PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 February, 2010, 12:00am

Working hours legislation is long overdue

The secretary for labour and welfare, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said he was upset by the incident of the mother who pushed her four-year-old daughter from the seventh floor of a mall and then killed herself ('Steps urged to stop mall suicides', February 9). He urged couples 'to keep calm when family disputes arise'. Yet Mr Cheung has said the government has no plans for legislation on maximum working hours in Hong Kong, because of the impact it would have on the economy. He should admit that the height of railings at malls is not the issue. It is about the stress experienced by students and parents - especially working parents - caused by lifestyles in Hong Kong. The government refuses to put a cap on working hours and invests the minimum possible in childcare, early childhood education and on quality education for all.

Hong Kong employees work very long hours. In 2008, according to the government and International Labour Organisation figures, 41 per cent of employees worked more than 48 hours a week. In the retail sector, at least 70 per cent of staff worked days exceeding 11 hours. Yet schools do not make concessions for working parents.

If anything, homework and the burden of exams get worse as each year passes.

Parents who can afford it are forced to engage tutors to help their children. In the past year, issues of troubled youths and families have become increasingly common - from internet addiction to family tragedies like the one in the shopping mall. The Hong Kong public should face the fact that families are under pressure and some are close to the breaking point. Trying to raise children while working for a salary will virtually guarantee you a great deal of stress. The government provides no childcare. There is no public funding for kindergartens. Places in schools with quality education are extremely limited.

The administration should recognise that families must be able to spend time together, for rest and leisure. In a society where there is fierce competition in business, as well as in education, there must be regulations stipulating statutory maximum working hours.

Doris Lee, Ma On Shan

Officials wise after the event

The government ordered checks of old buildings throughout the city following the collapse of the building in To Kwa Wan last month.

The administration often gets its priorities wrong and is always wise after the event.

This is particularly true of the Buildings Department.

I have had personal experience of the department. Also, I know that many of my friends have been harassed by the same department over very minor irregularities that are harmless.

These include things such as canopies over ground-floor car parks and small sunshades over windows that pose no danger to the public.

The time and staff deployed must be tremendous as we receive ceaseless warnings, orders and directives on how to rectify such petty and negligible 'alterations'.

All these are done at the expense of dealing with genuine hazards, which are posed by old and neglected buildings, oversized illegal balconies or unauthorised signboards that are added to buildings.

With the lesson learned from the tragic collapse of the building, which cost four lives, the department should heed the warnings and get its priorities right.

Simon Yau, Kowloon City

Simplistic view of 'Che' Guevara

I write in response to Loretta Damron's letter ('A symbol of tyranny', February 8). Her condemnation of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara's legacy is simplistic.

First, Guevara was not directly responsible for all the abuses of the Castro brothers' regime.

Bear in mind that he was murdered by the Bolivian military in 1967.

Before that, he had been absent from Cuba for two years. According to sources cited in the Wikipedia article on Guevara, he signed the death warrants for somewhere between 55 and 300 people executed in the wake of the Cuban revolution after a trial by a revolutionary tribunal. To put this in context, the same article claims that 20,000 Cubans were killed by the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, which Guevara helped to overthrow.

Second, Ms Damron points out that the Cuban revolution was violent. As an American citizen, she must be aware of the fact that the American revolution was not entirely peaceful.

Furthermore, the picture she paints of a prosperous, worker-friendly Cuba under Batista's rule really makes me question her sources, none of which were cited in her letter.

Finally, I really have to say that the vituperation she hurls at Guevara and Fidel Castro should be directed at her own government. She claims that Cuba 'repels Haitians'. Is she suggesting the US welcomed them with open arms?

After 50 years of economic warfare in the form of an American blockade and other Treasury Department regulations, making it nearly impossible for Americans to do business there, it is not surprising that this tiny nation is poor.

It is shocking and scandalous that it has free, universal health care for all its citizens when the world's wealthiest country does not.

Daniel Sanders, Chai Wan

No action taken against vendors

Someone from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said that the 'T-shirt' raid on the League of Social Democrats' stall was 'not political' ('DAB won't wear tease shirt (but it's not political)', February 13).

The misuse of official logos may be against the law, I don't know, but what about other items at the Lunar New Year market? I saw loads of stuff with slogans and logos from brand names, which were on display and no action was taken.

Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po

Postbox too badly damaged

I refer to the letter from Sin Wai-man about the removal of postbox 256, at Sok Kwu Wan, on Lamma Island ('Historic mail box's last post', February 11). I would like to provide some relevant background information and clarifications.

Despite its appearance, a closer examination conducted by our technicians in September last year revealed that the postbox was suffering from serious internal rusting which caused extensive structural damage and even prevented the door hinges from functioning properly.

Major repair would have been necessary to restore the box to a workable condition, but doing so might jeopardise its physical characteristics and conservation value. We eventually came to a reluctant decision to replace it with one made of more durable materials. I wish to assure your readers that we at Hongkong Post are acutely aware of the need to preserve postal relics as part of our cultural heritage.

Some good examples include the restoration of the old Stanley Post Office in 2007 and the amount of care taken to ensure that some 47 vintage postboxes bearing the royal insignia could continue to serve their duty with pride throughout different parts of Hong Kong.

Mary Chung, for postmaster general

Motivation the key to success

According to a recent survey, a number of well-educated young people are earning low wages. We should be concerned about the prospects for young people, as they are the future pillars of our society.

If there are no means for them to climb the social ladder, our society will become less dynamic and lose its competitiveness. The government and the business sector must address this issue.

At the same time, these youngsters should not lose their motivation for hard work. They should ensure they get more work experience and, if necessary, get more academic qualifications.

Opportunities will exist for people who are well-prepared. There is no point just complaining and waiting for a change in your fortunes. Once young people have chosen their career path, they should pursue it with ambition, enthusiasm and passion.

Leung Siu-fong, Kwun Tong

Air con overuse

Global warming is now regarded as a serious problem.

All Hong Kong residents should do their best to reduce their carbon footprint, but schools also have an important role to play.

For instance, teachers should print their notes on both sides of the sheet and pupils should turn off the fan and light if they are not inside the classroom.

I also believe that all schools should agree not to turn on air conditioners if the temperature is below 28 degrees Celsius. Students can always open a window or turn on fans.

Katie Shum, Tsuen Wan

Vibrant lunch

I agree with Wong Yin-ting's suggestion that cha chaan teng [Hong Kong tea cafes] should be put on 'the list of the city's intangible heritage'. ('Preserving a place in our hearts for our not-so-haughty cuisine', February 10).

I was not aware of the origins of the cha chaan teng, but I am delighted that they do exist.

Whenever I have visitors over from England, one of the first dining-out experiences that they have is a visit to a cha chaan teng for a friendly, noisy, vibrant lunch and good food, which is served very quickly and incredibly cheaply.

What better introduction can one give to a visitor? You used to be able to go to dai pai dong but, sadly, they are now almost non-existent.

Bob Beadman, Ma Wan