Cracks in our faith in law and order
I am in shock at the news that law enforcement should mutate into lawbreaking and a policeman should become a thief ('Police tighten their grip on bail money' January 8).
The disgraceful disclosure that bail money totalling HK$438,345 was embezzled in 137 cases between September 2004 and November 2005 greatly shakes the confidence of the public - even if, as a police spokeswoman reported, the crimes were committed by one constable. It proves that a police uniform does not make a person honest, as a saffron robe does not make a man a sadhu.
The fact that the case has come to light only now in the South China Morning Post, after the constable was jailed for 18 months in May, suggests a cover-up to mitigate the negative impact of the crime on the public's perception of the police.
And why is a man entrusted to uphold and enforce the law sentenced to a mere 18 months in jail for 137 cases of stealing involving nearly half a million dollars? That's only a year longer than the six-month sentence handed down recently to a domestic helper for taking three little photographs of her celebrity employee, one of which she apparently rescued from the dustbin.
Did the public prosecutor want to close the case in a hurry to avoid bad publicity and widespread media coverage?
Such betrayers of the public trust should be named and shamed. Trust is fragile, like a glass mirror. Once it cracks, the police won't be able to see their faces in it.
To restore our faith, the police commissioner and the security secretary should immediately set up a watchdog commission, along the lines of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, to watch over the activities of the police constantly to prevent such crimes. Prevention is better than cure.
A.L. NANIK, Tsim Sha Tsui
No room on campus
In its economic blueprint under the nation's 11th five-year plan, the government insensibly proposes raising the proportion of international students at local universities to 20 per cent, from the current cap of 10 per cent ('HK delivers 200-point answer to China's 5-year plan', January 16). Although this might create a more diverse learning environment, local universities do not have the facilities to accommodate the growing number of foreign students.
One obvious example is the shortage of residential accommodation. While all foreign students are assigned housing, local students often live far away and must travel up to four hours a day to attend lectures.
Legislator Bernard Chan once expressed disappointment that some local students did not welcome foreign students because it would 'affect the culture of their dormitories' ('Learning from foreign students', September 29). This is not the case.
If you had to wake up at 6am for a 9am class, would you appreciate your university for refusing you space in its residences? If a four-student flat was converted to a six-student apartment and your rent remained the same, would you appreciate the university for creating a diverse student community?
The government needs to consider whether our universities are ready to increase the international student population.
LISA TAM, Ting Kau
What a waste of HK$22b
Your editorial 'HK must work harder to earn the tourist dollar' hits the nail on the head in pointing out that the city's single most expensive tourism investment is one of the key reasons for tourism's lacklustre performance. What began as a dream to bring Disney's magic to the doorstep of the world's fastest-growing consumer market has so far brought us recurring nightmares instead.
Such was the optimism back in 1999 that Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, then chief secretary, said in a speech to the industry: 'I have absolutely no doubt that Hong Kong Disneyland will be a tremendous asset ... It will help consolidate and enhance our position as the region's No 1 tourist destination as well as a major international city.'
Government economists said the mega, HK$22 billion investment would be offset by HK$148 billion in economic benefits over 40 years, and almost 1.5 million new tourist arrivals a year.
I would like to know how the government arrived at some of its very rosy figures. Given the secrecy of Disneyland's operations, how will we ever know whether the forecasts are met?
The company certainly does not have a reputation for being forthcoming. For example, it constantly referred to its first-year visitor numbers as being 'well in excess of 5 million'. In fact, the figure turned out to be just 5.2 million.
We deserve much better.
When one thinks about how rosy our economy is today, despite Disney, and how some of that HK$22 billion could have been usefully spent on more pressing projects such as cleaning our air, one cannot wonder whether it was all a waste of money.
WILFRED TO, Yau Yat Chuen
Your correspondent N. Miller asks why, in the light of the Department of Justice's defence of the use of lay prosecutors in the magistracy, it nevertheless deployed its heavy hitter Kevin Zervos SC in the recent, unhappy case against former High Court judge Miles Henry Jackson-Lipkin ('Prosecution puzzle', January 17).
Might I relieve the subsequent embarrassed silence? The lay prosecutors are (so to speak) quite good kids, given the weight at which they usually box. Some learn their ring craft fast and well. But against the erstwhile but awesome Jackson-Lipkin QC (as some of us sadly remember him) they frankly would not have stood a chance. The instruction of Mr Zervos ensured the match was fought at the correct weight.
MAURICE PETER TRACY,
Wrong sort of experience
The Human Rights Council of Hong Kong urges us to heed the call of four 'experienced and influential Americans' on the supposed nuclear threat posed by Iran and North Korea ('Heed nuclear plea', January 18).
The Americans they want us to heed are Henry Kissinger, a man who, before travelling abroad, must check if he is wanted for war crimes in his intended destination. A man who was responsible for the deaths of more than 3 million innocent people in Indochina. Next is George Schultz, who famously said that 'our goals in Central America are like those we had in Vietnam' when he worked for Ronald Reagan, a US president who did more for the proliferation of nuclear arms than anyone else.
Another 'experienced' American the council would have us listen to is William Perry, who admitted he 'spent much of the first half of 1994 preparing for war' in Korea and planned to bomb Pyongyang's nuclear reactor.
Why would we listen to these people, and why would a human rights organisation promote their views?
The unforgivable crime committed by Iran and North Korea is that they understand that the US does not attack countries which actually possess weapons of mass destruction, only those which don't. Consider Iraq, Afghanistan, Laos, Panama, Nicaragua and countless others. If the US would change its foreign policy, stop the bombings and invasions, and withdraw all its troops abroad, other countries would have no reason to develop nuclear weapons. This is the only way for peace to prevail.
JACK MUIR, Lamma
The guy the world needs
I was watching US Senator Barack Obama on Larry King Live a little while ago, and he was just talking, and I kept watching because he was just talking, you know? Just talking. The way people usually talk. The way when someone asks you a question, you think about it and you answer them - the person asking you, and not as if you think so much of yourself that everything you say has to be for an audience. And I thought, this is the guy. This is the guy with that something we're looking for, who makes children want to be president again - all children, children of colour, immigrant children or, as Senator Obama said himself, skinny children with funny names.
It gnaws at me that, whenever an American politician talks, he talks exactly like the old white man he is, so comfortable with entitlement. You know these guys are smart, you know they're well-educated, you know they must have some sense of public service - but they throw it all away and, worse than just dumbing it down, they dumb you down. It's condescending. It's plastic. It's impossible to tell what they're really thinking.
I know Senator Obama's only a freshman, just two years in office, but it is more than hope that he brings to the table: he would be the most enlightened US president in recent memory, filling the Oval Office with perspectives on race, religion and world affairs unlike any it has known before.
This week, he created a presidential exploratory committee ('Democrats eyeing White House run may make history', January 18). In the US, that means he's running for president. If you haven't already, jump on the bandwagon. The whole world needs someone like this.
He was just talking, you know? Just talking.
WEI NAN-MIN, Ap Lei Chau