PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 April, 2008, 12:00am

Ma should pardon defector economist Lin

Ma Ying-jeou, the victor in Taiwan's recent presidential gladiatorial contest, no doubt has his mind full of the minutiae and mechanics of the transition to power. But, he can repair cross-strait relations and win international goodwill in one fell swoop, by a simple act of kindness.

When he assumes office next month, Mr Ma should make it his first order of business to grant a presidential pardon to Justin Lin Yifu, a fellow Taiwanese, but more importantly, the first Chinese scholar to become chief economist of the World Bank.

Those of us who have been following the news of this extraordinary appointment know that Professor Lin left Taiwan rather dramatically, swimming across the Taiwan Strait, without the permission of the authorities.

For that act of bravery, he has been placed on the list of hunted lawbreakers.

That has earned him the dubious distinction of being the first World Bank high official to be so honoured. Barred from entering his native Taiwan, he was heartbreakingly unable to attend his father's funeral some years later.

Scholars and scientists belong to the world. Their natural constituency is humanity. Sometimes they serve their own community, other times, beyond. But always their ultimate allegiance is to the advancement of knowledge.

By wiping the slate clean for Professor Lin, allowing him to return to Taiwan to sweep his father's grave, Mr Ma would win the gratitude of hundreds of outstanding Taiwanese scholars now caught in the web of Chinese politics.

Besides, the rest of the world would applaud him for his act of statesmanship.

On the other hand, if Mr Ma chooses to visit the US before he takes office, he may play into the hands of presidential hopefuls like Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton whose recent China-baiting or China-bashing talk is so transparently expedient.

Let us hope that the spirit of magnanimity will prevail on both sides of the strait.

Philip Yeung, Kowloon Tong

Neither British nor Chinese

I agree with Terry Scott's letter ('Visa regulations are so unjust', March 26).

Being born in Hong Kong with a permanent identity card, it is a shame to find that the mainland still requires me and my brother to apply for an entry visa. We consider this to be a totally unfair practice.

Discrimination occurs everywhere. However, Britain is known to be one of the most civilised countries that still adheres to similar unfair practices.

My brother and I are of Portuguese, Scottish and Chinese ancestry and hold BNO passports.

On one occasion, my brother flew to Britain for a short holiday - only to be denied entry.

We are not entitled to a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport because we are not Chinese and do not have a Chinese surname. We do not read or write Chinese. We do not wish to declare ourselves Chinese and we are not entitled to home visit permits. We regard Britain as our country. However, we were denied full British passports when we made an application to the British consulate in Hong Kong.

This is an unjust practice on the part of Britain.

Before 1997, such passports were issued to minorities. However, after 1997, we were told we could only apply for a BNO passport. Our rights as members of one of Hong Kong's minority groups have simply vanished.

With a full British passport, you can enter and leave Britain freely. This is not the case with a BNO passport.

Britain regards us as Chinese. How can that be the case? Our father's parents are Portuguese. Our mother's father is Scottish and her mother is Chinese.

To date, the British have avoided taking our case seriously.

This is a mess, caused by history, and we are the ones who are suffering.

Surely to not allow BNO passport holders free entry to Britain is a racist policy.

Nicholas Botelho, Lantau

Save our air, use public transport

Hong Kong releases a ridiculous amount of carbon emissions, thanks to vehicles, factories, aircraft and power plants.

All these things are important to Hong Kong, but why do we need to use so much?

In Hong Kong, it has to do with our lifestyle.

We should, wherever possible, opt to use public transport. Having 10 people on a bus is a lot more sensible than having 10 cars on the road. Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an expensive car, when you can simply spend HK$2 per ride on public transport?

We should be thinking about the needs of future generations.

Hilaire Wong, The Peak

Drivers should pay accordingly

Does the Hong Kong government have absolutely no vision?

Does it lack the ability to lead public opinion? Or is there another issue constraining officials to take action?

Is it better to ignore the problem and let Hong Kong grind to a halt, or should we follow other cities and implement a sensible solution?

Hong Kong's roads in Central are a scarce resource and need to be allocated by price.

The fact that the social cost of congestion for all road users is larger than the private cost of each person's delay means that a tax or price is needed to create economic efficiency.

When making decisions about whether to make a car journey, each person needs to see the full cost to other people. An inbuilt bias to build more and bigger bypasses to provide profits for large corporations needs to be overcome.

Many adjustments can be made by the public. The MTR, buses, ferries and even taxis are all feasible alternatives. Journeys can be made at different times or not at all. Offices, if need be, can be relocated.

A huge contribution could be made to the congestion problem by creating a sensible price difference between the tunnels. Raising prices on the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and giving the proceeds to charity would be better than nothing.

Peter D. Paul, North Point

Missing lion

What a fantastic Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.

We had visitors from around the world who came at our invitation and who waited for the traditional lion dance, but it never happened.

All we had was some silly American marching band, which looked as if it had lost its way. Also the band paid no attention at all to half the audience - those on the east side. And people on the east side couldn't hear it. What a terrible let-down by whoever signed off on this.

Give us back our Hong Kong lion dance, with drums and swirling colours, not a bunch of Americans in silly uniforms. We are proud of the lion dance and our overseas visitors love it.

Rob Grool, Quarry Bay

Honour at stake

On a day where global banks continued to write off billions of dollars but still reward their multimillion-dollar-salaried chief executives with severance packages that will ensure no mortgage concerns for them, I read that a family of three committed suicide for what appeared to be credit card debt ('Three die in family suicide over debts', April 2).

Perhaps this family felt shame and paid the ultimate price for their honour, which was far higher than that of the banks.

Mark Peaker, The Peak