Do we have a duty to help our fellow Asians affected by disaster?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2008, 12:00am

Each week our two teenagers debate a hot topic. This week ...

Claudia Yip, 17, Shun Lee Catholic Secondary School

In the space of a few days, Asia was hit by two severe natural disasters - the cyclone in Myanmar on May 2 and the earthquake in Sichuan on May 12. All of Asia shared the pain. To heal the wounded souls, contributions were needed immediately.

When natural disasters strike, relief work must be carried out straight away. But many Asian countries are still developing and don't have the equipment and experts to deal with the problem. When homes are ruined, victims have no food, clean water or shelter. They need help and it is natural to provide assistance.

In 2005, billions of dollars were raised for survivors of the Boxing Day tsunami. Helping the victims of disaster is not thrust upon us by others, but by our conscience.

Some people may be deterred by the cost of the contribution. But you don't need to be a millionaire to contribute - there are other ways to help, such as sending food and supplies through organisations, or helping charities with administrative work.

No country is an island. Most Asian countries are our trading partners, so when they suffer, so do we. The devastation can harm our exports and imports. For example, the cyclone destroyed farms in Myanmar, possibly adding to the already worrying global food crisis.

Helping out fellow Asians in need benefits society as a whole.

Blessed are those who contribute selflessly and beyond boundaries.

Jeffrey Wong, 19, Diocesan Boys' School

Thanks to the robust economic growth of recent decades, we are a developed city.

Yet many of our neighbours are not as fortunate as we are. Natural disasters are always a great blow to their citizens. But I don't believe we have a duty to help them in times of trouble.

From the perspective of public finance, helping other nations is not high on the agenda.

Within our own city, the difference between the rich and the poor is widening.

As Hongkongers, we cannot make light of these problems. We should help our own before our neighbours.

Besides, contributions to our Asian neighbours are more charity than duty. We choose to give to those in need. But I feel their needs should be met by their own governments.

If their governments cannot measure up to their jobs, the citizens should take a proactive role in improving the situation.

Peaceful protest, for example, can smooth out problems with poor governance.

What's more, we must take into account the deep-seated corruption in many Asian governments.

The Myanmar government, for instance, has been accused of using international aid for its own benefit, rather than distributing it to those in need. What's the point of making contributions if they don't reach the victims?