PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 July, 2010, 12:00am

Indirect election can still be democratic

I refer to the letter by Mercy Wong Chung-yan ('Democrats lost their direction', July 7).

She said that democracy was equal to universal suffrage - that is, one person, one vote - and that functional constituencies should be abolished. Ms Wong seems to imply that the only legitimate type of democracy is a so-called direct democracy. Does this mean that the US does not have universal suffrage because the president is elected indirectly by US citizens? They are only allowed to vote for state representatives, called electors, who in turn vote for the US president in an electoral college.

These electors are not even legally obligated to vote for the same political party that they are popularly elected to represent, though there would be a constitutional crisis if an elector ever supported the opposing party and betrayed the will of the people.

In some cases, presidents have been elected by the electoral college but have lost the popular vote - as happened in 2000 when George W. Bush was elected. The electoral college is a small-circle election and would be considered unacceptable to Hong Kong radicals. However, it is internationally recognised as a legitimate form of universal suffrage.

There is no one correct way when it comes to introducing universal suffrage, but the radical democratic elements in Hong Kong insist that their method is the right way and every other way is wrong. This is naive and does not reflect the actual situation in Hong Kong.

As long as both moderate democrats and establishment figures can stand for direct election in 2017 for chief executive, Hong Kong will have genuine universal suffrage.

Functional constituencies can also be reformed to meet the requirements of universal suffrage, by ensuring that the seats are open for election by everyone and the candidates standing for elections are from both democratic and establishment camps.

Corporate voting must be eliminated, and there should be absolutely no vetting mechanism that screens out moderate democrats.

Peter Call, Wan Chai

Comparison is inappropriate

I refer to the letter from Helen C. Ma ('Questions over election costs', July 8).

The 2010 Legislative Council by-elections were held on May 16. The scale of the by-elections, which covered five geographical constituencies across Hong Kong was comparable to that of a general election.

The estimated expenditure for the by-elections amounts to about HK$159 million, of which around HK$125 million was allocated for election expenses, HK$31 million for staff costs and HK$3 million for publicity purposes.

These expenses included, for example, hire of venue for polling and counting stations and the media centre, honorarium for electoral staff required on polling day, printing of ballot papers, postage of poll cards for 3.37 million registered voters, reimbursement to candidates under the Financial Assistance Scheme, transport and free mailing for candidates.

As regards the HK$9 million set aside for the publicity exercise regarding the 2012 constitutional package, it basically covered the costs of producing the TV and radio announcements of public interest and various publicity items, and for placing advertisements in newspapers, websites and at MTR stations.

The span and nature of items covered by the two sums are, therefore, substantially different. It is not appropriate to compare the two figures.

Gary Poon, for secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs

Licence system for street artists

Street artists have expressed concern about being prosecuted even though the government has promoted street performances. It is important that the administration does not display double standards.

Streets artists are common in European nations such as Germany and France. The local authorities in these countries recognise their importance and grant them the relevant licences.

I can vividly remember seeing a street painter when visiting Germany. He had a large and appreciative audience.

I am sure street performers could flourish in Hong Kong if a licensing system were formulated by officials.

Pang Chi-ming, Fanling

Car will not prove popular

The electric car from Mitsubishi is selling at HK$395,000 in Hong Kong.

I consider this to be pretty steep for a private car and I do not think it will a big seller in the city. It will need to be charged for seven hours [from a domestic electricity supply] to cover 120 kilometres.

While one cannot question the environmental benefits of these electric vehicles, motorists will have to ask themselves what benefits having such a car will bring.

For one thing there is a lack of a comprehensive infrastructure.

There are not enough charging stations for these vehicles in the city and this is very inconvenient for car owners.

Jack Tam Ming-ki, Sham Tseng

Exemption does make sense

I understand the reason behind a law banning idling engines: it is to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming.

However, we have to recognise what it can be like in a vehicle on some of he hottest summer days in Hong Kong.

Take the case of the 81-year-old minibus driver who died of suspected heatstroke. He had turned off the engine and so his air-conditioning was also switched off.

Given that on these hot days drivers could be at risk, the government is right to make changes to the legislation.

Chan Ho-ming, Tsuen Wan

Simple way to ease pollution

Diesel is a known carcinogen, and can stunt brain development in children.

Judging from the report ('Roadside air quality worse in first half', July 5) and the ensuing debate about why pollution is worsening, it seems that some of the experts are living proof of the mental impact diesel is having on our society.

In all the bickering about numbers and reasons, not once has anyone mentioned the actual reason - that a huge, old fleet of diesel vehicles, bigger than in any other developed city in the world, continues to ply our streets, gassing us along the way.

As old, outdated vehicles age, the pollution they emit will continue to worsen on a per-vehicle basis. The government has failed in its quest to convert older transport vehicles, because they included no penalties. The minibus conversion scheme stopped in its tracks.

The crude retrofit converters installed 10 years ago, which were nothing more than tin cans with Brillo pad-like elements in them, have all corroded or fallen off, never working in the first place. And now we have a long debate about idling, and reports about a poor, 81-year-old man dying from the heat. Why was he allowed to drive a minibus in the first place?

This debate continues to cloud the issue, with the easy solutions not being made - to remove, replace, rethink and revive our city, by doing away with all of our old diesel vehicles. Without fixing the source, all other issues are moot.

Douglas Woodring, Mid-Levels

Children suffer from sanctions

We were outraged to learn, from one of our donors in Singapore, that a US-dollar donation made to us by telegraphic transfer - via DBS Bank Singapore to a Studer Trust bank account in Hong Kong - was rejected by a US bank acting as an intermediary, because the word 'Myanmar' was included in the transfer details.

We were told that the US bank had taken this decision because there was a US 'embargo for payments to Burma'.

This donation would have been a big help to the poor children in Myanmar.

It is about time the US government reconsidered its position and asked itself how effective its tough sanctions against Myanmar are in bringing political change to the country.

As has happened in the past, unilateral US sanctions are more of a political gesture, and you have to question what effect they have on improving the human rights situation. It seems the big losers are the poverty-stricken people of Myanmar.

Peter Gautschi, founder, Studer Trust

Soccer unites Brazilians

Brazil's shock exit from the World Cup reminded me of the final in 1998 when I was living in that country [when Brazil lost to France].

The streets were empty as all Brazilians were at home, in offices, restaurants and bars - glued to their TV sets.

My apartment overlooked the main thoroughfare in San Paulo and I could not see a single pedestrian.

The entire country came to a standstill for three hours.

The mood of the country is conditioned by whether the team wins or loses.

If they are victorious there is a carnival atmosphere.

If they are defeated it is as if the people are going through a period of national mourning.

What soccer has done is to unite the country.

I believe that Brazil is one of the few nations to achieve a harmonious integration of people of different racial backgrounds.

It is a wonderful national mosaic.

Soccer is a game without ideological connotations.

Rajendra K. Aneja, Dubai