PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 June, 2010, 12:00am

Philharmonic does cater to small children

I refer to the letter by Stefan Harfich on the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra's lack of programmes for children in its new 2010/11 season ('HKPO ignored educational role', May 27).

I would like to emphasise that the HKPO has long been the lifeblood of our city's cultural scene with its rich offerings of fine orchestral performances ranging from the opera-in-concerts and other major orchestral works, to programmes which cater to families with small children such as our Peter and the Wolf in March and Symphonic Fairy Tales in April last year.

The 2010/11 season brochure to which Mr Harfich was referring is in fact a part of our priority bookings campaign, representing about 80 per cent of all the concerts performed by the orchestra in the new season.

As is our normal practice, additional concerts, such as our family programmes, will be announced over the course of the season, which was the case with Peter and the Wolf.

I strongly urge Mr Harfich (and other music lovers of all ages) to visit our website or to join our publicity distribution database so as to be kept abreast of the latest concert information and orchestra events.

The HKPO aims to bring the joys of music to the widest reaches within our community.

It also performs a significant number of free concerts annually, including the highly popular outdoor family music events: Swire Symphony under the Stars, the ArtisTree series as well as the HSBC Insurance Creative Notes, which is our extensive education initiative.

Children of all ages are welcome to attend these events and if they are really passionate, they can also enjoy the HKPO performances through numerous radio and TV broadcasts.

I hope this answers Mr Harfich's concerns and that if he has any further questions he will contact me via our website.

Paul Tam, director of marketing, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Apple must act over Foxconn

Whilst visiting Shanghai and Shenzhen, I learned of the suicides at the giant Foxconn plant.

I read press reports of employees working long hours and getting some 1,500 yuan (HK$1,700) to 1,800 yuan (HK$2,050) per month for a six-day week.

The workers are allocated money to pay for their meals, but you cannot buy much food for that kind of cash. And sometimes they have only 10 minutes for a meal break before they must return to work ('All work and no play makes it a dull plant', May 27).

The stories made me curious and so I went to a Foxconn plant to see for myself. The buildings look like prisons.

Imagine you are 18. Your boyfriend says goodbye to you and you have no one to talk to at your work station. The only thing you can do is work. Under such conditions I am not surprised some people have become suicidal. The company's owner, Terry Gou, with his estimated US$6 billion, should realise that these conditions are unacceptable. And yet that is not what you hear when he talks from his plush office.

Presumably he can just bus more workers in from rural areas.

The company makes products for Apple. People should boycott its goods until the firm takes a look at its supply chain and ensures that its products are being made in a working environment which is humane.

Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs must realise that his American employees would not work under the conditions endured at Foxconn.

Let me add that I work with mainland companies which pay and treat their workers in a decent and humane way.

Jan Intveld, Oss, the Netherlands

Simple advice for Terry Gou

I read with utter amazement the comments made by Foxconn chairman Terry Gou about 11 possible suicides at his factories.

At one point Mr Gou had all his workers sign a letter pledging to not commit suicide and that 'their families would not seek extra compensation, above that required by the law ... if they committed suicide' ('New Foxconn suicide after boss visits Shenzhen plant', May 27).

He later 'apologised' for the letter. This was not the best advert for the company.

Let me give Terry Gou some free advice: improve the conditions at your factories, increase the wages of workers to a humane level and reduce the number of hours they have to work. It is that simple.

I have been to many factories in Asia and I have seen some appalling conditions. Often they are run like prisons.

So for 11 young people to have killed themselves in such a short space of time shows to me that these are 'blood and sweat factories'.

This issue is important to everyone here in Hong Kong who has a product made at the factory - I have an iPhone and I am sure many readers know someone with one too. By looking out for others we look out for ourselves.

After buying a copy of the South China Morning Post and purchasing a coffee I realised that the HK$40-odd dollars I had spent was more than the average daily wage of one of Foxconn's workers.

Scott Mackenzie, Central

Online games can be addictive

It has been claimed that some children are spending too much time playing computer games at the expense of their schoolwork and extra-curricular activities.

Some parents have expressed concern about this and are reluctant to purchase these video games, because they will act as a distraction. For those people who are totally immersed in such games, their studies and academic performance will be adversely affected.

This kind of activity can become addictive. It often alienates them from their friends.

There is nothing wrong with using computer games to help you relax.

But students must learn to strike the right balance so they have time to relax and still pay attention to their studies.

Elaine Lam, Kwun Tong

Cost of housing is outrageous

I refer to the letter by Keith McNab about property in Hong Kong ('Some homes are affordable', May 31). We have heard similar claims from the chief executive, who said housing was affordable because Hong Kong has a large number of homes on the market for under HK$2 million. Such claims make no sense without some reference to the size and quality of these affordable homes.

With equal validity I could claim that some diamonds are affordable since a speck of industrial diamond dust is worthless.

When compared on a per unit area basis with other cities, Hong Kong's property is the most unaffordable in the developed world.

An average studio flat in Manhattan costs approximately US$500,000. The same flat on Hong Kong Island would be a two-bedroom and would cost slightly more, yet per capita income in New York is almost 50 per cent greater. So I do not believe any claims that housing in Hong Kong is affordable.

The cost of housing here is outrageous, as is our government's failure to tackle the problem with any determination.

Richard Diesel, Wan Chai

Pan-democrats' change of tack

A significant and helpful development that emerged from the dialogue between the Democratic Party and the central government's liaison office on May 24 is in what the party's chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan proposed.

He said he wants the district council constituency seats to be voted on by 'all registered voters who do not already hold a functional constituency vote' ('Beijing plea to Democrats on reform decision', May 25). He reaffirmed at a subsequent press conference that this meant two votes for each person (one for a geographical constituency the other for a functional one).

Such indirect elections - elections after nomination of candidates - have hitherto been rejected by the pan-democrats as not being genuine universal suffrage.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan

No respect for women

I disagree with Michael Gerson who claims that the burqa ban [in some European countries] 'would achieve little but resentment' ('The oppression that lies beneath burqa ban,' May 26). So what if countries like France allow topless beaches and 'overexposes and objectifies' women. At least there's no coercion involved in that.

Women's dignity is impugned mainly because men have long refused to learn respect for the opposite sex.

No male despots should dictate what women can or cannot do because the main point here is gender equality.

This is something that backward Islamic countries absolutely do not countenance because the men in those societies do not want to share power. This is the issue Gerson should address.

Beatriz Taylor, Cheung Chau

Worthy gesture

It is heartening to see that 12 hotels and restaurants are offering shark-free menus for banquets.

They are willing to look beyond their wallets at the bigger picture.

I hope this initiative will gather momentum and that more establishments will follow suit. The best way to save those species of shark which are endangered is to eliminate the practice [of finning] that leads to their cruel slaughter.

It is time we did away with this pointless tradition in Hong Kong of serving shark's fin dishes.

Ho Kam-tong, Yuen Long