Two-tier political system offers no economic benefits

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2006, 12:00am

One aim of the government's plan to create positions for politically appointed deputy and assistant ministers is to train up political talent. But will these appointees play a part in the democratic development of Hong Kong or will they serve in an executive-led government that has no interest in democracy?

Consideration of Hong Kong's colonial past shows there is no need to have political elites in an executive-led government. The colonial government was executive-led, with the key officials all civil servants. After working in different government departments, they were promoted to senior positions and became policy secretaries. They were effective and efficient administrators, but they were not politicians. Nonetheless, under this liberal but undemocratic system, colonial Hong Kong achieved magnificent economic development and its residents lived satisfactorily.

If the administration today wants to continue this mode of executive-led government, it should rely on elites from its pool of administrative officers. If its plan is to train up the city's pool of political talent in a move towards democratisation, it should remember that the people of Hong Kong lived happily without democracy under British rule.

Rather than spending $62 million a year on a two-tier political system, why doesn't the government allocate the money to narrowing the gap between rich and poor? If you offered people democracy, on the one hand, or substantial economic benefits, on the other, what would Hong Kong choose?

ERIC CHU, Tsing Yi

Bird flu remarks bode ill

I have serious doubts about the suitability of Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun for the position of head of the World Health Organisation ('Beijing to bankroll bid for WHO post', July 31).

During the outbreak of bird flu in 1997, I vividly remember that she proudly told the press she ate chicken every day, in a bid to reassure people and despite the rising number of infections.

False assurances from the head of the WHO would tarnish its image and reduce its efficiency in fighting epidemics. If Hong Kong's former health chief does get elected, I hope she will show more responsibility in her statements.


Diagnosis misleading

John Read's opinion piece 'On the 'illness' assembly line' (July 28) contained basic errors that could confuse your readership. In particular, his points on the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness are profoundly misleading.

He writes that 'feeling sad has become 'a depressive disorder', worrying too much is 'anxiety disorder' ... ignoring other people's feelings means that the child is suffering from 'conduct disorder'' and so on.

This is trite and, frankly, incorrect. Making a diagnosis depends on a thorough evaluation of symptoms based on strict clinical criteria derived from solid, validated population-based research.

Also wrong is his suggestion that these diagnoses necessarily imply drug treatment or 'quick fixes', rather than psychosocial treatment, or 'talking therapies'. On the contrary, it is widely accepted that combining psychosocial treatment with medication is often the most powerful approach to recovery.

Assigning a torrent of blame to unnamed governments, funders, policymakers, pharmaceutical companies, even to diagnoses, begins to sound like fashionable pique. Perhaps this is the writer's prerogative, but it should not neglect a balanced description of what mental illness is, and how it is treated. After all, educating the public is a crucial cornerstone in caring for the mentally ill.

DR S.E. CHUA, department of psychiatry, University of Hong Kong

Victim mentality

I refer to John Read's opinion piece on how a growing number of life's problems are being redefined as disorders or illnesses - to the benefit of drug companies ('On the 'illness' assembly line', July 28).

Much of what Dr Read writes is true, but it is also true that many real and debilitating conditions that were previously ignored or unknown, such as depression and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, are now identified and treatable.

Today, there's a medical term for almost every behaviour, so it would seem inevitable that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has reached a staggering 886 pages. This is a reflection of what has become a worldwide trend towards victimhood - the antithesis of all great philosophical teachings and experience telling us that personal power and positive thinking stem from taking responsibility for our actions, the good and the bad.

Responsibility will always be the cornerstone of successful living. In his illuminating book Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote: '... each man is questioned by life; and he can only respond by being responsible.'

The Psychiatric Folksong is a good reminder of the difference between life lived responsibly or as a victim:

'At three I had a feeling of

Ambivalence toward my brothers,

And so it follows naturally

That I poisoned all my lovers.

But now I'm happy I have learned

The lesson this has taught,

That everything I do that's wrong

Is someone else's fault.'


One person, one tax

It is important that Hong Kong's tax base be broadened before universal suffrage is introduced. At present, only a small percentage of residents pay tax while most are recipients of benefits. It would be quite easy for a political party to hand out free lunches at the expense of the taxpayers and get elected. It is one form of tyranny of the majority. The majority of people will vote sensibly only when they have to pay tax and free lunches mean digging deeper into their own wallets.

H. WONG, Ho Man Tin

Hatred perpetuated

In his defence of the bombardment of Lebanon, Neal Horwitz quotes author Amos Oz as saying that 'Israel is not invading Lebanon' and it is 'targeting mostly Hezbollah' ('Under siege: the moral equation on Lebanon', July 28).

Who will believe these words? The Lebanese people have seen their national airport, roads, bridges and infrastructure destroyed. Thousands of ordinary people have had to flee their homes and hundreds of innocent civilians have died. Will the families and colleagues of the four dead United Nations workers believe these words?

Israel may have killed a few Hezbollah fighters, but it is also effectively recruiting the next generation of Hezbollah from among those in Lebanon who have seen their homes destroyed and their women and children killed. With its actions, it is nurturing further hatred around the region.

Israel's callous disregard for the suffering it has inflicted has lost the moral high ground in the eyes of most of the world.


Carte blanche to kill

Another year, more war, more death in the Middle East and the so-called international community's mawkish hand-wringing is again much in evidence. It's all rather deja vu, and the root cause remains the same: America's blind support for Israel.

Israel knows that the US is never going to vote against it in the United Nations or turn off the aid tap, and thus it can do whatever it likes.

In addition to this carte blanche political support, Israel receives more US aid than any other country at roughly US$2.8 billion a year, with about US$2 billion of this in the form of military aid. This is despite the fact that Israel's per capita gross domestic product is higher than that of Portugal or Greece.

Why don't these countries receive similar financial assistance? I am left thinking that this comes down to some pretty heavyweight lobbying on behalf of Israel and its supporters in the US.

Isn't there a single US politician of any persuasion able to question the country's unrelenting political and financial support of Israel, or are the lobbyists so omnipotent?

If the four UN peacekeepers had been killed by Syria, I wonder whether the US would have resisted calls by other Security Council members to condemn the action. I think not. Quite the opposite, in fact; if the Syrians - or anyone else on America's rogues list - had been involved, the US would have been front and centre in loud condemnation.

Until each stakeholder in the Middle East is treated equally by the US, there is no hope of a settlement. Israel knows this but takes full advantage of the situation - and who can blame it? Its enemies know this and so presumably feel there is nothing to lose as there will never be a level playing field. Most of the rest of the world knows this (with the exception of one notable poodle: Tony Blair). So why doesn't the US?