PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 August, 2010, 12:00am

Dialects are worth saving in diverse nation

The plan by Guangzhou Television to switch its broadcast language from Cantonese to Putonghua (because of the Asian Games) has sparked a heated public debate.

I think this proposal, if implemented, will adversely affect China's image as a culturally diverse nation.

Language is the root of culture. From pronunciation to sentence structure, a language reflects not only the history of an area, but also says a lot about the lifestyle and temperament of its speakers. If Putonghua's trend towards dominance continues, many regional cultures will face extinction.

We take so much pride in this cultural diversity, which will be undermined by the loss of regional languages and dialects.

A dialect strengthens people's sense of cultural identity.

It gives them a deeper understanding of their roots. A dialect is part of their collective memory.

The establishment of a monolingual environment would have a negative influence on China's future cultural development.

Maintaining the general use of Putonghua across the country is essential if China is to become more powerful. But it is also important to preserve different local cultures.

China's progress should not be at the expense of regional characteristics.

A wise central government should try its best to save dialects in the country.

L. K. Wong, Tseung Kwan O

Beijing must reject elitism

I refer to your editorial ('Time to talk sense on the use of Cantonese', July 29).

It is one thing to have available a national language like Putonghua, which people can learn if they wish, but quite another to smother local languages, whether Cantonese or Uygur. People sing and dance to their own tunes.

Without the language that is close to your heart, you lose so much when it comes to wanting to express your feelings or explore the deeper emotional side of cultural life that is found in a language's literature and in art.

Ordinary people are forced to communicate in unaccustomed ways if they are encouraged to speak the national language, and told that the local language is second-rate.

This is elitism, and is a subtle way to control people. Nowadays power is increasingly becoming decentralised, and those at the centre feel threatened.

These leaders should be delighted, as this process shows that people in the regions are capable of standing on their own feet and yet can still make a contribution to the country.

We need cultural diversity and a shift away from this idea from the industrial age way of seeing people as 'standard products'. We are not products; we are people.

Tony Henderson, chairman, Humanist Association of Hong Kong

Losing out to Lion City

My good friend and his family are relocating to Singapore.

Our young children, who have been best pals for years, will miss their playmates.

My friend works for a multinational corporation, which is moving to the Lion City. The company has chosen to set up its regional headquarters there because it has been offered tax advantages.

Hong Kong seems to view such initiatives with a 'couldn't care less' attitude.

My friend told me that his employer had approached the relevant government departments several times over the past few years, seeking similar advantages here, but always got a negative response. Some might argue that you cannot have preferential treatment in one of the freest economies in the world. But the truth is that our city is losing its once-enormous competitive advantage over a determined competitor.

We can continue to do nothing, which was the stand taken by officials regarding my friend's company. But inaction will lead to higher unemployment rates.

We will have to absorb the economic and social costs of these redundancies.

If more multinationals leave Hong Kong, I think the prospects for my children in the city I love will be poorer.

K. Y. Tan, North Point

Keep watch on kindergartens

Raising a child is expensive, and the cost for parents keeps going up. From the children's birth to their graduation, parents face major expenses.

Now that the economy is recovering, many kindergartens have decided to raise their fees. This is very bad news for parents. They already get some help from the government in the form of the kindergarten voucher scheme. This offers them some relief and means they can spend a bit more on extra-curricular activities.

Given that fees are going up, the government should keep the subsidies in place. It should also closely monitor kindergartens to ensure that they are operating efficiently and that parents are getting value for money.

R. Hau, Kowloon Bay

Fair given back to book lovers

I agree with Koey Young ('Pseudo-models ban was right', July 27). The organisers took the right decision not to allow these models to sign their albums at this year's book fair.

It was felt that last year, with the presence of the pseudo-models, the tone of the event was lowered as thousands of fans queued for autographs. This year more people attended who were genuinely interested in books.

With an increasing number of people showing a greater interest in quality books, authors were more responsive.

Sales of literature were good, while fewer people bought books on financial matters such as the stock market.

The fair regained its reputation as a great venue for book lovers. If this trend continues next year, it can only be good news for Hong Kong, and help to develop it as a cultural hub.

Lo Fung-ha, Tseung Kwan O

Life ban for drug-drivers

I am concerned about the problems of drug-driving.

Some drivers, including taxi and minibus drivers, take drugs and then get behind the wheel of a car.

They are being very irresponsible in that they pose a risk to innocent pedestrians.

Under the circumstances, the government should impose tougher penalties for those motorists who are found to be under the influence.

For example, those people who are convicted in court of drug-driving should suffer the permanent loss of their driving licences. This will reflect the seriousness of the offence.

As I said, they have put the lives of other people at risk and there is no way of knowing what they will do.

Some drugs may cause a driver to have slow reactions. They might even experience hallucinations.

A tougher punishment would act as a deterrent.

Drivers would know that once they took drugs and then started up their vehicle, they would run the risk of losing their licence for life. Some people who take drugs think they will not get caught, so there must be tighter monitoring by police.

They should be able to ask drivers to go to a police station to perform a series of physical tests, for instance, walking heel-to-toe along a straight line.

Of course we wish all motorists were self-disciplined. But those who are not must know they will face tougher penalties when they appear in court.

Vivian Wong Wun-kwan, Sha Tin

Records have already gone

Speakers on the RTHK programme The Pulse, on July 23, accused the post-1997 Hong Kong government of not adhering to freedom of information principles.

This is because of the refusal to release official records of government deliberations for public scrutiny. They said this contrasted with Western governments' practice of releasing similar records after a lapse of 30 years.

But if the pre-handover administration took away those records when it left in 1997, how can the post-1997 government be in a position to release them when the 30 years is up?

In any case, the Executive Council's records show only the decisions reached and not the deliberations leading to those decisions.

As to records of less than 30 years, the British government refused to release records of the cabinet's 2003 debate on the legality of the invasion of Iraq.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan

Doubts over bank's pledge

It was reported in The New York Times that Citibank had withdrawn its shark's fin soup promotion for Citibank credit card holders in Hong Kong in response to public criticism, yet continued a similar promotion in Singapore.

In explaining the withdrawal, Citibank said it was committed to carrying on its business in a way that benefited the environment.

However, the company said it would continue the promotion in Singapore, as it had received no complaints, but would monitor the situation.

This is absurd, because eating shark's fin dishes in Singapore is as detrimental to the shark population as eating them in Hong Kong.

Where does Citibank stand on this issue? One can only conclude that the company is only paying lip service to environmental sustainability.

The company should show some leadership in environmental protection and end the shark fin promotion in Singapore and, for that matter, anywhere else.

Lim Kwok-zu, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia