Cost and ID card are not big issues for 'birth tours'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 January, 2007, 12:00am

Regarding the article ''Birth tours' flourishing despite bid to stem flow' (January 3), has anyone done a scientific survey of why mainland women come to Hong Kong to give birth?

If we are just guessing at the reasons, then it is very likely that we are wrong, as the mainland Chinese mind has been conditioned very differently from the Hong Kong Chinese mind.

My wife and I have lived in three of the most prestigious estates in Shenzhen. We have got to know eight mainland mothers who gave birth in Hong Kong. The main reason for giving birth here was to avoid filling out a second or third record of birth, with the resulting social penalties on the mainland. One of these women was even married to a top public security officer.

Another reason given by the women was that conditions of care compared favourably with those on the mainland. The Hong Kong ID card was mentioned, but this was regarded as less important. All the women indicated there would be no advantage in having a Hong Kong ID card in 15 to 20 years' time.

Money was not an issue in their choices, and while it was hardly a representative selection, I can't see how the proposals from the Hospital Authority will stop similar women.


Stop the force-feeding

I refer to A. Leung's letter ('Shocked by discrimination', January 2). Parents and children only have themselves to blame. Hong Kong is probably the only place where parents would go to mass every Sunday to secure a place for their child at a top Catholic school.

It is also common for children to be enrolled in music lessons for multiple instruments and late-evening classes for subjects required only when they are older. We now witness children boasting in playgrounds about how many musical instruments they play (badly) and how many Kumon lessons they have taken.

Competition is great and has made Hong Kong the place it is today. Surely, however, there has to be an alternative to this 'force-fed' approach to raising children. We can see the negative effects already: those almost unemployable people we call graduates.

A. TAM, Causeway Bay

Left hanging by Skyrail

I am writing to complain about the awful emergency measures and the lack of transparency during a spate of technical glitches that occurred on the Lantau cable car on January 1.

For the first 30 minutes there was no announcement to apologise to passengers and keep them informed about the delay. It was unacceptable and tiring for scores of angry passengers who were waiting in the terminal, particularly old people and children. The staff did not prepare any seats for old people until some other kind passengers urged the staff to do so.

After 45 minutes, an announcement was made to inform us that the problem would be fixed within 20 minutes but the service was still not operating at the appointed time. If the glitches were going to last so long, the Ngong Ping 360 cable car should have arranged for some more buses to ferry passengers instead of keeping them in the dark. Skyrail should prepare emergency measures in case of technical problems so that passengers are not left waiting so long.


Bad year for justice

Last year saw the deaths of three of the most notorious figures of the latter part of the 20th century. Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president, tried at The Hague for genocide, passed away in March.

Augusto Pinochet, of Chile, died last month. His regime saw the death or disappearance of more than 3,000 people. And finally, Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi ruler, who tortured and murdered thousands of his own people, was executed on December 30. All these men were to be held responsible for crimes against humanity; crimes that were so atrocious in their violation of human dignity that it was in the interests of the international community to see they were brought to justice. Yet all three managed to evade precisely this.

Pinochet died in an intensive care unit surrounded by his family. Milosevic was found dead in his cell at The Hague. As for Hussein, so determined was the current Iraqi judicial system to see his head on a stake, that they were unwilling to bother with any pretence of a just trial. We would like to pride ourselves on our humanity; our respect for individual human life. We make grand philanthropic gestures to intervene in what we have come to call humanitarian conflicts - because we can. We expect the victims to be grateful for our charity.

We would like to teach future generations of possible dictators that they cannot get away with killing lots of people - that civil society shall hold them accountable in unbiased proceedings. We summon thousands of young men and women into conflicts for our cause. Yet we cannot even bring three feeble old men to justice. Leave it to international tribunals and the defendant will be dead before a verdict. Leave it to municipal courts and expect a shotgun trial.

Perhaps these three old men weren't so feeble after all then, for they have succeeded in making a mockery of the very values that current civil society chooses to identify itself by. Last year was not a great one for dictators, but it was an even worse year for international justice.

R. TSANG, Pok Fu Lam

And the other despots?

Ron Goodden's letter ('Saddam's execution sets precedent for accountability', January 2) observes that '... would-be despots everywhere were owed this fresh reminder of the punishment monstrous crimes still attract'. I wholeheartedly agree. Now let the trials of those far more lethal and dangerous despots and war criminals, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair and Ehmud Olmert - and all of their supporting cast - begin.

While Saddam Hussein was tried and found guilty by a kangaroo court of crimes against humanity, the aforementioned despots must be tried in The Hague for crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity.


Empty reunion

The holiday time is meant for family gatherings. But family togetherness should mean more than just sitting at the same table. A few days ago, I witnessed a Canadian-Chinese family reunion in a restaurant. But it wasn't really a gathering at all. It was just individuals sitting next to each other.

The teenage children were seated first. The frail-looking grandmother had to find her own place.

The lunch was eaten with no conversation between the relatives. The father read the racing pages of the newspaper. The daughter chatted on her mobile phone.

The grandmother stared into space throughout the meal. The sullen teenage son played a computer game throughout. When his mother asked him in Cantonese what he wanted to eat, he answered in English: 'Don't bother me.'

The mother's only other words came from the buffet table. She bellowed across the crowded restaurant for her family members to quickly grab the prawns, before other people got to them. They even poured their own tea, and for no one else, when each one needed a refill.

If that's the type of family reunion for which they had travelled all the way from Vancouver, they might just as well not have bothered.


Name and shame them

Michael McCaffrey hit the nail on the head with his call for an ugly building contest.

Although a potential judge may well be overwhelmed by an avalanche of entries, we should not ignore the fact that architects and their 'customers' are the cause of this urban blight. Name them and shame them, I say.

I would have to nominate the whole of Admiralty (a possible champion in the worst example of urban design, or lack thereof), the stupendously ugly The Centre in Central, 99 per cent of Mid-Levels, the new police headquarters in Wan Chai and last, but not least, the skateboard U-tube in Tsim Sha Tsui masquerading as the Cultural Centre, that appears to have turned its back on one of the world's most beautiful harbours.


Threadbare offerings

Tourists walking along the stretch of Nathan Road between Chungking Mansions and Mirador Mansions have always had to navigate their way past the many touts.

On a walk in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday, I was offered hashish four times. However, I was only offered two massages, two fake Rolex watches and one cheap suit. This is clearly reason for alarm. Hong Kong tailoring is in decline.

ROB LEE, Pok Fu Lam