PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 May, 2010, 12:00am

We must deal with problem of juvenile suicide

There has been yet another teenage suicide in Hong Kong ('Student jumps to his death in front of 600 teachers, classmates', May 25).

I am saddened and at a loss to understand what we are doing wrong when it comes to supporting our children.

Another young life ended on Monday. Why? What was going through that young boy's mind for him to decide that suicide was his only way out? What support was available to him, and was he aware of ways to get it?

It is time we opened our eyes and realised that we have a problem with juvenile suicide that we must address.

The Samaritans' 24-hour Multi-Lingual Suicide Prevention Services have been running for the past 11 years, in conjunction with Outward Bound and Kely Support Group, an annual peer support programme in English for 16- to 18-year-old students.

This summer, we will be launching a similar programme in Cantonese called 'Young Samaritans'. We aim to run two courses per year taking 30 students per course.

It is designed to train students aged 16 to 18 to understand what can bring them to feelings of depression and possibly suicide and how they can recognise these feelings in themselves.

It is also aimed at teaching them listening and support skills so they are able to reach out to their peers and support them, too.

Quite often, a listening ear can make the difference between life and death. Don't we owe the future generation of Hong Kong the ability to grow up and be supported with help from their elders?

Any readers who wish to learn more about our programmes should contact me directly (tim@samaritans.org.hk).

Tim Sollis, director, Samaritans

Very serious political blunder

Michael Ko ('Disapproval of election strategy', May 20) seemed to criticise those of us who did not vote in the May 16 by-elections, saying that we 'failed to exercise our duty'.

I disagree that we have failed in our 'duty'. I made a conscious decision not to vote - the first time I have ever done so - and I did so to send a message that I was appalled at what the five lawmakers had done.

Let us imagine that it had been a member of the administration who had engineered these by-elections and that a very clear signal of disapproval was sent back by the electorate, by virtue of the lowest-ever turnout, 17.1 per cent.

That member of the administration would have been subjected to extensive and vehement criticism by the pan-democratic camp.

There would have been calls for sackings. There probably would have been calls for forfeiture of pension rights. But have the pan-democrats had the maturity and intellectual honesty to accept that they made a huge blunder? No they have not.

Some have blamed the administration. Others have claimed that the by-elections were still a success of sorts.

This latter point completely escapes me, given that prior to the by-elections the pan-democrats had done something of a Kmart. They gradually discounted their success target, starting at 50 per cent, going to 40 per cent, then 30 per cent and finally to 25 per cent.

They failed on all of their own gradually discounted targets.

Surely it is time for the pan-democratic camp to stop blaming others and to turn the spotlight on themselves, as they surely would if others had made as huge a blunder as they did.

If they show that maturity and intellectual honesty, I will vote for them (again) at the next real election.

Glenn Haley, Central

Voters dislike being coerced

I refer to the letter by Stephen C. K. Chan ('By-elections far from farcical', May 22).

He defended the mandate received by the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats through the May 16 by-elections (or de facto referendum), and blamed the dismal 17.1 per cent turnout on those who did not vote. But he has failed to appreciate that the refusal to vote is also in itself a political stance. For many, it indicated their disapproval of the strategy used by the Civic Party and the league, even though most of them are probably in favour of democracy.

Sure, the five lawmakers who resigned won the by-elections and were duly returned to the Legislative Council. But if the by-elections are to be interpreted as a de facto referendum (as Mr Chan has suggested), the attempt is widely seen to have failed for the simple reason that it did not manage to engage the wide participation of the public. This is a basic prerequisite for any meaningful referendum.

I hope the Civic Party, the league and their supporters can now realise that Hong Kong people are mature enough to exercise independent judgment.

They dislike being coerced into things, irrespective of whether such coercion comes from Beijing, the pro-establishment camp or the democratic camp.

To criticise and even insult the great majority who have abstained from voting on May 16 may not only alienate the public further; it risks converting many of that day's blank votes and absent votes into opposing votes in future elections.

Jennifer Wong, Kowloon Tong

Meal ban can curb obesity

The authorities in a county in California have banned McDonald's happy meals, which offered a free toy. The aim is to try and cut back on childhood obesity.

Children are attracted to these meals, which have a high sugar and fat content. Hopefully they will now eat fewer French fries.

A ban like this here would make it easier for parents to protect their children from unhealthy diets.

Parents are always faced with a dilemma. They want their children to have healthy diets, but know that fast food is very popular with youngsters.

Such a ban would show that the government was determined to combat childhood obesity.

Law Chun-hoi, Tseung Kwan O

Weed out the bogus charities

Hong Kong people are generous when it comes to giving money to charities.

However, there seems to be an increase in the number of people on the streets seeking donations of one kind or another. Sometimes I wonder if they are all genuine.

I think some people who claim to be collecting for a charity are not doing so. Such individuals are taking advantage of the kindness of Hongkongers.

City residents need to try to grasp the concept of 'informed giving'. In this way they can learn more about the operations and aims of an organisation before making donations.

They can check out a group on its website.

This is better than blindly giving a donation on the street during a charity's flag day.

Officials should also be more vigilant when it comes to targeting fake organisations.

They should encourage all charities to open their accounts to public scrutiny. This will give people a clearer idea about what happens to their donations.

Leo Mok, Tsuen Wan

Be wary of fake fund-raisers

With the increasing number of natural and man-made calamities, there are more fund-raising activities on our streets. Some of these groups are not genuine. If Hong Kong's regulations controlling charities are not tightened, then how can we feel comfortable when donating to charities?

It is certainly the case that, when there is a disaster, organisers of relief operations need all the help they can get.

However, with the rise in cases of individuals not representing genuine charities and cheating donors, people are becoming more hesitant about making donations.

There is clearly a problem in Hong Kong in this regard - a lack of transparency and regulation.

The government should ensure that the activities of all charities are tightly monitored, and more details should be provided about what is done with the money they raise.

It is also up to individuals to be more alert and to be wary of groups asking for donations that may not be genuine charities.

Grace Kwong, Tsing Yi

Singapore taxi a rare sight

I refer to the letter by Rembert Mayer-Rochow ('Singapore taxis so much better', May 21).

After 25 years of visiting Singapore, I have an entirely different view. Taxis are so few on the ground in that city it is almost impossible to secure their services unless pre-booked, which invariably results in a surcharge. I have resorted to hiring the services of a trishaw driver who lounges at night outside the Fullerton Hotel.

Not only does he speak Cantonese and is interested in Hong Kong, he is always available and has a boom box fitted under the seat on which Elvis Presley albums are played at full blast.

Paul Dalton, Sai Ying Poon

Not optimistic

Your report on the Philippines ('Corruption watchdog goes soft on Marcoses,' May 14) made me think about two sayings: 'Nothing is as admirable in politics as a short memory' (which sums up the Filipino electorate) and, 'Governments are like underwear - they need to be changed often and for the same reason.' Sadly, our changes of government never seem to produce clean clothing.

Someone else has said that Philippine politics is so corrupt, even the dishonest people get screwed.

Our new president-elect may be clean, but bets are that he will be as inept as his late, sainted mother.

Renata Lopez, Wan Chai