PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 April, 2010, 12:00am

Social barriers affect mainland students in HK

The recent suicides of three students in Hong Kong has been a hot topic in newspapers. One of the deceased was a mainlander, raising questions about the ability of mainlanders to deal with pressure.

As a mainland student who has studied both on the mainland and in Hong Kong, I know there is more to it than that.

Under the competitive mainland education system, students are trained quite well to cope with school pressures. The problem lies in the mainland high-school education system: students get little chance to interact with the wider society before they go to university.

This leaves them relatively weak when it comes to taking care of personal problems. Their difficulties are heightened when they try to fit into a new society far from home.

Each university student from the mainland begins with a foundation year, when all their classmates are from the mainland. So they form social circles with compatriots. When Hong Kong students join them the next year, those locals will also have their own circle of friends. So there is a clear-cut gap between the two circles based on their different backgrounds and cultures.

That gap certainly makes it no easier for mainland students to find a way into Hong Kong society. So feelings of isolation thus grow within them.

Many mainland students are lonely, based on my conversations with them. To solve this problem requires a deeper understanding of the situation.

Jade Shen Jie, Kowloon Tong

Little concept of driver courtesy

I completely agree with Bob Carson ('Urgent lesson for HK drivers: stop for sirens, flashing lights', April 20) and the problem with emergency vehicles.

I once pulled over to allow an ambulance with flashing lights and sirens to pass, but no one else did; drivers became annoyed with me and didn't seem to care or understand. Unfortunately, this issue is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problematic driving in Hong Kong.

I've only been driving here for six months but the dangerous driving habits I've witnessed easily add up to more than I'd seen driving for 15 years in Canada. For some reason, the normally lovely people here become maniacs behind the wheel.

They go out of their way to prevent people from changing lanes and merging, they speed to terrible excess, don't use signals, don't know how to drive on a roundabout (traffic circle), constantly cut each other off and generally drive without regard to any rules of the road.

I hope something can be done to improve the situation. In the meantime I, and a few others, use signals and actually let people in the lane when they need to change; drivers are often thoroughly shocked by this common courtesy.

Brian Dietrich, Sha Tin

Scrooge bosses pocketing tips

As a lawmaker for the catering industry, it is Tommy Cheung Yu-yan's responsibility to ensure fair treatment for workers in that sector. Patrons are charged a cool 10 per cent disguised as a service charge on their bills ('The bar owners who ban the service charge', April 18). Yet the bosses pocket it and, in the vast majority of cases, the employees don't get a cent.

Why doesn't Cheung ensure that this 10 per cent ends up in the pockets of the employees before he engages in hard-to-believe proposals on minimum wages.

I strongly suggest that he tries to live on HK$24 an hour for a couple of months and try to buy a shoebox-sized flat for the price of a small European city. The idea of social equality seems not to exist any longer. Happy employees are the most productive ones - every smart business owner knows that.

If businesses cannot afford to pay decent wages and must use that as an argument to justify the exploitation of low-skilled labour, they should not be in business in the first place.

The better course of action is to improve productivity and invest in human capital, as then the return will easily justify paying higher salaries. Given the current extreme high cost of living due to the property sectors overheating, anything less than HK$12,000 a month should not be considered an income, but a subsidy.

Saki A. Chatzichristidis, Aberdeen

Best to treat all cases as urgent

When calling for an ambulance, prompt decisions can make a great difference, saving lives and saving families from sorrow ('Lawmakers say no to delayed ambulance times', April 14).

Yet, there is no clear system to tell people how to discriminate between cases that are life-threatening, less critical and not acute.

When telephoning for an ambulance, the patient's health condition should no doubt be clearly described so that calls can be accurately prioritised and the service won't be misused. Patients will then be picked up with different response times based on the seriousness of their condition.

To be frank, though, when we see somebody in a health emergency, it's natural to call for an ambulance immediately rather than taking the time to consider how serious the case is.

If our judgment is slow and our ambulance call delayed, it could threaten the patient's life. It is also unfair and cruel to patients who have to wait.

Can anyone guarantee that a patient's condition will not deteriorate due to a delay of even one minute?

Even if there were a system for discriminating the seriousness of cases, people would become confused; first aid would not reach some patients in time.

Instead of wasting time categorising ambulance calls, should the government attach more importance to maintaining all its ambulances? Last year's series of breakdowns, delaying treatments, were shocking.

Compared with money, every life is priceless: more ambulances should be imported.

Further, ambulancemen should be better trained to make prompt decisions when giving first aid to patients. Finally, drivers should make way for ambulances to pass on streets.

Joey Ho, Tsing Yi

Remember our progress

Living in harmony is a dream of humans in different places and different eras. Some spend their lives trying to find a utopia while others work really hard to create one. Before choosing to be either one of them, ask yourself how you define 'harmony'.

Most people in Hong Kong do not consider their society harmonious. The media and a group of political radicals blame this on the government's failures. However, is that really the case?

It's true that the government is sometimes disappointing, especially when it comes to making changes and reforms. But we should not forget that the city is part of an old, conservative country, and falls under the influence of traditional Chinese thinking.

Even a brief comparison of today's conditions with the past shows that a huge improvement has been made by the government.

While it's true that there should always be someone who speaks up and gives the public a voice, they should not express their dissatisfaction with violence, and complaints should be rational. Sadly, the reality is the opposite. We should always show our support to the government.

Grace Kwong, Tsing Yi

No place for shark fin

I totally agree with Bryan Chan ('Taking shark fin off the menu', April 14), who thinks it is unreasonable for Chinese people to think of shark's fin soup as a symbol of wealth and a menu must-have on some occasions. Shark fins have no nutritional value, and we should eat no more of them.

They do our health no good and waste our money.

People catch sharks just to eat their fin. That is not only cruel, but may help drive sharks to extinction.

Do you want to see sharks disappear from the sea? Many people will agree that we should take action to protect sharks now.

I agree with Mr Chan's recommendation that the central and Hong Kong governments should educate people about protecting sharks: many people eat the fins simply out of ignorance about these issues.

Governments can also limit the taking of sharks with quotas or bans. Let's not be a cruel people.

Sherry Ling, Tin Shui Wai

Hidden shame

It is amazing to see pictures of the big developments in Tsim Sha Tsui, SoHo and other places, but can you believe that we have people essentially living in toilets in Sham Shui Po, To Kwa Wan and Hung Hom?

I wonder what goes on in the minds of landlords whose tenants occupy small, single rooms with no partitions to separate the toilet, kitchen, bedroom and living rooms from each other.

I wonder if such facilities are within the boundaries of Hong Kong as 'Asia's world city'. Can you imagine yourself in a situation where somebody has to use the toilet while you're frying your onions?

Veronica Lutalo, Hung Hom

Toast to Post

With respect to the service provided by Hongkong Post, I concur with Paul Surtees: if it ain't broke, don't fix it ('Postal perfect', April 16).

Hongkong Post provides an excellent service. Local letters are delivered by the next business day (and often well within 24 hours). I have personally received international mail addressed only with my name and district.

But, if your correspondents wish to complicate matters, Hong Kong does have a postcode system - my postcode is SAR.

On the other hand, there is much in Hong Kong of which we could say: it is broke, please fix it. We could start with our rotten boroughs and stinking air.

Michael Small, Mid-Levels