A sad sign we are no better off than under colonial rule
What is discouraging about the chief executive election is not the pre-emptive victory of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen but Beijing's view that the people of Hong Kong are not truly entitled to what they were solemnly promised in the Joint Declaration of 1984. With Hong Kong returned to China, its people are supposedly now masters of their own destiny, able to administer their own city under the principle of self-rule. But is this the reality? In terms of their rights and powers to administer this place according to democratic principles, Hongkongers are no better off than during colonial rule.
The tragedy is that Hong Kong's people cannot truly develop a sense of belonging, even though they have shown a fervent desire to preserve their built heritage and hold on to their collective memories. They are prevented from this largely by the central government's deliberate impediments to democratic reform. Not until Beijing accepts that it owes Hong Kong its rightful entitlement to democracy, can its people truly and proudly call this place their home.
STEPHEN CHAN CHUNG-KONG,
Now that Alan Leong Kah-kit has gained sufficient traction to create a pretend election for chief executive and inject some excitement into the game, I'd like to suggest we take it one step further. Would a suitably independent institution like to step forward and set up a virtual election for the people of Hong Kong? We could then watch the televised debate between Mr Leong and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, and vote over the internet. It would help us feel as if we had a choice. And, who knows? If the scheme generated more than 800 votes, who then could disagree that it had a greater level of legitimacy than the 'real' pretend election.
TIM WOODWARD, Kwai Chung
Link in the right direction
The Link Reit has been a focus of community concerns since it listed more than a year ago. As chief executive, I feel the need to reiterate our operating philosophy and direction.
The Housing Authority launched the listing of its shopping centres in the belief that their potential could be developed more fully under the principle of 'small government, big market'. As a government body susceptible to politics, the authority had not adhered fully to commercial principles. As a result, some shopping centres were trapped in the operation modes of the 1980s and 1990s and were failing to meet ever-changing market needs.
Since taking over the management, we have acted with customers' interests at the forefront of our minds. Our initiatives in renovating centres and enhancing management and shop mixes seek to benefit the public by providing affordable, value-for-money goods and services. Tenants benefit from a more favourable environment, and unit holders from better returns.
Since our listing, we have successfully let out shops that stood vacant for ages. A total area of 150,000 sq ft was newly let out in the first six months of the current financial year, creating at least 800 job opportunities. We have also introduced more than 80 popular brands. Meanwhile, residents continue to be able to buy daily necessities, and traditional stores go on with their business.
About 90 per cent of customers in a survey conducted by Polytechnic University reported that prices charged by the new tenants are affordable and the renovations have benefited their neighbourhoods.
In setting rents, we follow the market mechanism and emphasise value. The higher occupancy rate achieved since we took over is testament to the attractiveness of our centres. Rents at some stores fell dramatically during the economic downturn. We are now bringing them back to more reasonable levels, with reference to market conditions and the circumstances of individual shops.
As the manager of properties in close proximity to many residents, we have made a total area of 800,000 sq ft available for welfare groups to let at a concessionary rent. We regularly grant charity groups rent-free access to our promotion venues. We have also brought in seven more bank branches and 26 more ATMs, reversing the decline in banking facilities.
With barely a year gone since the listing, we see room for improvement. We are also committed to enhancing communication with our tenants. We hope that the public appreciates that there are bound to be differences of opinion during the transition at some of our shopping centres. We are glad that some tenants are co-operating with us by upgrading themselves, and that some centres have seen growth in patronage. We believe we are going in the right direction, and will continue to move forward in a spirit of professionalism and innovation.
VICTOR SO, chief executive,
The Link Management
What am I, then?
I am a Hong Kong-born Nepalese living permanently in this city since early 1997. A letter to your newspaper on two little-known entitlements of Hong Kong's ethnic minorities to British citizenship prompted me to seek information on my status as a Nepalese national.
The letter, 'British citizenship' (November 27), advised that solely Nepalese passport holders born in Hong Kong before June 30, 1976, who have never held a British National (Overseas) passport qualify for a British Overseas Citizens passport if they did not formally renounce British nationality upon turning 21.
As I was born before this date and do not hold BN(O) status, I obtained information from the British consulate on all the requirements I needed to apply. Among these is a certificate from the Nepalese authorities stating that I am not a Nepalese citizen.
Under the Nepal Citizenship Act of 1964, Nepalese citizens who are British by birth in Hong Kong automatically lose their citizenship if they do not renounce their British nationality between the ages of 16 and 21.
I wrote a letter to the Nepalese consulate in Hong Kong asking it to certify that I am not a Nepalese citizen, based on the above act. I met the Nepalese consul-general in December. After going through my letter and the documents provided, he told me - to my great surprise - that the consulate cannot help me because I am not a Hong Kong citizen.
I now have two questions. First, am I not a Hong Kong citizen?
Second, the letter to your newspaper mentioned that many members of Hong Kong's ethnic minorities 'do not know they are actually British nationals already'. If I am already a British national, how do I find this out? Is this the information the Nepalese consulate is waiting for?
I hope someone can answer my questions because I seem to have encountered deadlock. Both the British and Nepalese authorities seem to be waiting for each other's action, further aggravating the confusion in the Nepalese community.
DAMAR THAPA, Kennedy Town
My apologies to letter writer K.K. Cheung ('Council norms', February 9) if he felt that questioning the integrity of 'elite representatives of the education and professional sectors' was an insult. I was probably naive in thinking that the government appointees to the ruling council of the Hong Kong Institute of Education take their direction from the government - or, more particularly, the Education and Manpower Bureau.
We are lucky to have a class of persons of superior intellectual, social or economic status sitting voluntarily on the council. Where else would we find the people to deal with honorary degrees, staffing, donations, finance, superannuation and auditing?
I obviously failed to appreciate that the 10 council members who voted against the reappointment of Paul Morris as president of the institute - despite his wide support from students and peers - came to their decisions independently. Mea culpa.
Leaving that aside, however, I am still awaiting answers to the questions I posed in the letter which upset Mr Cheung ('Clearly more complicated', February 3).
As a final thought before I 'pat my bum and leave', as the education chief puts it, perhaps the government should set up an Elite Manpower Bureau with a published list of members whose decisions may not be queried.
GRAHAM WARBURTON, Mid-Levels
Foxy logic on red deer
Maurice Peter Tracy is incorrect in describing fox-hunting as a 'cull' in his letter 'Wolfish ways' (February 9). It does not require a crowd of people, horses and dogs rushing about the countryside to 'cull' one fox; all it takes is one patient man with a gun. Fox-hunting is a blood sport, in which people find enjoyment in harassing, injuring and killing an animal that cannot fight back.
Conversely, wolves kill to eat. They used to be a natural part of the ecology of Scotland, and the deer population grows out of control without them. Overpopulation will result in slow death by starvation of many deer. If Mr Tracy disapproves of reintroducing grey wolves, does he have an alternative means of population control in mind? Supplying stags with condoms, perhaps?
Any removal or reintroduction of a species to an ecosystem will result in challenges to other species. Why does Mr Tracy complain about the effect of wolves on gentle red deer but not, say, about the painful death of fish in the talons of reintroduced osprey?
ALLAN DYER, Wong Chuk Hang