PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2008, 12:00am

Bemused by TV censor's misty blur

As a subscriber to PCCW's Now Broadband TV service, I have watched with increasing bemusement the operator's clunky attempts at censorship. On numerous cookery and food programmes over the last few months, middle-aged women, dressed for the camera in their finest cocktail dresses, have regularly had their cleavages obscured by the censor's misty blur.

These smiling, innocuous women are standing or sitting around tables laden with food, but what grabs the viewer's attention is not the food, as intended, but a load of fuzzy grey blobs that hover around their busts. Are cocktail dresses really too risque to be viewed by the Hong Kong public?

Earlier this month, on a show hosted by British chef Gordon Ramsay, the misty treatment was applied to two pigs as they were killed and processed in an abattoir. While this may not be choice viewing for all, the show was aired after 11pm and there was a clear warning about the content before the scene played. The show's very rationale for screening this admittedly gruesome scene was that eaters of meat should understand what occurs to animals before they are consumed. The scene was shot with sensitivity, but the PCCW misty blob descended anyway.

Then on February 14, on a BBC show about the history of rock music, the phrase 'anti-Christ', from a famous 1970s' song, was bleeped out. Is this phrase really too sensitive, harmful or objectionable to be heard by viewers? Would someone from Now Broadband explain the rationale behind these three acts of censorship? All these programmes aired at 9pm or later. All depict real life events and all aired on so-called subscriber channels. Are women in cocktail dresses really that dangerous to Hong Kong's moral strength? Or do the wielders of PCCW's bleeps and blobs have absolutely no idea what they are doing, or know why they are doing it?

Richard Cook, Mui Wo

Apt reminder on labelling

The government's clarification about food labelling is a timely reminder to the food industry of their responsibilities to the public ('Food labelling scheme aims to help consumers make healthy choices', February 17). A further concern is the obvious failure of Hong Kong's two biggest supermarket chains in providing your correspondent with clear responses about their position regarding the nutrition labelling scheme ('Doubts raised over nutrition labelling', February 3).

Since I shop mostly at Wellcome when in Hong Kong, I wish to ask Dairy Farm to comment on the accuracy of its food labels. The example I cite is its First Choice canned tuna product range, where there is significant variation of ingredient levels. For instance, the sodium content per 100g of 'Tuna in spring water', 'Tuna in vegetable oil' and 'Tuna in brine' is 531mg, 378mg and 319mg respectively. It is reasonable to accept that there would be more salt content in tuna in brine rather than in spring water and vegetable oil, but according to Wellcome's food labels this is not the case. There is 66 per cent more salt in tuna in spring water than in the same amount of tuna in brine, for instance.

There are other puzzling ingredient levels with the First Choice canned tuna range. For example, with protein, cholesterol, carbohydrate and calcium contents. Can Wellcome please explain how it derives its nutrition information, and what checks and balances it uses to ensure accuracy? Can the Centre for Food Safety and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department also check these food labels, and explain what powers they have.

Will Lai, New South Wales, Australia

HK needs fair refugee system

Your editorial ('HK must do more to protect the vulnerable', February 19) suggests that the answer to the issue of bogus claims for refugee status lies in tightening visa controls. Visa controls not only keep unfounded claimants out but also those who are most in need of international protection. Experience has shown that tightening access forces victims of persecution underground, putting their lives in the hands of 'agents' to get them to safety through other means. Unscrupulous smugglers put women and children at risk and expose them to sexual and physical abuse along the way.

The best way to screen out bogus claimants is to have a fair process for deciding asylum applications. It is essential that legal advocates participate in this process to ensure that genuine claimants are distinguished from those who come to Hong Kong for other reasons. We call on the Hong Kong government to institute a fair process for deciding refugee status claims.

Raquel Amador and Jennifer Stone, co-directors, Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre

Alarm over court finding

As a scholar of international law and human rights, I was naturally alarmed by the recent court finding regarding the principle of non-refoulement and its applicability in Hong Kong as a rule of customary international law (CIL). In a study published in the International Journal of Human Rights (2006), I argued that non-refoulement is CIL.

That said, having both disagreed (on language rights) and agreed (on age of consent) with Justice Hartmann, I was gratified by the jurist's extensive reference to academic opinions in his reasoning. Still, I am uncertain whether he decided that non-refoulement was CIL.

He also forgot that Hong Kong is not a state and is not capable of acceding to the Refugee Convention, now or before 1997. In terms of (PRC, not HK) constitutional law, Hong Kong does not have powers over foreign affairs, including treaty accession. Justice Hartmann's repeated reference to the convention and other relevant treaties as extended, or not extended, to Hong Kong illustrates his awareness, and neglect, of a major principle of international law: in international law, Hong Kong is an internal part of China, and as China is a party to the Refugee Convention, Hong Kong's violation entails China's state responsibility.

Phil C.W. Chan, Vanderbilt University, US

Pressure point

N.S. Panesar in the letter ('Politics a reality in Olympics', February 20) is correct that a nation can't separate politics from the Olympics. Steven Spielberg and the rest of the Hollywood crowd are correct in trying to pressure China into a corner on the Darfur atrocities, but there might be more going on behind the scenes. What I am referring to is the infringement of copyright laws and piracy that China and other nations feel they can get away with. China has made inroads into the problem but much more needs to be done. Until that time, I am afraid China will be on Hollywood's radar for any cause that might give China a black eye.

Theodore Carl Soderberg, San Francisco

Cuba hopes

Now that Fidel Castro is stepping down, Cuba's transition should be geared towards the implementation of democracy with free and fair elections. The present government falsely presents itself as the authentic spokesman for the aspirations of the people and claims to be able, though by recourse to violent means, to bring about changes which will put an end to oppression and misery of people. With the changing of the guard in Cuba, let's hope a new wave of freedom from the tyranny of communism is on the horizon.

Paul Kokoski, Ontario, Canada