Chief executive must focus on HK affairs
I read Simon Au Ming-si's letter ('Leader must be our advocate', January 8) bemused by his reference to 'state sovereignty' and 'right to free election' as 'two different principles' in his attempt to explain why majority rule applies in domestic, but not international, politics.
In any open discussion of public affairs, there is only one governing principle - the common sense principle - which requires that all arguments must be logical, supported by facts and in good faith. All other principles are mere doctrines in disguise; they prescribe, rather than explain, social phenomena and are themselves in need of justification.
Democracy is about self-determination. If the minority can have its own way, it won't yield to the majority. Majority rule is based on the power of quantity, not quality. If the right to vote entails the obligation to obey majority rule, the first question of democracy must be about the right not to vote.
The correspondent's attempt to differentiate 'the best leader' from 'a leader who can best voice our needs' and 'an individual who can act in our best interests' represents a futile effort in gilding the lily. Mr Au was right to observe that, in a democracy, 'people know what they want'. But he overlooked that a free election cannot help elected representatives decide how to consolidate people's different preferences into collective objectives, and achieve them to everybody's satisfaction.
That is why Winston Churchill found that, 'the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter'. The only practical function of free elections is, as Bertrand Russell observed, for people to 'choose the man who'll get the blame'.
Mr Au's letter shows his lack of confidence in Hong Kong's potential under the Basic Law and his unrealistic bias against Beijing. He talked about Hong Kong's need for a leader who can 'voice our needs and concerns', and 'stand up for them to Beijing'. In any self-respecting community, local electors expect their elected leader to focus on self-government, and not to indulge in self-pity and in cross-border ventilation of ill-conceived domestic needs.
In the US, state governors manage local affairs while senators and congressmen represent local interests in the federal government.
In Hong Kong, our chief executive may focus on local business, leaving co-ordination with central government to our representatives to the National People's Congress.
Rosanna Yam, Mid-Levels
Good for young to get involved
There were radical demonstrations by young protesters from the post-80s generation as the budget for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express rail link project was passed by the Legislative Council.
Many people may have frowned on these youngsters, and believed their behaviour outside the Legco building went too far.
However, I admire them for the spirit that they showed. They were willing to stand up and demonstrate against government policies that they saw as defective.
I regard this as a breakthrough in Hong Kong politics. The younger generation is always blamed for being indifferent when it comes to political issues.
I hope that what happened over the rail project will lead to more young people having a greater awareness, and that this can inject new life into Hong Kong politics.
Jacky Tse Ching-lok, Tsz Wan Shan
Sleepless nights after protests
I was disturbed by the lawlessness of some of the protesters [demonstrating over the express rail link]. I am 72 and those scenes gave me sleepless nights.
I salute our police for the discipline they showed when faced with these unruly people. They had a difficult job, as, time and again, they were pushed to the limit as the rule of law was challenged.
If it had not been for these officers, some of the protesters would have been able to get into the Legco building. I dread to think what would have happened next. I send my best wishes to those officers who were hurt. Why don't the pan-democrats do something positive and act like good citizens, thereby setting a good example to young people?
At the end of the day, ordinary, tax-paying citizens suffered, as more than 40 bus routes had to be diverted.
Gwendolyn Chan Yin-ho, Happy Valley
Unemployment drives anger
I refer to Michael Ko's letter ('What drives post-80s group', January 14).
I agree with him that people do not understand what motivates young people to take to the streets and protest.
Critics said the post-80s youngsters are unwilling to work and seek to undermine society, but I disagree.
There are simply not enough job opportunities for youngsters. Employers would rather hire people with experience. This was not just a protest against the high-speed rail project. It was also a protest over the government's neglect.
Our administration should be working with companies, encouraging businesses to recruit youngsters and give them a chance.
Zero Ngai Ka-ying, To Kwa Wan
Nations united to help Haiti
There has been a strong reaction from around the world to the unprecedented catastrophe in Haiti.
The fact that offers of aid have come from so many countries shows that, even though we have wars in so many places, the world still has a heart.
I hope that the people of Haiti will not fight each other over the aid material that is provided. The Haitian government must do whatever is necessary to stop looting.
Only if Haitians stick together can they get through this crisis and deal with the effects of this earthquake, which was an act of God. God helps those who help themselves. There is a Chinese saying: 'No natural disaster could be worse than human evil.'
The US, as a superpower, has been involved in a number of conflicts around the world.
Therefore, it is good to see it showing generosity towards Haiti, by providing financial and material resources, and a military presence in order to maintain law and order there.
Those of us from other countries know little about Haiti, but I am sure we must all hope it recovers from this natural calamity.
Peter Wei, Kwun Tong
Airlines can't skimp on pilots
I refer to the article ('Fears rise as airlines fly close to wind on pilots' conditions', January 12).
A pilots' union says safety is at risk in the US because of low pay and long hours.
According to one American pilot quoted, many of his colleagues start their first job US$150,000 in debt, while [in the US] they earn salaries of between US$15,000 to US$20,000 a year.
Back in the 1980s, co-pilots on commuter routes in America were earning salaries of US$15,000 a year. They are still averaging between US$15,000 and US$20,000. Have the airlines never heard of inflation?
According to the graphic [sources from the US Airline Pilots Association] accompanying the story, the average first officer from the 'big four' airlines (Continental, Delta/Northwest, United, US Airways) earned HK$105,000 a year. However, a friend of mine is a senior first officer, based in New York, working for Continental. His annual salary is US$85,000. He flies an average of 80 hours a month, plus duty hours.
My former aircraft flight instructor has been a corporate pilot for 30 years. He earns twice that amount.
The airline industry should overhaul pilots' salaries. The airlines appear to want to transport passengers safely and yet pay low incomes to pilots. In the long run this is neither fair nor safe.
Being a pilot is stressful because you are responsible for the welfare of hundreds of passengers.
When there are adverse weather conditions, the ability of a pilot to deal with these situations for departure and landing is critical, especially when an engine fails.
Eugene Li, Deep Water Bay
Do not repeat tickets fiasco
I endorse the views expressed by Alexandra Vermala ('Wasted effort to buy ticket', January 20) regarding the Rugby Sevens.
A straw poll of 11 friends plus myself revealed that 50 to 60 extremely frustrating man-hours were spent on Saturday morning, in front of a computer and telephone on continuous re-dial, with no success. And the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union believes this is an efficient method of distributing tickets.
I suggest either a return to the queueing system, where at least the most committed stood the best chance, and the hours spent were actually fun; or else, since the present system is a shambolic lottery, a proper lottery be organised.
Interested parties could sign up in advance and, on the appointed day, a fair and open ballot could be conducted. Anything would be an improvement on last Saturday morning's fiasco.
Geoff Paterson, Sha Tin
Broken hearts need kindness
I agree with the recent study that found some children end their lives because of broken hearts and school work.
People in Hong Kong have to work hard - and quickly. Children are also under pressure in their academic studies.
They have a heavy workload and face stiff competition in their exams. They are expected to be able to handle the challenges that they face.
Experienced teachers can make a difference. They can recognise when a young person is struggling and feeling confused.
The domestic circumstances of children are also important. Communication between children and parents is important.
Parents can offer crucial support to troubled young people.
Rather than scolding their sons and daughters, it is important that they try to motivate them.
Kwan Ho-yin, Tsuen Wan