it is not surprising that new entrants are paying more for station sites as they need to establish a presence in the market.

It would also be wrong to say that there is little impact on the consumers, as they are receiving more discounts for petrol and diesel at the new oil companies' station as well as some of the existing oil companies' stations.

If Caltex feels that it is no longer profitable to do business in Hong Kong, the company should sell its business and leave.


Survey's best wine shop

In response to Mr Hunter's query regarding 'Watson's bragging rights', March 12) , I would like to clarify our position as Hong Kong's 'Best Wine Shop'.

HK Magazine conducts an annual survey among its readers to ask for their nominations for various retail awards. Watson's Wine Cellar has been voted the 'Best Wine Shop' in the magazine's 'Reader's Choice Awards' for the past few years since 1999. Last year Watson's Wine Cellar was voted the best by the largest winning margin. In future we will ensure the source of the award is stated on our promotional materials in order to avoid any possible misinterpretation.

JEANETTE PATERSON, Fine Wine Manager, Watson's Wine Cellar

Living in denial

I read with interest the article regarding the Transport Complaints Unit's report indicating an increase in bad driving and complaints of rudeness from taxi and minibus drivers, 'Bad driving, rudeness top traffic gripes against taxis and minibuses', (March 15.

The unit provides a valuable service to the public and hopefully takes action against consistently poor drivers upon licence renewal.

While the increase in complaints is to be expected, what was incredibly surprising were the comments by the chairman of the Urban Taxi Drivers' Association Joint Committee, Kwok Chi-piu, who said the behaviour cited in the complaints was hard to imagine because 'everyone is fighting for passengers now'.

I can only conclude that he never travels by taxi or minibus, so does not see the frequency of bad driving, illegal driving and rudeness.

I often wonder whether minibus and taxi drivers realise it is both dangerous and a traffic offence to accelerate towards schoolchildren on pedestrian crossings, as happens every morning at the top of Tai Hang Road.

It is sad to see both the level of denial and excuses of a presumably responsible chairman. It is no wonder all the bad and rude drivers think they can get away with it.