Security guards bear the brunt of wage recession
Thank you to reporter Anita Lam for bringing the plight of security officers to the attention of the public in her story 'Economic recovery not for all' (April 26). Of particular note was the calculation that the monthly wages of security officers have fallen 24 per cent over the past five years.
While I agree with her assessment that salaries have fallen from their height in 2000, I was surprised to read in the story that 'the wages of security guards are down from $11,717 five years ago to $8,909 in 2005'.
Figures from the Hong Kong Security Association and the Census and Statistics Department show the monthly wage of a security guard is only about $6,600 a month, while a supervisor earns about $8,800. In addition, a manpower survey report issued by the Security Services Training Board of the Vocational Training Council puts a security guard's average monthly wage at $5,300 to $7,100.
It is interesting that you have highlighted that wages have fallen, especially in light of discussions on a minimum wage and maximum working hours. As our chairman, Ted Devereux, has pointed out in the latest issue of Security News, the government is one of the worst offenders in depressing wages.
Security personnel provide an important service to the community but the occupation is truly one of the most underappreciated.
K.H. TANG, executive director,
Hong Kong Security Association
Government information officer Claudia Yeung's letter dismissing our suggestion that a 70-storey project might be built on the site of the Central Government Offices is to be expected ('Central scenario alarmist', May 23). However, it ignores some other 'basic facts', to use her words.
Although the site is now zoned for government use, the administration has publicly stated that it will consider selling the land to pay for the Tamar complex. It will have a fiscal responsibility to get the highest price it can in this exercise. This will mean getting the most out of the site, and that will mean height. Who will make sure this is controlled?
Ms Yeung argues that development plans will have to pass through the Town Planning Board and that 'the public will have ample opportunity to voice their preferences'. But the Town Planning Board failed to respond to recent objections about Tamar.
Ms Yeung states that 'any change in the use of the site will have to be based on solid public support' but recent polls indicate that the Tamar plan does not have this support and is proceeding without it. Public consultation consisted of an entry in the widely unread Government Gazette, to which 'the public' could respond if they knew about it. They didn't, and now it may be too late.
Further, approval for the 88-storey Two IFC hardly considered ridge-line protection, a principle Ms Yeung says the government is committed to.
The article that prompted Ms Yeung's letter, 'Will this be the new face of Central' (May 20), reported the important fact that the Central Government Offices could be retro-fitted far more cheaply and effectively than building a new complex at Tamar. It pointed out that the administration has not undertaken any recent studies to compare costs and efficiencies for this option.
At the same time, officials refuse to discuss the future of the old site.
Ms Yeung's assurances that 'the system' will keep development under control might be a little more believable if we could see what is being planned for Tamar and were offered more official statements on what will happen to the old government headquarters.
JOHN BOWDEN, chairman,
Save Our Shorelines
How to teach English
While I read the editorial 'Rising to the challenge of teaching English' (May 23) with interest, I do not think the benchmark test is the only, or even the best, way to improve the quality of English teaching and learning in Hong Kong schools.
Like many other English-language teachers, I feel that smaller class sizes and extra funds to buy more English books would do far more to ensure quality teaching and learning. If we really want more Hong Kong students to become bilingual, the issues of smaller classes and increased funding need to be urgently addressed.
MARTIN MURRAY, Wan Chai
Fair public housing
If everyone is treated equally, does it mean a system is fair? A fair system in a well-balanced society may offer people an equal chance to achieve their goals through their efforts and capabilities. However, who is able to offer such chance?
Is public housing a public good? If you are given public housing, will you hand it over when you do not need it? Again, who is able to develop a fair system to distribute public resources?
It seems that a market-based system may be an answer. Moreover, we should not neglect the fact that we are also active players in the environment in which we live. We cannot change the overall environment, but we can better ourselves to a certain degree.
HENLEY CHEUNG, Tseung Kwan O
The world is not as black and white as letter writer Elsie Tu seems to think ('Mao's errors admitted', May 23). The 'China good, west bad' world view is naive. There is no denying the evils of colonialism, but the social, economic and political problems in China and Asia are not simply a function of western exploitation, as she argues. Genghis Khan, Hideki Tojo and Pol Pot were not 'running dogs' for the west.
If all China's problems were the west's fault, the mainland would have surged ahead after Mao Zedong closed the borders last century, while Hong Kong and Taiwan would have gone to hell. In fact, the reverse happened. Only after Deng Xiaoping reopened China to outsiders did it begin to flourish again.
Mrs Tu's claim that the western media is controlled by giant corporations is only partially true. There is no monolithic western media. Although there are dominant groups, there are thousands of independent voices.
Are we to believe, as she claims, that the state-controlled mainland media is a more accurate source of information? Let's try an experiment:
I will write a letter to the Beijing Wanbao newspaper criticising the developmental policies of President Hu Jintao , call for a monument to be erected to the Tibetans killed during the 'peaceful liberation', and suggest Mao's portrait be taken down from Tiananmen Square (considering his crimes have been acknowledged). Then I shall make a film, Fahrenheit 6/89 (June 1989), declare myself the Michael Moore of China, and do the hard-sell to mainland cinema complexes (no bootlegging allowed).
If I am successful, I shall declare myself deluded, wrap myself in a Chinese flag and write self-criticisms all day long outside the government building downtown. I'll get back to you later. Much later, I suspect.
MARCUS ANTHONY, Tai Po
Where to go from here
In his article 'Where do we go from here?', energy consultant David Dodwell worries that a failure to plan ahead and 'not in my backyard' objections to natural-gas storage in Tuen Mun or the Sokos may result in blackouts in 2012, when supplies from Hainan's Yacheng gas field run out.
As an adviser to CLP Power, why doesn't he suggest an interconnection of CLP Power and Hongkong Electric networks to minimise such risks?
Additionally, despite the worries he expresses about a terminal in the Pearl River Delta, why not copy Hongkong Electric, which is to get natural gas from the Guangdong LNG Terminal in Shenzhen, via a 93km submarine gas pipeline laid to Lamma? Building on the mainland does not seem to be a problem, if one wants to solve it.
Forecasting is a difficult exercise, which is partly how we ended up with excess investment and oversupply. All the more reason to take steps now to ensure maximum flexibility in our licensed power-distribution networks.
PAUL SERFATY, Mid-Levels
Bush-whacking for blogs
I was surprised that you published Charles Henning's letter on overseas Americans' dismay at possibly losing their tax exemptions ('Poor fat-cat expats', May 23).
According to the original article, 'at least six' Republicans were asked and were presumably 'furious' ('Republicans furious at plan to raise tax', May 22). What about the Democrats? Are they perpetually furious at having lost the election twice? Does this make them mad at everything their government does?
I did not vote for President George W Bush. Indeed, I am not even a US citizen, but, in my country, India, once a leader is elected, we tend to rally around him. We may throw the fellow out next time but, while he is running the country, we try not to get in the way.
Next time, Mr Henning, keep your Bush-whacking to blogs set up to cater for such sentiments.
SEN TOHFAFAROSH, Central