Parents must listen to what teenagers want

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 January, 2007, 12:00am

Our society is very sick. This month, a 14-year-old jumped to his death in Sham Shui Po after his mother scolded him for spending too much time on video games. On the surface the youngster had it going for him: a financially sufficient family, studies at a prestigious school and active involvement in extracurricular activities. But when he chose to take his own life, everyone seemed to be at a loss as to why.

That was just one of the many cases of suicides among young people that have become all too common. Not a week can go by without some teenagers attempting or even succeeding in ending their lives. But if we would just sit down and imagine what a typical teenager has to see, hear and face every day, the answer might not be as incomprehensible as many believe.

Teenagers in Hong Kong go to school in a system where exam results are how their worthiness is judged. Their parents probably do not even talk to them other than nagging them about their studies. Who cares if they are happy as long as their grades are good?

Instead of being consulted on what they would like to do in the future, they are told what they should be. Society is obsessed with making money. The media are fixated with reporting about tycoons flaunting their wealth. The money they spend in a week is more than a regular worker can earn in a lifetime.

People who make an average salary but live contented lives do not make good stories, so we don't ever hear about them. Those who prefer to spend time crusading for social causes than making money turn up in the press mostly because they are labelled as oddballs.

If a youngster tells his/her parents he/she wants to be a social worker, a chef or a journalist, chances are he/she will be dissuaded, if not shouted down. Hong Kong parents all want their offspring to become lawyers, doctors and business tycoons.

HO LAI-KIT, Mid-Levels

Pack away the rhetoric

I visited the recently opened ThreeSixty organic food store at the Landmark. The store has gone to great expense to sell organic food, because it is better for us and for the environment. Organic food is flown in from every corner of the planet (better for us, not so good for the environment) as noted in an advertisement in the South China Morning Post last week. Plaques scattered around the store telling us the counter tops are made of waste aluminium, paper for the leaflets is from recycled sources and the ink is low chemical.

My friend and I decided to grab something to eat in its food court and ordered a single portion of curry and rice. It was served in a plastic disposable container and came with two thick set paper plates and two sets of heavy but disposable plastic knifes and forks - a mountain of rubbish. They should take the environmental references out of their marketing rhetoric.

JONAS CHAU, Discovery Bay

Donate unwanted flu jabs

Last week's Sunday Morning Post reported that a 'lack of demand may mean costly flu vaccines go to waste' (January 14). I say the government should not waste thousands of doses of flu vaccine. It should rather donate them to the World Health Organisation so that thousands of poor and needy people elsewhere can benefit.

K.M. NASIR, Mid-Levels

Adoption fee is fair price

I write in response to Megaen Kelly's letter criticising the SPCA for charging a HK$600 adoption fee ('Dog adoption nonsense', January 14), The SPCA is reliant on funds raised from membership dues and sponsorship from donors. Kittens and puppies needing medication and special care are fostered out to experienced volunteers until they are of adoptable age and healthy, and surrendered animals with behavioural problems go through rehabilitation training before they are deemed fit to be homed. They are routinely given full health checks and go through a vaccination programme.

The adoption fees go back into the SPCA's funding to help homeless and abused animals.

If there were no adoption fees, the society would be deprived of a large amount of cash and their projects would suffer. They include the feral dog trials, which involve catching and neutering healthy dogs in the wild; working with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department in educating construction site operators so they do not abandon work-site dogs; and providing mobile surgery vehicles to desex village dogs, to name but a few programmes.

The HK$600 Megaen Kelly did not want to pay would have gone towards helping many other dogs - just a small price.

I am sorry to read that her cat died, but requiring owners' signatures before performing surgery on their animals is a routine practice at veterinary clinics.


Inability to pay is a risk

Having worked closely with the SPCA in Hong Kong and a number of animal rescue groups in the Asia, the US and Europe, I feel compelled to respond to Megaen Kelly's letter ('Dog adoption nonsense', January 14). It has been my experience that an unwillingness or inability to pay a reasonable amount to adopt a pet is a risk factor when considering the care of the animal. To view it otherwise would be to deny that pets are, in addition to being companions, a financial burden.


Cashing in on church

A few weeks ago we visited a remote church on the island of Shangchuan, in Guangdong province, as many Catholics do. The little church has no artistic value, yet it is a place of pilgrimage because for some time it was the tomb of Saint Francis Xavier, a great missionary in Asia, who died there in 1552. It is a place very dear to the heart of Catholics, especially the Chinese and Asian among the faithful.

It was with great dismay that we were asked to pay as much as 30 yuan each to gain access to the area where the church is located. We felt cheated, because there has never been such a fee in the past. We hoped that at least a receipt would give some dignity to such an arbitrary obligation. But the person in charge of the gates did not know what a receipt was.

We hardly understand the rationale beyond such behaviour. The church was built and later restored with money raised by Catholics from Macau, Hong Kong and overseas, the very same people who are now being charged high fees.

KITTY and HENRY HSU, Vancouver

America in decline

Every great nation has it's own way of declining. Now it looks like the US is starting to go one way - down - because of its foreign policy decisions made by officials that have little to do with democracy and everything to do with being re-elected.

Many of these decisions are a waste of taxpayers' money, which runs into the billions, this in a country where many homeless Americans sleep on pavements while the rich enjoy the good life.

President George W. Bush has destroyed America's legacy of human rights and ridden roughshod over the rights of those in foreign lands. And for what? There have been hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq, many of them women and children, as the US seeks another foothold in the Middle East with a beady eye on the country's oil. It looks like the president is hoping to run the clock until his term ends, so he can hand over the mess to the next leader.