PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 May, 2007, 12:00am


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Should historic graves get more protection?

I would like to respond to your articles regarding the Happy Valley cemetery.

I studied the Happy Valley cemetery in some detail for three years (2002-05) as a case study for my PhD at Hong Kong University and noted the same problems discussed in your articles. The SCMP kindly covered the results of this research in an article 'Grave concerns' on March 23 last year.

The botched inscription renovations highlighted in Wednesday's article are only the tip of the iceberg.

Throughout the cemetery there are more serious examples of deterioration and neglect such as headstones that are leaning precariously or have fallen and broken. Some have lain in pieces on the ground for years.

By comparison, the neighbouring Muslim, Catholic and Parsee cemeteries are maintained in pristine condition because each of these cultural groups takes pride in their heritage and doesn't have to rely on the government for funding.

There are people with the necessary expertise in the private sector to carry out heritage conservation or renovation in Hong Kong and I would be happy to discuss with the relevant government departments how a comprehensive conservation plan could be prepared for the cemetery that recognises the entire site as a historic cultural landscape.

Such a plan would include the proper techniques to restore headstones as well as to protect and enrich the wildlife habitats within the cemetery.

Ken Nicolson, Mid-Levels

If the folks in charge of historical places are going to correct the misspelt names at the Hong Kong Cemetery ('A cement and gibberish fix for war memorials,' May 2), will they also redo that charming misnomer in Central? The late historian Austin Coates pointed out, in his biography of Philippine hero Jose Rizal who once lived there, that Rednaxela Terrace bears that peculiar name because the Chinese painter assigned to mark it didn't know which way the letters went. It was supposed to be called Alexander Terrace.

On second thoughts, Rednaxela sounds quainter, so best to keep it.

R. Lopez, Wan Chai

Can we please start talking sense about the so-called botched grave renovations in Happy Valley?

The point made in the original article about the crude pointing of cracks in the memorials is perfectly valid. This work was badly done and should be rectified.

The uproar regarding the misspellings is, however, totally unfounded. It is perfectly obvious that such misspellings are the work of the original stonemasons who cut the inscriptions.

While literate, these men often had no knowledge of English and sought to carve what, for them, was a series of incomprehensible symbols in something approaching the correct sequence. That they occasionally made a mistake is far from surprising.

Due to weathering, these inscriptions are now difficult to see, so, in order to make them stand out, they are frequently painted in.

This practice is evident not only in Happy Valley, but also in the Protestant cemetery in Macau (spelt 'Macoa' on one grave).

To attribute the misspellings to present-day contractors is, therefore, preposterous and everyone inclined to fabricate indignation at this 'vandalism' should just calm down.

In fact, the misspellings are themselves of historical interest and, therefore, rather charming.

Peter Johnson, Lantau

Should spanking be banned in the home?

Talkback writer P. Souza writes that spanking should not be banned at home because 'a slap on the face ... would have much more effect than words of little meaning as the impact of that slap would not be forgotten easily'.

I have found through experience that a loving parent's disappointment has an even greater impact. The look on my son's face when I told him how disappointed I was with him because of his antics at school reminded me of how I myself felt as a child when I was told 'You've really let us down this time'. Boy, was I crushed. But back to the question.

I disagree with hitting the face, except perhaps for a sharp tap on the mouth for speaking out of turn. I do not disagree with a smack on the bottom to stress the seriousness of whatever the offence might be. I do, however, think it should be criminal for an adult, be it a parent or a school teacher or a private tutor, to get carried away with beating a child (200 times with a ruler, for example), especially with very young children.

Nor do I think that beatings will ever convey the same message that a loving explanation would. If a parent only knows how to hit a child in anger, the only message being conveyed is that violence is an acceptable solution to an issue.

Parents who take the time to talk to their young ones will find it much more satisfying. Yes, sometimes I talk till I'm blue in the face, but at least I know this much: when my son sees my hand being raised, it's only because he's about to be tickled or face some other fun thing that loving families do.

Rennie Marques, Mei Foo

Are bank charges too high?

The recent changes that HSBC has made to its PowerVantage account are unreasonable. HSBC Singapore also offers the same account so we may make a rough comparison.

Even though HSBC Singapore's PowerVantage has a standard service charge of about HK$10 (S$2), its customers can enjoy the service without any extra charges by maintaining only around HK$25,000 (S$5,000). In Hong Kong, we will have to keep HK$200,000 there.

Also, their extra monthly charge is only around HK$30, about a quarter of what the bank will charge in Hong Kong. We know that living standards and operating costs in both cities are different, but are those differences so substantial that HSBC has to raise the asset requirement eight times and service charges four times higher in Hong Kong than in Singapore?

HSBC's new PowerVantage fee is not only more expensive than its local rivals, it is also more pricey compared with other countries' operations within the group.

Does the world's local bank intend providing simultaneous services across the globe and charging customers based on its local bargaining power?

Franco Pang, Kwai Chung

On other matters...

In his column on Wednesday, Kevin Sinclair proclaims and highlights an apparent exodus of people from Hong Kong due to pollution. He naively demands action to reduce the pollution and states that this action must come from the Hong Kong and Guangdong governments.

Don't hold your breathe Kevin (cough). We are in this pollution mess because of government action.

Take for example the HK government's moronic Scheme of Control, which rewards the power companies to produce more electricity (and hence pollution) rather than save it.

However, if we are going to play the blame game, why not look in the mirror. After all, CLP (the main local polluter) is simply responding to the electricity demands of its customers. What action did those people who are now deserting the sinking ship of Hong Kong take to reduce their electricity consumption? Did they replace in their homes incandescent bulbs with energy efficient ones? Did they fit ceiling fans and forgo or reduce their use of air conditioning during the long summer months?

These simple measures are very cost effective, reducing electricity consumption by up to 30 per cent and will pay for themselves in no time.

Mark Hunter, Clear The Air Sai Kung