PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 May, 2007, 12:00am

Biased Amnesty does itself no favours

I had occasion to read the 2006 Amnesty International Report and was disturbed by what I read.

The world has benefited significantly from Amnesty International and we should all be thankful for the vision of its late founder, Peter Benenson. I wonder, however, if the organisation's increasing bias might ultimately be its undoing.

Two things bother me about its latest report. One is the very restricted application of responsibility, and the other is a narrow prescription as to what does and does not constitute abuses of human rights.

The report lists - country by country - the alleged transgressions of governments in the area of human rights. In Canada, this included ongoing sexual abuse of native women, with blame placed squarely on the national government; in Iraq there are lists of deaths caused by multinational forces.

Why is it always governments that are blamed? It is implied that governments are guilty of human rights violations simply because they do not prevent them. In Iraq, more deaths are caused by misguided and politically motivated Muslim fundamentalists than foreign or government troops. Furthermore, deaths of innocents caused by multinational forces tend to be by mistake rather than design. Killings by fundamentalists are, in contrast, deliberate. Amnesty reports on unlawful detentions by government, but what about unlawful kidnappings and killings by fundamentalists? No mention is made.

As to Hong Kong, Amnesty reported, with apparent concern, that a particular group with views which were not of the requisite liberal kind had too much influence on the education of school teachers. The group is a Christian one whose views are considered anti-gay. I'm confused how this could be considered a prospective human-rights violation. I don't think teachers here provide any views or teachings on homosexuality.

Even more ridiculous was the paragraph describing how many protesters were arrested during the WTO protests in December, 2005; how they were released and never charged; how police used pepper spray, tear gas and rounds of beanbags.

The overwhelming public view here was that our police were extremely well disciplined and controlled. It was one of the force's proudest moments.

Television coverage showed South Korean farmers attacking police with poles, pipes, and other weapons, and blatantly breaking laws. Where is Amnesty's criticism of this behaviour? The police used non-lethal weapons. In a world where teenagers detonate bombs and kill thousands, shooting a few rounds of beanbags seems pretty reasonable to me.

Though many protesters should have been incarcerated for lengthy periods, a deal was brokered with the South Korean government to let them go. They were undoubtedly guilty but they were not prosecuted.

I fail to see how this is a human rights violation. I am appalled that Amnesty would give any credence to the accusations levelled by some of these protesters, let alone publish them.

It seems Amnesty International might be becoming more a vehicle for special-interest groups than a pure human rights organisation. Its reputation can only suffer.

Gregory Pek,

Happy Valley

Thinking green benefits us all

When I arrived here I was amazed by the clean streets, shopping malls, parks and MTR stations. I am now convinced that criminalising the throwing of rubbish on the street actually works. The ban on eating and drinking on public transport makes for a much nicer environment.

So, where is the recycling? In Europe we are used to recycling, and happily sort our rubbish into different bins. The deposit system also motivates people to hand in the bottles for recycling.

After some months here, I developed skin problems which other people I know have experienced. I have been across the mainland border a lot, but never seen the sun. When I went there at Lunar New Year, I was amazed to see sun and blue sky in Shenzhen. The city was transformed. I can only assume that the reason for this was that factories were closed for the holiday.

China's amazing growth is having certain unfortunate consequences. Scientists say that up to 1 million people a year suffer an early death from pollution.

As many as 7 million mainland children suffer from diseases such as diarrhoea because of polluted water. This problem will increase remarkably in the future if no action is taken.

Scientists also say that by choosing environmentally friendly solutions, China is not forced to choose between environment and economy. As investors think about putting money into mainland businesses, it would be an investment for the future to go for the environment friendly solutions.

Hege Sandviken,

Pok Fu Lam

Adherents ignore interfaith example

I congratulate the Reverend Matthew Vernon, 'Different names for an ultimate reality' (Sunday Morning Post, May 6) on the successful interfaith dialogue meeting organised by the Hong Kong Network on Religion and Peace, and wholeheartedly applaud any and all such initiatives.

However, the success of this meeting does not, in itself, demonstrate religious tolerance. Rather, what such interfaith dialogue represents is the wisdom and humanity of the individual participants, who cherry-pick the good from their scriptures while discarding the bad.

Unfortunately, such virtues are not sufficiently widespread among the faithful of the world, many of whom prefer to read the incitements to hatred and intolerance, inherent in scripture, as the word of God.

Andrew Nesbitt,

Sai Kung

Condom advice fails to tackle HIV issue

The prevailing wisdom for preventing new HIV cases among homosexual males fails everyone, 'US expert warns HK faces man-to-man HIV epidemic', (Sunday Morning Post, May 6). Sure, if more males wore condoms that would help.

The Hong Kong Advisory Council on Aids wants the government to continue promoting condom use and hopes to raise the level to more than 80 per cent in the next five years among homosexuals. Where is the man who does not already know that condom use helps? What good is it to be safe four times out of five? Contact with HIV is the critical event.

One sexual act without a condom - or if the condom breaks or slips can condemn a person to suffering, poor health and the need for daily medication for the rest of his, or her, life. Surely we can do better than just telling men to wear a condom. Why not also advise homosexual males to be tested frequently and to know about the health of their partners?

Gordon Truscott,

Tin Shui Wai

Anti-smoking law needs more teeth

Thanks to the smoking ban, my wife and I have been eating out much more often. Previously we boycotted teahouses, cafes and the like in favour of fast-food outlets to avoid inhaling passive smoke while eating.

Unfortunately, the ban has proved to be a flop overall, mainly because of loopholes in the law. To make the smoking ban an all-out success, efforts from all government departments are required.

As a preliminary measure, the law should make it mandatory for public establishments to ensure no smoking by diners, and an offence for those proprietors who fail to enforce it.

Peter Wei,

Kwun Tong