Why our schools must add 'rights' to the three Rs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 July, 2006, 12:00am

It is widely acknowledged that foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong are often ill-treated, but what do we do to change this? Enacting new laws or banishing discriminatory ones is a good start to changing the behaviour of society, and our labour laws already provide a firm foundation for the equal treatment of employees.

Perhaps, then, Hong Kong needs to start with the fundamentals, namely education.

Educating children about basic human rights would give them an early start on forming ideas of what treatment is right and wrong. It would give them the chance to break the cycle of violence that is the basis of many relationships between employers and helpers in Hong Kong.

Furthermore, this 'basic training' could permeate other areas of a child's life, helping them build healthy, productive and functional relationships in all aspects of their lives.

Understanding other cultures and respecting and working with people of different ethnic backgrounds is a vital skill in an increasingly globalised economy. Much of the ill-treatment helpers suffer is based on racism. And children are often the abusers.

In many cases, the children of the employer continue the abuse against the helper when the employer is absent.

Violence and abuse is a learned behaviour and children need to be taught that this is wrong.

A possible criticism of this approach is that it aims to indoctrinate children into a particular way of behaving.

One way to deflect this criticism is to incorporate the information into a civics course. This would ensure that children get a well-rounded education that fits social needs as well.

Children learning about Hong Kong's vibrant history and its basic underpinnings could learn what many of Hong Kong's laws signify: a basic respect for human rights and dignity.

More importantly, they would get an early grasp on what sort of treatment is wrong.

Perhaps they could even teach their parents a thing or two.


Loosen leash on dog laws

Last Sunday's article, 'Dogs deserve better than puppy love', is to be applauded with its call for dog owners to have access to public parks - something for which the Year of the Dog should be remembered.

Changing restrictive laws that encourage people to abandon their animals must be addressed by government.

Tax-paying pet-lovers who live in high-rises are penalised by the government, which makes it an offence for dogs to be walked or exercised in public parks or on beaches.

The government must 'loosen the leash' on these archaic laws and give dog owners access to more than just six of the 1,375 parks in Hong Kong.

Designated parks in high-density areas should be made animal-friendly, with specific areas for dogs. Strict rules should address irresponsible pet owners who fail to comply with good practices for such areas.

Why should licensed dogs, and their tax- and dog-registration-fee-paying owners, be segregated and discriminated against by a government they support?

Forward-thinking cities like New York and London not only allow dogs in public parks - they encourage it. Not only is it good for the dogs, it's great for their owners, who have somewhere outdoors to bond with their pets while also getting to meet similar-thinking people and have time out from their demanding work and city lifestyle. It is a wonderful 'fix' for depression, stress and other health-related ailments. It may also help reduce the number of teenage suicides in Hong Kong.

Overseas studies have shown that pets can do wonders for people. Shouldn't Asia's 'World City' accept this and try to do the same in the Year of the Dog?


Strange colour choice

When the Government Flying Service's three Eurocopter Super Puma L2 helicopters arrived in Hong Kong several years ago they were orange and white. Search and rescue is one of the main functions of the Government Flying Service, with most of its operations taking place within 400 nautical miles of the city.

Before the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in December, two of the Super Pumas were painted dark grey. What is the point of this ridiculous change? Has anyone seen a fire truck painted dark grey?

Most countries have colourful helicopters for search and rescue so they are easily visible from the ground.

I urge the Government Flying Service to return the helicopters to their original orange and white for the sake of future rescue missions.

EUGINE LI, Deep Water Bay

Garish touch

Further to Jason Ali's letter last Sunday on the nouveau riche, 'Harmlessly rich', who is responsible for adding the garish lights to the empty Chinachem building at 129 Repulse Bay Road ('$8b Foster landmark empty four years on')?

It is doubtful architect Norman Foster would have included such a ghastly element on a Christmas tree, never mind one of his flagship buildings.


Traveller cries foul

I had a bad experience at Chek Lap Kok airport recently.

Although I lodged a complaint on the airport's website a week ago, I have received no feedback. While waiting for my flight to Kuala Lumpur on June 14, and being in the duty-free area, I decided to buy the 'famous' Honk Kong goose.

I was assured by an elderly man manning the shop at King's restaurant that it would be no problem to take it on the flight. The goose was a pricey $700.

However, while waiting at the boarding gate, an airport employee pointed to the plastic bag containing the goose and told me that I could not bring poultry on board.

I told her that there was no signage stating this and that the seller had stated it would be no problem.

Another staff member then showed me a circular containing this information.

My point is that the circular was addressed to the airport staff and had not been made known to travellers.

I was then forced to return the goose to the restaurant but the seller would only give back half the money. He claimed the goose would be hard to sell as it had been chopped up. Being in a hurry to make the flight, I accepted the $350 and forgot to get the names of the people concerned.

During the flight, it struck me that I had just paid $350 to take a goose for a walk around the airport terminal.

I feel cheated and want my money back. I do hope the airport authorities read this and respond to this whole 'goosey' affair.

GOH ONG HUAT, Singapore

We're not all spoilt

I was very insulted by the broad generalisation of children last Sunday in P. Souza's letter, 'Modern children spoilt'. I do not believe most children are spoilt, but I believe the few that are give the rest of us a bad name.

I volunteer with my parents twice a week to cook for and clean two elderly couple's apartments and I also bake cakes and goodies for them whenever I can.

Many of my friends do not realise how important it is to respect our elders and that is why they seem spoilt.

Parents, please teach your children to respect their elders. This includes their helpers!