PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 August, 2009, 12:00am

Students can aid their own development

Your editorial ('A valuable learning experience for students', August 14) rightly welcomed the introduction of compulsory internships as part of the university years of Hong Kong students.

That will do much to widen their horizons and make them better able to fit in to the world of real work once they graduate. They cannot fail to also pick up some enhanced skills, including reliability, punctuality and problem-solving.

The contents of some courses will also do much to help prepare students for post-academic life. But the fact that a high proportion of university students in Hong Kong commute from the parental home limits the development of peer relations, which occurs more readily when living in halls of residence. Some students retreat from any contact with their seat of learning, other than during lectures. Instead of joining student groups, they may spend much of their free time watching TV at home.

However, some university students devote much time and energy to the organisation of student clubs and societies, a few representing their universities in inter-university competitions.

This represents a third way for young people to develop skills which, perhaps, can only be picked up in such ways.

As Hong Kong universities seek to deepen the level of personal development of their charges by introducing these internships, it may be hoped that a higher proportion of the students will, of their own volition, become more involved with student organisations. There is much to be gained from such involvement.

Paul Surtees, Mid-Levels

Storm open to interpretation

The Hong Kong Observatory would like to respond to G.To's letter ('Storm query', August 8). On August 1, the Observatory classified the tropical cyclone [called Jolina by the Philippine weather bureau] which was at the time about 730 kilometres east-northeast of Luzon over the western North Pacific, as a tropical depression. This was done after carefully analysing all the available meteorological data.

Apart from the Philippine weather bureau, other meteorological centres such as the China Meteorological Administration, Joint Typhoon Warning Centre and the Japan Meteorological Agency also classified it as a tropical depression on the same day or the next day. The intensity of a tropical cyclone is determined by the strength of the surface winds near the centre.

The maximum sustained winds near the centre of a tropical depression range from 41km/h to 62 km/h and that of a tropical storm from 63km/h to 87 km/h.

Because of the scarcity of wind observation reports in open seas, the intensity of tropical cyclones over areas such as the western North Pacific often has to be estimated from the remote sensing data received from different satellites with reference to other available data. Owing to the difference in the data sets analysed and the estimation techniques used, it is not uncommon for different weather centres to arrive at the somewhat different wind speeds and, in borderline cases, a different intensity classification.

The Observatory will always try its best to provide accurate information.

Y. K. Leung, acting senior scientific officer, Hong Kong Observatory

Time for rethink on dollar peg

In 1983, the Hong Kong dollar was pegged to the US dollar in an attempt to guard against speculation on the local currency.

The aim was to ensure stability and, in the financial world, it was considered a success.

Since the economic tsunami, caused mainly by the collapse of the American banking and financial sector, the Hong Kong dollar, supported by the mainland's substantial foreign reserves and strong financial status, has been strong against the greenback.

With the rise of other foreign currencies against the US dollar, stability can no longer be assured. The government has had to spend heavily to maintain the peg.

Under the circumstances, we have to ask if it would be to our advantage to now discontinue the peg, given the high cost of imported goods which have resulted from the peg.

The unemployment rate is increasing and the higher cost of living is threatening Hong Kong's stability.

The peg cannot stabilise the Hong Kong dollar with foreign currencies rising and falling over short periods against the greenback.

Peter Wei, Kwun Tong

Laissez-faire attitude to drugs

I refer to Stephen Vines' article ('The thin edge', August 14) on drug testing for schoolchildren.

His laissez-faire attitude is no answer to the problem.

Regarding drug use, Vines suggests 'ensuring that children get this sort of thing out of their system so that they can continue their lives without taking these risks'. This makes guinea pigs out of inexperienced children. What do they really know of the risks of drug taking? Meanwhile, some will become addicted or impaired, a result we would do well to work against.

TV adverts are regularly shown, describing the dangers of ketamine, yet young people are still taking this and other drugs. A period of experimentation with drugs is not in anyone's best interests, but especially those who lose bodily functions or are otherwise damaged by drugs.

I hope that the government continues to look for answers to this problem affecting students in all of our schools.

Gordon Truscott, Tin Shui Wai

Misguided view

I refer to the letter by Angie Ho ('Voluntary tests will not work', August 18). Your correspondent is not looking at this issue from the position of a student who is a drug user.

Whether it is a young person who is a casual user or someone who has a long history of substance abuse, these students will avoid the tests at all costs. If they're allowed to refuse the tests, at least they can get counselling.

If the tests are compulsory, they might decide not to come to school. We would be leaving these troubled youths on their own. Therefore, for the sake of society, we should not make these tests mandatory.

Jason Cheung, Hung Hom

Bank's red tape

As an old customer of the world's biggest bank (according to some reports), the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, I have spent three weeks trying to get a safe deposit box at its Sheung Wan branch.

It is not because there is a lack of boxes at the branch. However, it now seems the whole financial system is crippled with fear and indecision on top of a shortage of credit. Even the most simple service is weighed down with the weight of five trees-worth of paperwork and three layers of authority and anonymity.

This is all watched over by a now-awakened regulatory authority and ruled by internal 'compliance' outfits making all decisions in place of operators and marketeers.

These new mandarins rule from reinforced bunkers somewhere down in the dark depths where safe deposit boxes are embedded, out of sight and out of the light of the real world. Please, may this financial crisis pass soon.

Shane Kelly, Mid-Levels