End public funding for ESF schools
Mike Rowse's observation that the controversy over English Schools Foundation school fees is obscuring big issues is evidenced by his article ('Value of a good education for all is in the balance', May 16). He has missed all the important points about ESF schools' awkward position in Hong Kong's education scene.
His generalisation that ESF schools, like international schools, provide 'a world-class education' at a 'high price' is simplistic. An international curriculum isn't necessarily available only at 'international schools' at 'a high price'.
For example, Creative Secondary School is a direct subsidy scheme school. For about half of the school fees charged by the ESF, it offers the International Baccalaureate diploma programme and implements Hong Kong's new secondary curriculum through the IB Middle Years framework.
Diocesan Boys' School is another example of a direct subsidy scheme school which, for about one-third of the ESF's fees, offers a curriculum to prepare students for both the Hong Kong diploma and the IB diploma.
Unlike ESF schools, Creative and Diocesan are truly international, with an inclusive curriculum covering local and non-local syllabuses and an inclusive admission policy that disregards the applicant's social and linguistic background.
Some schools are labelled international because of their preferential admission for non-local applicants. For foreign nationals whose languages or whose education syllabus are not commonly used in local schools, it is understandable that schools preferentially admit their own nationals.
For ESF schools which are practically indistinguishable from most local schools, especially those which offer the IB programme, there is no justification for its pointed discriminatory admission policy against Cantonese speakers.
ESF schools are probably the only publicly subsidised schools in the world that practise overt discrimination against the local population on a linguistic pretext. As justification for such discrimination, there is the groundless allegation that local schools exclude foreign applicants. The fact is local schools are open to all but good local schools are very competitive.
Expats who dare not expose their children to the competition of local schools need ESF schools as sheltered playgrounds for their children. ESF schools claim that they have admitted a large number of local students. But the fact is ESF schools' admission of local students is culturally selective so they are not at all representative of the local population. The government should not provide ESF schools with any public funding given their perverse admission policy against the local population.
Cynthia Sze, Quarry Bay
Small house policy must be scrapped
I read with interest your report in the Property section about how New Territories indigenous small-house 'rights' are being openly traded ('Villagers home in on profits', May 18).
When the late Denis Bray [then district commissioner for the New Territories] brought in the small house policy in the 1970s it was stated that it was a short-term solution, and it was not a right but a privilege which would be withdrawn if abused. It is being blatantly abused, a fact highlighted by the recent Ombudsman investigation, and it should therefore be withdrawn.
The Heung Yee Kuk has frightened the government into believing this is an irrevocable right, enshrined under the Basic Law. It is, of course, nothing of the kind and would never stand up to a challenge in the courts.
However, our spineless, lame and incompetent government lacks the courage to face the small house issue, and will back away as always.
Our administration needs to heed the words of Beijing about 'social harmony', and realise that we Hongkongers are very angry about the way favoured groups are allowed unfair advantage - tycoons in cosy collusion with the government; fat-cat civil servants, not content with their high salaries and iron rice bowls, can slide into cushy private- sector jobs with impunity, and New Territories villagers who are able to get away with anything they want.
K. L. Pang, Central
Police took correct action over dance
Reggie Ho, of Tongzhi Community joint Meeting, should have regard to the wider needs of the public and not just to his own political cause ('Police infringed freedom protected in the Basic Law', May 20).
I know no Hongkongers who want to see gay people discriminated against in employment, housing, or any other area of life.
By the same token, I know no Hongkongers who want their children facing propaganda from highly politicised gay groups and turned towards behaviour that they deeply disapprove of.
Hong Kong has done well not to follow Western regimes, where society is being eaten away from within by corrosive behaviour. Schoolchildren have the gay political message drummed into them from their earliest years and you cannot even take your family for a walk in the streets and parks without exposing your children to sights that children should never have to see.
Gay dancing in public is a disorderly act. When it happens, the police have a duty to take proportionate steps to bring it to an end. Their actions in doing so are praiseworthy and merit the full support of the people of Hong Kong.
Paul Flynn, Clear Water Bay
A barrier to democratic development
I am appalled at the Hong Kong government's latest attempt to stymie democracy with its scheme do away with by-elections when a lawmaker resigns.
It is rather ironic that it says its 'aim' is to aid democratic development, when its actions do just the opposite.
I am sure if the pro-government parties had done what the pan-democrats did last year, it would have been a different case altogether.
I wish the government would just come out and say we are only going to have a 'bottleneck' or 'birdcage' democracy and not a democracy with universal and equal suffrage.
Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po
People want 'one person, one vote'
I read with interest the report ('By-elections given a no-vote', May 18).
This proposal by the government follows the action of five lawmakers who resigned and were re-elected in what they called a referendum.
Such by-elections will now be scrapped and replaced 'by the next best-placed candidate at the previous election'.
I am an ordinary citizen, but I feel this proposal is an attempt to block the public's wish for a 'one person, one vote' system.
The fact that people did turn out to vote for the pan-democrats in last year's by-elections is a clear sign that they want genuine elections, not a system that is confined to a small circle.
Peter Wei, Kwun Tong
Two SARs should sign labour deal
Two articles in last week's paper brought to mind how far apart the two SARs, that is, Macau and Hong Kong, are.
The report ('HK$16,000 phone roaming bill', May 18) shows that roaming charges between the two cities are ridiculous, not to mention the bank charges.
These are two areas which could and should be streamlined by the SARs.
The second refers to the opening of the new mega resort in Macau ('Galaxy throws open doors and aims to be the star', May 17). Macau is desperate for skilled and unskilled workers highlighted by the labour shortage at the new resort.
The two SARS should sign a labour agreement which allows permanent residents to work freely in either city. This can only be positive for both communities and a first step to dovetail the Pearl River Delta into an effective economic block.
Stephen Anderson, Macau
Tourism needs tighter controls
Critics of a regulatory body for the tourism industry say the estimated cost of HK$22 million is too expensive.
The tourism industry is an important source of income for Hong Kong. Visitors spend a lot of money here.
If the proposals put forward for better regulation of the industry can bring about genuine improvements, then more people from abroad will come to the city, and it will be money well-spent.
Kelvin Ng, Sha Tin