PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 May, 2010, 12:00am

HK's forced retirement at 60 is outdated

There have been calls for people in Hong Kong to be allowed to work beyond the age of 60. At the moment most employees in the city have to finish working at that age. Joseph MacLeod argued that such a practice in a city that has, according to the UN, one of the highest life expectancies on earth, is based on age discrimination rather than on the needs of society or the fitness of the individual to carry out the job ('Retirement age should be personal choice', April 23).

There is a growing worldwide trend to encourage older people to work longer and retire later; after all, a 60-year-old today is very different from a 60-year-old in our grandparents' day.

Examples abound of older people holding highly responsible positions in important institutions. Justice John Paul Stevens of the US Supreme Court, who continues to write prolifically and lucidly and who still plays a good game of tennis, recently announced that he would stand down this summer; he is 90. The appointment in February of Kazuo Inamori as the new group chairman and CEO of Japan Airlines is a further case in point; he is 78. Closer to home, Anthony Hedley, chair professor of community medicine at the University of Hong Kong, stood down voluntarily at the age of 69.

In such cases age is not seen as a drawback, but as a positive attribute, because it is regarded as bringing with it the respect that comes with wide experience and greater knowledge.

Nowhere are such experience and knowledge more needed, perhaps, than in the world of education.

The Education Bureau requires teachers in government schools to retire at 60, although specialist-subject supply teachers are recruited not on the basis of their age but according to the skills they possess. The English Schools Foundation, which vaunts its position as Asia's largest independent education foundation, and which boasts of its equal employment opportunities policy, required until comparatively recently all its teachers to retire at 60.

Shortly after the arrival of the present chief executive, that policy was relaxed to allow some employees to continue to work until 65.

However, no teachers, not even specialist-subject supply teachers, are permitted to work beyond this age, with the result that an under-65, non-specialist supply teacher will be engaged in an ESF school in preference to an expert who happens to be above this arbitrarily determined age.

Surely this cannot be in the best educational interests of the children and cannot be what parents would expect. The policy appears both doctrinaire and short-sighted.

If Hong Kong wants to be taken seriously as a genuine 'world city', it could begin by abandoning its small-town, discriminatory employment policies, and the Equal Opportunities Commission might well consider pressing for age discrimination to be added to the other ordinances it is responsible for implementing.

J. R. Henderson, Sai Kung

Learning lesson from quakes

The mainland has been hit by major earthquakes, which have had tragic consequences. When I see how the people have suffered it makes me realise how precious life is.

Nowadays, so many of our young people give up whenever they face a setback.

They should appreciate how lucky they are when they see the difficulties faced by our compatriots on the mainland.

Our young people should work hard and try to make the best of their lives.

They should cherish what they have.

Angela Chan, Kwun Tong

New era of understanding

Anthony Cheung, in his article ('Changing mindsets', May 4), raises the timely point that the study of China needs to move beyond the simplistic thinking of the past.

As Mr Cheung notes, this is also the theme of a recent speech by the prime minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd.

In his speech on China, Mr Rudd announced the creation of a new research centre at the Australian National University. The Australian Centre on China in the World is aimed at creating a broader understanding of China in order to engage it more deeply, beyond the outdated cold war concepts of friend or foe.

Mr Rudd described the need for a holistic approach to the study of China as 'a new sinology', and placed that clearly in the historical context of Australians who have contributed to our understanding of China and its role in the world.

In doing so, they have helped Australia to develop a sympathetic and yet objective view of China.

By supporting initiatives like the Australian Centre on China in the World and through bilateral dealings with China, the Australian government hopes for further dialogue based on the principle of zhengyou - a partner who sees beyond immediate benefits and who speaks the truth as the basis for a profound and sincere friendship.

It is a principle that, as Mr Rudd points out, is as important for China as it is for the rest of us.

The prime minister's speech can be viewed on the Australian consulate-general website (www.hongkong.china.embassy.gov.au).

Les Luck, Australian consul-general

Cyclists willing to share road

I refer to the letter by Hendrik-jan Stalknecht ('Cyclists now a traffic hazard', May 7) about cycling in Repulse Bay.

The road to Stanley is a country road.

Has Mr Stalknecht ever heard of sharing the road? He doesn't appear to be willing to do this. He wants the entire road to himself so he can tear up the road in his car just to stop at the next traffic light.

How can cyclists be considered a traffic hazard? I have never heard of a cyclist damaging a car or hurting a driver.

Perhaps your correspondent should get out of his car and experience the joy of riding a bicycle. I am a 70-year-old cyclist and I am happy to share Repulse Bay Road with motorists.

Ken Siu, Causeway Bay

Attitude is so unimaginative

I refer to the letter from Hendrik-jan Stalknecht ('Cyclists now a traffic hazard', May 7).

I am extremely proud to report that I am one of those 40-somethings cycling along Island Road in brightly coloured lycra that Mr Stalknecht refers to as having 'a mid-life crisis'.

For me one of the most fantastic aspects of living and working in this great world city of Hong Kong is the ease with which I can access outdoor pursuits, whether that be cycling, swimming, hill walking or trail running.

I am surprised and saddened by the unimaginative and outdated attitudes expressed by the gentleman from Repulse Bay; especially the notion that the only way to have a mid-life crisis is to buy a fast car in a city where there is already too much congestion and pollution.

As British politician Lord Tebbit once said, 'Get on yer bike.'

Charlie Nixon, Mid-Levels

Early start on scenic route

How I laughed over my coffee reading Hendrik-jan Stalknecht's letter on the hazards of middle-aged men on bikes ('Cyclists now a traffic hazard', May 7).

I am a regular rider of this route.

I start at 5am, primarily to avoid being run down by cars and buses whose drivers often forget that, once the driver's seat is past the bike, they need to travel some distance before returning to their previous road position - to avoid placing the bike and rider in a ditch, wall or rock face.

But clearly it sounds much safer in the slow traffic during the day, so I will move my ride to a later time and enjoy the wonderful views that this route provides.

Jonathan Perrin, Sham Shui Po

Sacrifice must not be forgotten

I refer to the letter by Spencer C. K. Lai regarding the Cenotaph ('HK flag for war memorial', May 6).

The Cenotaph is a monument commemorating soldiers who gave their lives overseas in defence of freedom against tyrannical invasion.

The Hong Kong flag serves as a reminder to those allied troops, including many Canadians from the Winnipeg Grenadiers, Indian and British regiments, Australian troops, and the Chinese, Portuguese and Eurasians who served in the Hong Kong Volunteers.

They sacrificed their lives in the short but brutal defence of Hong Kong during the second world war. Many servicemen and families lost loved ones between 1941 and 1945.

Hong Kong residents want to be able to show their respect for the people who died.

We need to remember the atrocities that were committed. The Hong Kong flag is an integral part of our past including the colonial period. We have to ensure that people who gave their lives will not be forgotten.

Aaron Butt, Pok Fu Lam

Backing subsidy for ferries

Hong Kong is a free market and it could be argued the government should not intervene. But providing subsidies to the outlying island ferries will help reduce the burden on the public.

A subsidy can keep fares stable. With a subsidy there will be no excuse for ferry firms to impose steep fare rises, and more people will visit the outlying islands.

This will be good for businesses that operate there.

Also, more people might be tempted to look for a flat on one of the outlying islands, and this could lead to a larger supply of property in urban parts of Hong Kong.

Liang Sumin, Tsuen Wan