PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 February, 2009, 12:00am

Zimbabwe has awful human rights record

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is reported to have bought a luxurious HK$40 million home in Tai Po. In his country the human rights situation continues to deteriorate.

Since 2000, the Zimbabwean government has tried to silence all critics. In the run-up to last year's election, the Zimbabwean security forces were implicated in the abduction, killing and torture of known and suspected supporters of opposition parties.

Despite opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai being sworn in as prime minister on February 11, it appears that elements within the security forces continue to commit human rights violations.

The country last year experienced serious shortages of seed and fertiliser. The UN World Food Programme estimates that about 4 million Zimbabweans were in need of food aid. The government has consistently used food as a tool to demand loyalty in rural areas. In the run-up to the June 27 presidential election, thousands of rural farmers' food reserves were plundered or destroyed as punishment for supporting opposition parties.

Most health centres barely function. The situation is so severe that a cholera outbreak that began in August has killed more than 3,300 people and the death toll keeps rising. Efforts to counter the epidemic have been undermined by a shortage of safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, the collapsing health care infrastructure and the high dropout rate of underpaid health workers. Last month, most public schools failed to open as teachers were on strike over poor salaries or could not afford transport to work.

Hundreds of thousands of people who were forcibly evicted during Operation Murambatsvina in 2005 continue to live in destitution.

There are public concerns that the president is taking away funds that belong to the people of Zimbabwe and Hong Kong will become a place where money is laundered.

In fact, China's response to the Zimbabwean ruler's lavishness is not surprising ('Why can't Mugabe buy a flat in HK, asks Beijing', February 17), as China and Zimbabwe have had diplomatic relations since 1980.

During the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review on China on February 9, Zimbabwe spoke positively on Beijing's human rights record despite the criticism of the mainland's many on-going human rights violations.

While there is concern about Hong Kong being flooded with money from despots, Amnesty is concerned that the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe remains desperate. Amnesty calls on the Zimbabwean government to implement a clear agenda for human rights.

Clara Law, campaign manager, Amnesty International Hong Kong

Ignoring reality of plastic bags

Like other readers before, Alex Hung ('Officials have not made the case for levy on plastic bags', February 24), is missing all the points again. First, even if the plastic bags were biodegradable they are not exposed to sunlight in a landfill and therefore do not disintegrate.

Second, the average shopper comes home with a great many more plastic bags than are needed as bin liners. My conservative guess is about three times more.

Third, the use of plastic bags is totally, utterly and entirely unnecessary.

The fact that the government has to rely on legislation rather than common sense to implement the policy is very telling of the state of mind of our society.

The plastic bag levy will help reduce the amount of unnecessary waste.

More importantly, it will serve as a constant reminder to those who refuse to accept that resources are not for free.

Sadly, our legislators have decided that they want the luxury of having more time to deliberate on the law.

Wolfgang Ehmann, Admiralty

Levy a case of bad timing

Lawmakers have voiced concern over whether they have had enough time to scrutinise the plastic bag levy regulations due to be implemented on July 1.

I do not think we should rush the plastic bag levy law, even though there has already been a lot of discussion of this legislation. People are feeling the impact of the economic downturn. Therefore, it does not seem right to force citizens to spend more. I think before the levy law is implemented there must be consultation with residents.

In the meantime, we must work at trying to get people to become more environmentally friendly and to recycle plastic bags.

If this happens and it turns out that people are using fewer bags then it may not be necessary to bring in the levy.

Marilyn Ng Mei-wun, Sha Tin

Give Legco seats the chop

The exhibition at the Museum of History about the French Revolution is worth a visit.

It reminds us that up until the end of the 18th century the French people were classified into three orders - the clergy, nobility and commoners. The last, known as 'the third estate', constituted 90 per cent of the population but had no political power.

Today in Hong Kong, everyone knows who is the nobility and everyone knows which 94 per cent constitutes the third estate.

The bishops in France were the highly-respected experts of heaven and Earth until they lost credibility with their self-serving arrogance. Is this a lesson from history? It is not suggested that functional constituency members be sent to the guillotine but the 30 seats they occupy in Legco definitely should be.

S. P. Li, Lantau

Full confidence

I refer to the editorial ('Medical watchdog gains needed bite', February 23) and your comment that 'self regulation of the medical profession leaves a lot to be desired'.

Most of us still remember the altruism shown by the medical profession during Sars in 2003. The overall professional standards and ethics of the medical profession in Hong Kong meet international standards.

This is a testament to the effectiveness of the current system of medical professional self-regulation.

I believe most in the medical profession will have no problem with measures that truly help the medical watchdog get the 'needed bite' to protect the interests of patients.

The medical profession in Hong Kong has gained the trust of the public with self-regulation.

Self-regulation by trustworthy representatives of the medical profession together with public and media scrutiny already works effectively. Until a better system proves to be more effective I prefer the status quo.

Wong Man-lok, Ho Man Tin

Lesson learned

Celebrities are constantly under the spotlight.

Take Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps. A 'photograph was published appearing to show him smoking marijuana' ('Phelps thanks Chinese fans', February 13).

Many people were disappointed by what he did, because as a major sports star, he should be setting an example to young people.

In fact, like Phelps, young people can learn from what happened. We should not just concentrate on an isolated failure on his part.

I hope Phelps has learned from this incident and can focus on reaching even greater heights in his career.

Wong Yuk-lei, To Kwa Wan