PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 February, 2009, 12:00am

Why the need for obscene articles jury?

I read Frank Ching's ('A serving of justice', February 4) with misgivings. Why is the judiciary so keen on the Obscene Articles Tribunal's structural-functional changes?

Under the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance, the Obscene Articles Tribunal is the authority for deciding whether an article is obscene, indecent or neither. The ordinance provides that the public has the right to submit, and the tribunal has the duty to accept, articles for classification.

Section 10 provides guidance which the tribunal must follow whether in classification or in determination. Classification is a judicial function. The judiciary recognises that the tribunal's 'power to classify articles effectively provides society with an effective means of interpreting in practice the notions of obscenity and indecency'.

Against this backdrop, the chief justice [in a judiciary press release] proposed 'removing the administrative classification function from the judiciary, leaving the tribunal within the judiciary to deal only with judicial determination; and replacing the adjudicators system in the tribunal with the jury system'.

Why? In labour law, the judiciary has been active in classifying - workers' status, as employees or self-employed agent; work benefits, as bonus or wages, and worker misconduct, as serious or pardonable. It seems entirely comfortable with the Labour Tribunal's bench trial by a single judicial officer. Why don't we transfer these classification functions to the Labour Department and institute a jury system in the Labour Tribunal?

Why is taxation, which in effect is the classification of legal jobs for valuation, a bench decision and not a jury or administrative decision? Why don't we have a jury system to set judicial compensation? The judiciary has an axe to grind if changes are proposed only for the Obscene Articles Tribunal.

The chief justice's proposal raises questions about what are the grounds and the rules for separating administrative functions from judicial functions.

It is wrong for Ching to assert that the 'judiciary's reasoning [about functional separation] is sound', presuming that such grounds and rules of functional separation are in existence, self-evident and undisputed. It is equally wrong for Ching to assert that 'the tribunal's ruling of photographs of Michelangelo's statue David as unsuitable for public viewing' has 'made Hong Kong a laughing stock'. This assertion raises the question of who is laughing and why.

Rosanna Yam, Mid-Levels

India is not a totalitarian state

I take exception to the article ('No holds barred, February 6) in which Daniel Pepper portrays the Indian security apparatus in a very poor light. India is not an authoritarian state.

It is the world's largest democracy and all its democratic institutions, including the judiciary, are independent. Despite terrorist attacks, the Indian government has always shown extreme restraint. Maoist insurgents have created mayhem in many tribal areas of India, including in the state of Chhattisgarh mentioned in the article.

However, despite all the support they claim to enjoy from tribals, in December's state elections the ruling party in Chhattisgarh, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had launched a tough campaign against the insurgents, won landslide victories in all tribal-dominated areas.

This proves that any accusations of victimisation levelled against the government or police are baseless.

Nirmal Laungani, Central

Politics is the art of compromise

Dominic Quinnell ('Even officials admit flaws in Legco set-up', February 11) obviously overlooked the key word 'wider' I used when saying the functional constituencies were acting in the wider interest of Hong Kong. In his narrow view they were acting in self-interest.

Everything has to be a compromise, including a political set-up. There will never be a political set-up in which no flaws are observed by either side.

Even in the 2007 Labour proposal to change Britain's set-up to a senate system, a compromise solution, some House of Lords seats will remain unelected ('Scandal in House of Lords may stir reform', January 30).

No, I never thought 'the current system is fine'. Indeed, we will be making the suffrage equal as well as universal in the case of the functional constituencies, although only universality is promised in the Basic Law.

Changing the system in the way Mr Quinnell suggested will not improve the chance of producing better governance.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan

Tobacco tax as health care

Last year, the government failed to raise tobacco taxes for the eighth year in a row. The budget speech is fast approaching and failure to raise taxes would be in direct contravention of World Health Organisation standards and guidelines on tobacco pricing. If this administration cares about public health, failure to increase taxes on an annual basis will be blatant disregard of its moral obligations as a government.

There is a direct correlation with increased taxes and a decreased numbers of smokers.

If the government tries to hide behind the 'economic' situation as a reason for not raising taxes this year, it will undermine any credibility it has in regard to public health issues.

Not raising taxes in a significant manner, to catch up with eight years of lost revenue to the health system of Hong Kong and increased health costs due to increased smoking, should be seen as a crime.

If the claim is that it cannot be done due to the economy then that would mean the promotion of the myth that tobacco can help people 'feel better' in tough economic times.

Hong Kong will be laughed at on a global scale if this is the case.

I look forward to a sharp increase in taxes that will bring us to comparable WHO world levels and will raise needed money for other increasing urgent air pollution-related health problems.

Doug Woodring, Mid-Levels

No excuse for more pollution

I get sick of reading how Premier Wen Jiabao thinks it is difficult for China to take quantified emission reduction quotas as China's development only started recently, way behind Europe.

Whose choice was that Mr Wen? If I make bad decisions in life or in business I can't complain if others are more advanced and must let me catch up.

I missed opportunities so I must adapt to the new conditions, accept the new rules, reinvent myself, and make sure I gain the lead in the next stage of the race.

Joseph Rust, Happy Valley

Time to assess our real needs

I think it is important to adopt a positive attitude towards the present economic crisis.

We should see it as an opportunity to enable us to learn how to act responsibly and spend the money we have in a sensible manner.

We should see a separation between what we want and what we really need.

If we reach this understanding it will be easy to ask ourselves, before we buy something, if we really need it.

Cheung Wai-fai, Sha Tin