PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 May, 2011, 12:00am


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Do not take press freedom for granted

One of Hong Kong's great strengths is the vibrancy of its media.

It is home to around 20 newspapers, numerous free-to-air TV and radio channels, plus a growing array of social media platforms, ensuring Hong Kong people are never far away from the next breaking story.

Hong Kong's newspapers and broadcast channels provide the space for citizens to discuss and debate issues, to challenge government and to make informed decisions. They guide people's decisions on everything from their voting intentions and how to invest their savings, to where to eat dinner. And, of course, they keep people up-to-date with the latest activities of their favourite celebrities and movie stars.

Article 27 of Hong Kong's Basic Law guarantees the freedom of the press and publication. The widespread coverage of stories such as last year's Nobel prize award to Liu Xiaobo and the recent detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei all suggest that those freedoms are generally in good shape.

But the poll by the University of Hong Kong revealed growing pockets of concern about media self-censorship. Of the 1,003 people interviewed, 63 per cent took the view that the news media hesitated before criticising the central government. And the number of respondents who were satisfied with press freedom fell to 68 per cent from the 73 per cent recorded in September last year. Of course, self-censorship is, by its nature, impossible to quantify. But what is clear is how important it is not to take for granted one of Hong Kong's essential rights and freedoms.

World Press Freedom Day is celebrated annually on May 3 to mark the fundamental principles of media freedom, to highlight long-standing and emerging threats to that freedom; and to play tribute to journalists and activists who have risked their safety to advance the public's access to news and information. This year's theme is '21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers.'

In Britain we are marking the day by recalling that freedom of expression and an open and effective press are fundamental to building long-term social, political and economic stability. Journalists, bloggers, media organisations and individuals must be allowed to operate and express themselves freely and safely within international standards. That they are able to in Hong Kong is cause for celebration.

Andrew Seaton, British consul-general

Crack down on illicit structures

I do not believe that the government should be turning a blind eye to the illegal construction of small houses in the New Territories.

These structures can cause environmental problems when there are typhoons or other incidents when there is heavy rainfall. This could lead to casualties.

If the administration ignores this problem, then it will only get worse.

This will make it difficult to control it at a later date. Problems include such issues as the height of small houses.

The laws regarding land treaties must be clearly defined and strictly enforced.

Only in this way can illegal structures be brought under control.

Cindy Ng, Lok Fu

Issue licences for hawkers

Following the controversy over the egg waffle maker there has been heated debate on hawkers.

Some people have objected to calls for hawkers to be given licences, arguing that Hong Kong is an international city and hawkers do not reflect that internationalism.

I agree that it is an international city and part of the reason for that is that it has unique qualities. If all we had were famous chain stores, we would be no different from other cities. I think the existence of hawkers provides a human touch to Hong Kong.

The government should be willing to issue hawker licences. It will help people do what they are good at. It is also culturally valuable as you get interaction between hawkers and their customers.

Allowing licences to be issued to hawkers can make Hong Kong more competitive and boost the economy.

Chan Pak-hei, Ma On Shan

Wedding was magnificent

The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was an absolute delight. It was British pageantry at its very best.

The bridegroom and bride are clearly in love with each other and looked radiant. The best of British traditions and modernity came together to create a magical and memorable wedding. Their furtive, smiling glances at each other throughout the ceremony made the occasion so humane and fun. And their driving off, in an open convertible car, at the conclusion of the palace function, added zest to the proceedings.

In a world with uprisings in the Arab world, corruption and recession in Europe, it was good to see something to be happy about and celebrate.

Rajendra K. Aneja, Mumbai, India

URA must offer elderly help

Many elderly people live in areas which have been earmarked for redevelopment by the Urban Renewal Authority.

While the project is under way, residents need to be transferred to alternative accommodation. Many of these old people are on low incomes and do not have enough money to purchase another flat. It may be difficult for them to buy a place in the redeveloped area. But they might have lived in this part of Hong Kong for many years and share a wealth of collective memories.

It is clear that the government must offer more financial help to pensioners who are struggling financially.

Officials must ensure that disruption of their lives while the revamp project is going ahead is kept to a minimum.

Wong Po-huen, Tsuen Wan

Small classes make sense

There has been a heated debate about small-class teaching in local education circles, in particular with the continuous falling number of students attending schools in Hong Kong over the past few years.

The arguments, though diverse, are research-based and empirically sound.

Some people have advocated that small-class teaching necessarily elevates the overall quality in teaching and learning while some hold a less affirmative stance.

Some people believe that small-class teaching is an effective strategy to resolve the problem of falling student rolls, while some take the opposite view.

Despite substantial amounts of research arguing for and against the effectiveness of small-class teaching in enhancing students' academic and non-academic achievements, laymen should apply common sense.

The smaller the teacher-student ratio is in a class, the more time a teacher can spare for each student in each lesson.

The implementation of small-class teaching involves an increase of resources, which seems one key concern for policymakers.

Amid voices from different stakeholders, it remains difficult to accurately assess the effectiveness of small-class teaching.

However, as a parent, assuming all other relevant factors remain unchanged, I will be more satisfied if my child is in a class of 25 instead of 40.

The implementation of small-class teaching in local schools should not be treated as a remedy to solve the falling student rolls alone.

Instead, it should be regarded as a strategy to genuinely enhance the overall learning experience of our children.

Andy Seto, North Point

Pupils facing uncertainty

I refer to the letter by Jessica Cheung ('Learn to cope with pressure', April 29).

I am currently a Form Five student and I will take the first Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education exam next year.

I do not think my stress or my classmates' stress levels from studying are exaggerated.

Since the exam is a totally new syllabus and we do not have any past papers for practising, we do not know the level of difficulty and the requirement for getting a pass.

The uncertainty makes us feel stressed and uncomfortable.

Besides, with more students taking the diploma exam, it could reduce their chances of getting a university place in Hong Kong.

Getting into a university will become an even more competitive process.

People keep saying that students should learn to cope with stress but sometimes it can be difficult to deal with it.

Vincent Lau, Kwun Tong

Beijing cannot ignore problem

The problem with tainted food has been getting worse on the mainland.

It has reached an alarming stage and the central government must take effective action to deal with it.

In order to protect the health of people, the government has to strengthen its monitoring of food safety. It is very important for the authorities to root out this problem and deal with the perpetrators.

These scandals cause misery to people and the perpetrators must face punishment.

If Beijing turns a blind eye to this problem, then mainlanders will stop trusting the central government.

I do not understand why some Chinese are trying to harm their own people. Can money really buy happiness?

Keith Cheng, Hung Hom