City's moral duty to help refugees

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2006, 12:00am

Victims of torture and persecution come to Hong Kong in desperation, having fled traumatic experiences which would incapacitate most of us. However, life for them here is incredibly tough. Many of them have slept outside for months, babies are suffering from malnutrition and children are deprived of school.

The response to the physical and psychological illnesses many of them suffer as a result of their experiences is inadequate. Hundreds have been held in detention for long periods of time without access to legal representation.

All these people want is a chance to have their claims for protection and asylum heard fairly. Instead they are forced to wait for years because the local office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is underfunded and understaffed.

The number of asylum seekers building up in Hong Kong is a direct result of the government's refusal to set up an independent body to assess refugee claims efficiently and properly. Hong Kong needs to take its human rights obligations seriously and protect valid refugee claimants. This would have the added bonus of giving it control over its immigration policy - rather than leaving the UNHCR struggling to cope and then complaining about the results.


Ho scores own goal

In his letter 'Foul play' (July 17), Home Affairs Secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping says he writes columns from his heart rather than as a 'government mouthpiece'. In response I would like to say: Sir, I think you overestimate your own importance. Do you honestly think if you weren't a 'government mouthpiece' anybody would listen to you or the South China Morning Post would publish your opinion pieces? Please do something positive for football in Hong Kong. If you can help it return to its glory days, you will get the respect you so desperately seek but so painfully lack.


Scam beggars belief

I refer to Paul Surtees' letter 'Beggars shame HK', (July 15). The beggars he sees on the streets of Hong Kong are not locals but mainlanders. Talk to them in Cantonese, and you will find they can barely understand. Ask them if they require help from the social services, and I bet they will instantly disappear into the crowd.

These people are regularly brought in to Hong Kong by syndicates, who arrange for them to beg at prime locations.

I remember when old ladies pushing carts filled with cardboard were a common sight. Do you see them as often now? No, because they have been muscled out by young mainlanders who collect everything from cardboard to steel railings.

You have to take the good with the bad when you have busloads of tourists arriving from over the border.


Paragon of immorality

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen praises Singapore's system of grooming political talent ('Hong Kong can learn lessons from Singapore, says Tsang', July 18). Such a system, whereby power is passed from father to son, is highly correlated in Singapore with bankrupting opponents, in North Korea with massive starvation, in the US with military attacks on foreign countries and in Hong Kong companies with destroying shareholders' wealth. I hope, therefore, that Mr Tsang was merely being polite to his Singaporean hosts.


Choice of role model apt

How apt that our chief executive should hold Singapore's mockery of a democratic government up as a beacon of progress ('Tsang looks to Singapore for ideas', July 17). Quite where he intends to find a military to recruit political talent from in Hong Kong is interesting. As for recruiting a new layer of political appointees from the business community, isn't nepotism already alive and well and influencing policy in Hong Kong?


In defence of Israel

I write in response to Phillip Davies' letter accusing Israel of atrocities against the Palestinians and Lebanese and declaring it 'the singular greatest threat to world peace' ('Stop Israeli atrocities', July 15). What nonsense.

Israel unilaterally withdrew from southern Lebanon to the international border recognised by the United Nations six year ago. It unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip to the internationally recognised border in August last year. What have Hamas and Hezbollah done with these two territories since Israel's withdrawal? Instead of developing them and building peaceful societies for their people, they have turned both territories into armed arsenals, launching missiles and murderous cross-border raids against Israel.

Three weeks ago, Hamas terrorists invaded Israeli territory from Gaza, killing two soldiers and kidnapping another. Two weeks later, Hezbollah terrorists invaded Israeli territory from Lebanon, killing three soldiers and kidnapping two others. All year, Hamas has launched Kassam rockets into southern Israel and Hezbollah has launched hundreds of Katyusha and Iranian-made rockets into northern Israel. These attacks unequivocally constitute acts of war.

I do not know where Mr Davies comes from, but I am certain that, had the same events occurred in his country, he would not have tolerated them. Neither have the Israelis.