PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am

Ordinance must offer protection to all citizens

The debate over the proposed amendment to the Domestic Violence Ordinance to include same-sex spouses in the scope of protection has become an issue so divisive even members from the same political party find themselves disagreeing with one another.

First it was the Democratic Party's Wong Sing-chi vowing not to vote for the amendment in its current form because of his religious beliefs, despite his party having supported it. Then, Civic Party members protested that their chairman Ronny Tong Ka-wah committed the party to support the amendment without consulting them and respecting their faith.

Mr Wong proposes changing the name of the law, which is currently called the Family Violence Ordinance (translated from the Chinese) to the household violence ordinance and he will support it.

Opponents of the amendment, who often claim religious beliefs as the basis of their action, say they are concerned that inclusion of same-sex spouses in the ordinance would indirectly recognise gay relationships and pave the way to legalising same-sex marriage, especially when the law is about 'family'.

Groups representing sexual minorities are rightly sceptical of Mr Wong's proposition. The law should be protecting victims of abuse in relationships, not households. The law currently includes ex-marital spouses and ex-cohabiting spouses who don't live with the abusers any more but are still under threat because of their former relationships.

Advocates for the amendment include Horizons, an organisation which specialises in sexual orientation and gender identity issues. We would like to think that logical argument alone would resolve differences over this issue, however, that is naive.

Faith when used as a reason to oppose a law leaves no room for discussion.

That is why separation of church and state has been regarded as the ideal for modern governments, especially for a city where religious views are diverse. But not everyone is religious and not all religious people are homophobic.

Many lawmakers appreciate that they serve the whole of Hong Kong including suppressed minorities whose voices often fall on deaf ears.

This initiative is a result of tireless lobbying of a former legislator of the social welfare constituency Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung and the government should get kudos for taking it on knowing the controversy it would cause. The amendment's passage would prove Hong Kong as a place ruled by law, not religious doctrines.

Reggie Ho, honorary chairman, Horizons

Obama faces daunting task

On January 20, president-elect Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

An intelligent and charismatic person, he promised in his election campaign a change in the way America has functioned over the past few years. Everybody echoes his sentiments.

The eight-year tenure of President George W. Bush has left a legacy the world would like to forget. America's credibility has been severely damaged at home and abroad. It can be summarised as, two unfinished wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the failure to capture Osama bin Laden, a derailed peace process between Israel and Palestine leading to one of the worst human massacres in Gaza, and a deep recession in the US economy resulting in 16-year-high unemployment along with a subprime mortgage crisis.

Mr Obama faces a daunting task.

To quote Abraham Lincoln: 'Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.'

Hopefully, this time the Americans have made the right choice.

Dyutimoy Chakraborty, Quarry Bay

Top marks for policy revision

I agree with Lebron Tsui ('New measures good for HK', January 13) regarding education reforms ('Schools using Chinese set to be given chance to teach in English', January 9).

In our school, students in the science stream study chemistry in Chinese and other subjects in English. This leads to difficulties especially when it comes to chemistry terms. Friends in other schools study the subject in English.

However, although in other subjects our textbooks are in English, teachers give lectures in Chinese. We are missing out on the opportunities we need to listen to and speak English.

Therefore, I welcome this latest adjustment to the education policy. It is unfair that some of us have been victims of the old policies which have failed.

Alison Lee Yuk-yu, Kwai Chung

Essential civic responsibility

I refer to Kathy Ho's letter ('Projects are legally sound', January 6) in which she states that the government has 'clarified' the cases of 'Hopewell Holdings' Mega Tower hotel and QRE Plaza'. When a government officer 'clarifies' it often means that there are more questions unanswered.

Similarly the government's opinion regarding the law is not necessarily the true legal status, as was proved with harbour reclamation projects rejected by the courts. Public opposition to the Hopewell Centre II hotel, formerly known as the Mega Tower, has been a healthy process exposing weaknesses in the planning system.

Ms Ho is wrong to refer to collusion-spotting as a 'popular sport'.

It is an essential civic responsibility.

The independent inquiry into a Sai Wan Ho project stated that statutory planning controls are being eroded. QRE Plaza and Hopewell Centre II are based on old planning applications (1981 and 1994 respectively) that exploited weaknesses and loopholes in the system.

Public criticism of government departments for not imposing control is well justified.

The validity of these planning approvals is still debatable.

However, the government is determined that its lack of control should not be exposed and so is strongly supporting that private developer, by backing a rezoning application and proceeding with a private treaty land deal.

Frank Lee, Mid-Levels

Passengers must belt up

Earlier this month I was travelling on a brand new minibus from Quarry Bay to Wah Fu. There were no signs on board warning all passengers that it is compulsory (by law) to wear seat belts when fitted in the vehicle.

There were two signs just inside the door and a small one behind the driver.

However, they just advised passengers to wear the seat belts.

The only reason I know it is compulsory is because of the government adverts on television. Therefore, my wife and I automatically put on seat belts when we board a minibus.

I think minibuses must now have to put up signs making it clear to passengers that under the law they must belt up once they sit down in the minibus.

Chris H. H. Lim, Sydney, Australia

Spending boost

It is the right moment for the Hong Kong SAR government to issue coupons to every citizen.

The amount per coupon should be HK$1,000.

This will stimulate consumption and help the economy to recover from the financial tsunami.

Lau Shui-sang, Lai Chi Kok