Censure of RTHK is cause for alarm

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 January, 2007, 12:00am

As a Christian organisation that believes the core mission of Christianity is to promote justice, equality and peace, our calling is to love our neighbours as ourselves. This includes people who are marginalised by prejudice and discrimination. Often, their identity is different from our own. Therefore, we treasure diversity and respect freedom of expression - including, of course, freedom of the press.

We appreciate RTHK's production of Gay Lovers - the TV programme that has drawn official censure for its depiction of same-sex relationships - because it sought to show the social and legal discrimination homosexual couples face every day in Hong Kong but most of us don't see.

Indeed, many television programmes present heterosexual marriage as the only form of family. Is it acceptable for only such so-called mainstream views to be broadcast? Does the Broadcasting Authority know how difficult it is for people who suffer daily discrimination and attacks on their identity to come forward and try to explain their beliefs and lifestyles?

In addition, we are shocked at the apparent attempt by Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Joseph Wong Wing-ping, the minister in charge of broadcasting, to stifle freedom of the press in Hong Kong by immediately seeking a meeting with RTHK chief Chu Pui-hing.

Despite the government's denials, this meeting looks very much like an attempt by the government to interfere in the operations of RTHK. We are afraid that, if RTHK can be muzzled, then all media in Hong Kong can be muzzled.

We also want to remind the government of its promise to initiate more public education on sexual discrimination, rather than enact legislation, as a way to change people's prejudices. Its reaction to Gay Lovers contradicts this promise.

Lastly, we need to be reminded that diversity is part of the richness of Hong Kong and of any society. Not everyone has to agree with homosexuality, but they should respect the right of everyone, including those with opposing views, to freedom of expression.

ROSE WU, director, Hong Kong Christian Institute

Odds unfairly stacked

George Shum hits the nail squarely on the head in his letter questioning the process for deciding the fate of the president of the Hong Kong Institute of Education ('Fate in the wrong hands', January 24). As an outside observer, the one feature of the process that has puzzled me from the start is that only government-appointed members of the institute's ruling council and the vice-presidents of academic affairs and administration may vote today on the reappointment of Paul Morris.

Staff and student representatives on the council are excluded, as is anyone from the Legislative Council or, curiously, the major school-sponsoring bodies - the very entities that have snapped up most of the institute's graduates for Hong Kong's schools because of the quality they embody.

Further, the apparent stacking of the council with members who favour a merger with another institution - and even with members of institutions in direct competition for staff, students and resources - will never give the Institute of Education and its staff, students and alumni the opportunity to achieve full university status, a long-standing goal.

My 40 years of experience in the academic field suggests that such 'forced marriages' never work. For a merger to succeed, all parties have to be on board from the start, working towards a negotiated and acceptable new institution, or the problems become too great to overcome.

My own college, at the University of Minnesota in the US, is going through this - but with all parties having an equal say.

As a visiting scholar for the past decade, I have been able to witness incredible, positive change at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. It is a vibrant and lively institution which is developing programmes at the forefront of international best practice in education. I can make this statement with assurance, as my field of study is comparative education.

The metamorphosis has been achieved by the current leadership team. It would be an enormous mistake to break it up before the job has been completed.

JOHN J. COGAN, University of Minnesota

Sars doubts still nag

Your profile on Sydney Chung Sheung-chee, former dean of medicine at Chinese University ('Theatre of Life', January 23), reminds me of a disturbing puzzle. If then health secretary Yeoh Eng-kiong had really been the villain Professor Chung and his former colleagues made him out to be in the early days of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, would the Faculty of Medicine at Chinese University have hired him to teach after Professor Chung's departure?

Now that Professor Chung is back in town, maybe he can throw some light on one important, missing piece of the Sars puzzle: his role in the reopening of ward 8A at the Prince of Wales Hospital. Opening ward 8A led directly to the subsequent community outbreak and, in particular, the catastrophic events at Amoy Gardens.

Realising their grave error in discharging patients from the infected ward, those responsible for the tragic decision were naturally in a better position than others, including Dr Yeoh, to warn of a community outbreak.

They were able to become whistleblowers as a consequence of their own blunder.

Professor Chung was reluctant to talk to your reporter, Ella Lee, about Sars. But given that the epidemic wrecked so many families and took so many lives, he has a moral duty to the public to account for any role he or his colleagues personally played in that tragic turn of events.