Copyright measures make criminals of your children
We are already in danger of bowing down to the interests of business - when was it ever any different? - by backtracking on the proposals for a Copyright (Amendment) Bill in the medium of print. But if the government's latest proposals to amend Hong Kong's copyright laws become reality, it seems no school-going child will be safe from a criminal record.
The original draft of the amended bill promoted a gentler, more understanding environment, particularly for schools and colleges. Now, if the robust language of the consultation document on copyright in the digital environment is to be believed, it seems nothing your school-going child does can be trusted - in print or online.
As academics Michael Pendleton and Michael Geist point out in 'A digital dilemma' (January 22), the consultation document says little about expanding the defence of fair use. So, can your child use copyrighted material fairly at all in the digital world, even for legitimate reasons such as finishing a term paper due in the next morning? Perhaps not.
Of course, copyright owners have every right to secure their property in print or online. But aren't the government proposals going just a little bit far?
Your children are not surfing the internet, sending a file to friends and copying some pages from a school library book for commercial gain. In simple terms, they are only trying to pass their exams. Perhaps they are somewhat naive, but they are enjoying the right to be educated in a place where the free flow of information should be a given.
Can we seriously want to take them to court and face a criminal record before their careers have even begun?
COLIN STOREY, Sha Tin
The outcry over the chief executive's visit to his election campaign office this week shows how inexperienced Hong Kong's politicians are ('Democrats cry foul over Tsang's campaign', January 24). Does the opposition really have nothing better to do than comment on him visiting during work hours? Are they also going to start questioning trips he makes to the restroom while at work?
With such a low level of brainpower in the opposition camp, it's no wonder Beijing wants to keep control over Hong Kong politics.
JAN ARKESTEIJN, Tuen Mun
I have suspected for some time that CLP Power insists on building a liquefied natural gas terminal on South Soko Island because it wants to enable majority shareholder ExxonMobil to establish an LNG supply chain to south China in anticipation of the mainland opening up to the foreign oil industry this year.
Beginning to think myself mistaken, imagine my surprise on reading that CLP Power is 'in talks' with potential suppliers including ExxonMobil on supplying the proposed terminal ('CLP seeks deal with LNG suppliers', January 24).
Of course, fair play in awarding the contract will be ensured by an accounting firm hired by CLP Power.
I also suspect that another motive for choosing South Soko Island is to avoid the higher insurance premiums that would be payable if the terminal were sited near installations and housing, such as at Black Point. Again, I might be wrong, but I just can't seem to suspend my scepticism.
Meanwhile, I notice a HK$25 fuel adjustment', on my HK$400 Hongkong Electric bill. Given that I'm already paying a premium for my power, I thought such arbitrary surcharges were not permitted. Clearly, I'm mistaken on this, too.
RICHARD FIELDING, Pok Fu Lam
Oh, the irony
If RTHK broadcast a programme on the difficulties faced by single-parent families (without contrasting them with families living happily ever after with a full cast of mum and dad), would the Broadcasting Authority slam it as 'unfair, partial and biased' towards single parents?
More than 50 years ago, African American Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. Her arrest and subsequent trial sparked an unprecedented movement in the US against racial discrimination.
If, at the time, a US broadcaster had made a programme on the difficulties African Americans faced (without also airing the racist views of white Americans), I bet the local government would have branded it 'unfair, partial and biased towards African Americans'. It would probably have been deemed unsuitable for minors, too.
That the Broadcasting Authority is chaired by Daniel Fung Wah-kin SC, a legal expert on human rights, makes its ruling on RTHK's Gay Lovers all the more ironic and regrettable.
T.H. MAN, Kwai Chung
Fair's fair in outer space
In 'Credibility lost in space?' (January 24), Frank Ching accuses China of double standards for firing a ballistic missile at a weather satellite. He also notes that the US has repeatedly refused China's efforts to negotiate a treaty banning the use of weapons in outer space.
In the light of the US refusal, China is well within its rights to develop anti-satellite missiles, as Russia and the US have done for decades. It is simply protecting its best interests. Is it not the US that has double standards? It is happy to have such weaponry yet protests when other countries follow suit. All's fair in love and war.
JON YAU, Tai Po
Catch the waves
Letter writer Ian Nicolson's suggestion that Hong Kong use renewable energy for its water desalination needs is spot on and deserves serious consideration ('Catch the winds of change to meet HK's water needs', January 18). Without going into the finer details, environment chief Sarah Liao Sau-tung's recent calculation that a desalination plant would cost HK$50 billion is incredible, to say the least. The fossil fuels needed to run such a facility to meet Hong Kong's water requirements for just five years would add another 7.4 million tonnes of carbon to our atmosphere. This is worth another HK$865 million at today's carbon credit prices.
Even a mention of 'renewable energy' in this regard might have earned Dr Liao public-relations credits. Why wasn't it?
Maybe we can draw on a thorough study of water desalination options recently completed by Marin County, California. It found that all of the county's water needs could be met using renewable energy (wind, waves or solar). With wind and solar energy requiring large amounts of land, wave energy shows the most promise. It does not take up valuable land, it is clean, it costs a fraction of fossil fuels, and its related equipment costs are more than eight times cheaper than the going estimates for desalination plants.
The beauty here is that Hong Kong has its own locally patented wave technology. It has yet to receive notice because no renewable energy targets have been set for the city's power companies. This is unfortunate, because it hurts innovation, which Hong Kong always claims to strive for.
If the power companies will not drive innovation, maybe the Water Supplies Department can take the lead - and the credit.
DOUG WOODRING, Mid-Levels
LPG better than diesel
I refer to Peter Lok's letter 'Convert to diesel' (January 22). As carbon dioxide emissions are directly related to the amount of fuel consumed, it is true to say, as he does, that engines with lower fuel consumption will emit proportionally less carbon dioxide.
Diesel fuel normally produces about 14.5 per cent more carbon dioxide than the same volume of petrol, due to its higher carbon level. However, diesel engines emit 30 to 40 per cent less carbon than similar-sized petrol engines because of their higher thermal efficiency.
Mr Lok writes that the introduction of the Euro IV standard means vehicles 'are no longer the smoke-belching monsters they used to be'. Actually, it depends on how well a vehicle is maintained and the quality of fuel used. There is also concern that the particulates emitted by the exhausts of modern diesel engines are much smaller, and hence stay suspended in the atmosphere for longer and penetrate our lungs more deeply.
Let's therefore stick with LPG taxis and minibuses - at least until suitably high maintenance and fuel standards can be guaranteed.
IAIN SEYMOUR-HART, Chai Wan
Stop your carping
Isn't it time your correspondents and opinion writers got over the illegality of the invasion of Iraq? Let's sort out the bloody mess and then you can string up US President George W. Bush, if you wish. But harping on the same old issues and justifying the terrorism with the same smug, sneering remarks that we have heard over and over again ('Arrogance in the face of disaster', January 24) will only get us deeper into the mire. Do any of your anti-Bush, anti-war contributors have anything constructive to say?
G. TO, Mid-Levels