PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 April, 2011, 12:00am


Distinct lack of tolerance in shark fin debate

Kerry Hasell ('Unsustainable shark fishing is a global issue that affects us all', March 22) and Stan Shea ('As societies change, traditions must, too', March 18) are critical of my views that shark meat is the main driver of shark fisheries, and China should be wary of abandoning traditional cuisine for the wrong reasons.

Anthropologists see the conservation of human cultural diversity as critical to human well-being, just as biologists interpret the value of biodiversity conservation.

The English did not have to give up fox-hunting because it offended the Chinese, and the Chinese should not feel obligated to give up their traditions because it offends other people. Co-operation needs to be based on tolerance, respect and understanding of all peoples, cultures and traditions.

The anti-fin lobby claims 'sustainability' of shark fisheries, based on scientific management, posing no risk of biological extinction, is their primary goal.

Yet by opposing all shark fin consumption, even when the fin comes from sophisticated and sustainable shark fisheries, with no risk of extinction, their claim appears false. They are dedicated to stopping the shark fin consumption. The symbol of their campaign (shark fin) has become more important than the problem (sustainable fisheries) that spawned its use.

Most countries today voluntarily land whole sharks (fins on) and others (for example, Australia, Canada, the US, the European Union) must land the meat and fins by law. Few ever engaged in live-finning, which is cruel, unnecessary and we hope will cease.

Mr Hasell had difficulty understanding my point that banning shark fin may not stop the killing of sharks. Spain has an extensive shark fishery. Shark fins (a by-product) are sent to China, where the demand exists, and shark meat (the main product driving the fishery) is sent mainly to the EU, where the demand exists. The same number of sharks would be killed for meat, for sale to the EU, regardless of whether the Chinese eat the fins.

Our industry legally imports products, exported legally by nations with the legislative power over their resources.

We have limited power to interfere unless invited to do so. We investigated and did post a reward of HK$360,000 for the culprits who cut the fins off the whale shark in the Philippines.

It was fishermen recovering their fishing net (in which the shark was entangled) and nothing to do with the shark fin trade. In Costa Rica, fishing boats landing shark fins without carcasses were prosecuted successfully last week. Our industry supports such legal actions.

International co-operation to improve the sustainability of shark fisheries is an admirable cause. Targeting China as the bogeyman is ill-conceived, offensive and may ultimately prove counterproductive to conservation.

Charlie Lim, chairman, conservation and management committee, Marine Products Association (Hong Kong)

China must stop executions

I was shocked and appalled to learn about China's execution of three Filipinos convicted of drug smuggling.

Putting aside the belief that no country that carries out capital punishment should be considered modern or indeed civilised (yes, including the US) it is a travesty that a country with a 'still developing' system of justice should be able to dish out such barbaric punishments.

Even supporters of the death penalty would have to question whether it has any place in a system where writers are 'disappeared', moneyed murderers can escape justice by 'compensating' victims' families and petitioners are routinely housed in what are known as 'black jails'.

China should impose a moratorium on any further executions and publish full records of the number of executions carried out up until now. No one in Hong Kong should rest easy while our leaders in Beijing allow such an unjust and medieval system of justice to continue into the 21st century.

Oliver Gosling, Tuen Mun

Government lacks vision

I refer to Stephen Vines' article on the government's plan to give a handout of HK$6,000 to everyone ('Plenty of dollars, little sense', March 26).

I entirely agree with his comments.

Running a government is not about dividing up public resources in equal shares and giving them away.

It is sad to see what this government has been reduced to.

It cannot offer any visions and can no longer stand up on any principles at all.

Not only does it show that our public governance is now completely broken, it is also a classic case that depriving people of democracy does not protect public funds, contrary to the views of those who argue that democracy breeds welfarism.

What we are seeing is a government trying to legitimise itself by giving away money.

Joseph Lam, Central

Handout will not help poor

The government was wrong to offer budget sweeteners.

The HK$6,000 handout is good news for permanent residents aged 18 and above, but it is unfair and will damage harmony in society. Also, it will lead to increased consumption and this will fuel inflation.

Finally, given that HK$6,000 is not a large amount, it cannot help the poor.

After they have used it up, they will still be poor.

The government's change of heart following the budget with this handout has damaged its credibility.

It would have been far better for officials to come up with policies which led to lower house prices and offered more training schemes to poor people so they could learn skills and find work.

Allowances need to be offered to help people on low incomes with daily expenses such as transportation.

Officials must hold more activities that enable them to meet Hong Kong citizens and find out their opinions.

Sophie Pang Pei-yan, Ngau Tau Kok

Strange kind of learning curve

I read with interest the article by Kelly Yang ('Too young to swap toys for flash cards', March 28).

It gave a picture of the baby memorisation industry that is apparently becoming more and more accepted in Hong Kong as part of our achievement-orientated society.

According to the information, this involves flashing cards before a four-month-old baby's eyes resulting in the baby being able to 'read' at a very early age - though not, of course, being able to understand the content.

But, as Ms Yang so rightly points out, childhood is a unique experience, never to happen again.

We should fill it with unique experiences that will also never happen again.

There are so many ways in which a child may grow, not so much in 'tricks' like recognising flash cards but in forming relationships, learning to give and take, to win some and to lose some, to trust and to enjoy life for its own sake.

To learn to appreciate all these things is not a waste of a baby's time. It is the most important gift that a parent can give.

Anne Marden, Shek O

Schools are getting it wrong

I agree with those who argue that the emphasis on exam results in Hong Kong makes secondary school principals concentrate on high marks, at the expense of pupils' needs.

Because these results will have a direct bearing on a school's development, most principals place a great deal of emphasis on them. They know that if more students get high marks it will enhance the school's reputation.

Too often, therefore, lessons will focus on how to achieve these high marks, but at the expense of acquiring knowledge and learning other important things such as moral education.

Teaching should be about more than helping pupils do well in exams.

Calvin Chung Ka-wing, Sha Tin

Very fortunate Hong Kong

In these recent weeks with your reports of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, nuclear crisis, revolution, war, human trafficking, and child labour, it was a bit of a relief to read about the group of ladies who spent 50 days watching Nancy Kissel's retrial ('Case struck a chord for expat tai-tais', March 26).

Apparently, when they arrive in Hong Kong, their households are taken over by domestic helpers who unfairly deprive them of the pleasures of doing housework and caring for their children.

While various solutions to help with their plight come to mind, if these are the among the gravest injustices we have to overcome in Hong Kong, then this city is fortunate indeed.

Robert Woll, Beijing

Patients end up suffering

Doctors in our public hospitals face staff shortages and heavy workloads.

For example, Tuen Mun Hospital has seen a substantial turnover of doctors at the internal medicine department since last year.

Doctors suffer stress when they are faced with this massive workload.

This can make them less efficient and less motivated. And there are fears of more incidences of negligence, because medics are exhausted.

When that happens, it is the patients who suffer.

Officials must be aware of this workload problem and that it affects standards of medical care.

They must take action to solve the staff shortage problem in our public hospitals, such as offering subsidies to doctors.

Chareen Ma, Sha Tin