Speaker did not ensure balance
I refer to the letter by Gloria Lee, for director of social welfare, responding to complaints about a talk given by a 'reparative therapy' advocate, psychiatrist Hong Kwai-wah, to teach social workers same-sex issues ('Training was not about gay conversion', July 1).
Take a minute to dissect what appears to be a cogent reply and it soon becomes clear that it holds no water. The government is attempting to portray this as a matter of 'balance' and 'impartiality', which it is not.
The Social Welfare Department says the aim of the training was to provide its social workers with information to enable them to have a better understanding of sexual identity and sexual attraction among young people, and the skills needed when working with them.
That aim could only be achieved by providing student social workers with the best scientific and professional information. This could not be done by either solely exposing students to the views of Dr Hong, which have been rejected by international scientific and professional bodies, or by confusing them with some spurious balance.
There is little possibility that any one group of social workers could have been exposed to a balance of views over a period of lectures. Are we to believe that the social workers who listened to Dr Hong had attended all the lectures given by representatives of the groups named in the letter? Only if they had would a balance have been possible. More likely, one group was taught one thing, another a different one.
The department has been employing Dr Hong in various capacities since 1997. It is clearly comfortable with his beliefs and practices.
Ms Lee said the department recognised that 'knowledge from multiple perspectives is essential for social workers to make professional, comprehensive and independent assessment of their cases and to address the specific needs of individual clients'.
The department clearly believes that there is an equivalence in the 'knowledge' being imparted by Dr Hong and the others. That is a delusion.
If you consider different areas, you can see how ridiculous the department's claim to be seeking an impartiality in knowledge is. Does the government, for instance, countenance spending public money teaching science students that there is a flat earth theory or a theory that the sun revolves around the earth?
The government should cease making Hong Kong an international laughing stock by paying public money to advocates of a discredited, faith-based, so-called therapy that harms those who submit to it.
Nigel Collett, Pok Fu Lam
Right to vote in elections is priceless
Some directly elected lawmakers, including, for example, Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, have claimed that a lot of people supported scrapping by-elections.
I assume Ms Leung was referring to some of her constituents, something I find impossible to understand.
I assume that these voters, who took the trouble to vote in an election, truly value their right to vote. But now it turns out that they have given their votes to someone who wants to take away their right to vote whenever there is a vacancy in Legco. I find that ironic. Are these councillors moving Hong Kong towards universal suffrage, or away from it? The excuse of saving money is feeble at best.
I consider the opportunity for everyone in Hong Kong to express their intentions in ways that are allowed by the Basic Law, de facto referendums included, to be priceless.
Wu Shun-ping, Sha Tin
Questions for activists in protest
I support greater democracy in Hong Kong. But I have two questions for people like Wong Yuk-man, of People Power, and Andrew To Kwan-hang, of the League of Social Democrats, about the protests in Central at the end of the July 1 rally.
If it were members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong who did what they did, and they were on one of the buses stuck in traffic for hours (or even just minutes), would they still say that that's the price to pay for the right to stage protests here?
If an ambulance or fire engine was on the way to save people - including their own loved ones - would the delays or lives lost be also considered the price to pay?
Y. C. Yeung, Quarry Bay
Why mall managers do not like seats
I guess Helen Heron doesn't know that Hong Kong is a city where seniors like herself and young children are not welcome in malls and public areas, hence the absence of seats in those places ('Seats for young and old lacking', June 24).
The reason for this, I was told by someone in the know, is that the owners and managers of these modern edifices, of which locals are so proud, don't like seeing their shiny new interiors cluttered with chattering Filipino domestics. It's as simple as that.
Beatriz Taylor, Cheung Chau
Handout offers no real solutions
I was shocked by the government's decision, through the budget, to give HK$6,000 to all Hong Kong permanent residents aged 18 or above.
For those on low salaries, it may have seemed like a quick-fix solution to meet their basic needs. But quick fixes are just that; they bring no long-term benefits.
I think this handout showed the government was being short-sighted. It is a strategy that will fail to get to the root of the problem facing many low-income citizens.
They lack the skills needed to cope with Hong Kong society, which is very competitive. This makes it very difficult to escape the poverty trap.
Moreover, the distribution of the handout is controversial, as there are still disagreements over who should get the money.
It would have been better for the government to establish a fund to help new migrants and poor citizens. This fund could have been used to make these people more competitive.
Shek Tsun-lam, Tsuen Wan
US interest rates lesser of two evils
Peter Lok believes the Hong Kong currency's peg to the US dollar stops us from fine-tuning interest rates to prevent overheating in the property market ('Getting rid of peg will not be a disaster', June 30). He does not share the belief of others that undoing the peg would destabilise the economy.
We are all familiar with the various pros and cons here. US interest rates have forced our economy into wrenching periods of asset price inflation and deflation, and it would be tempting to say goodbye to that forever. On the other hand, the peg eliminates exchange rate uncertainties in trade and investment.
However, there is one big unspoken problem with de-pegging: if the US Federal Reserve does not decide our monetary policy, someone else must.
Who would we want it to be? Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah? A Monetary Authority committee with the usual loyal friends of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen? Would people like this inspire confidence that interest rate policy would be steady, measured, considered, objective and independent? Given our administration's tendency to perform U-turns rather than stick to principles, it seems unlikely.
If Beijing at some stage feels comfortable about appointing more assertive and solid leaders in Hong Kong, we might have a government that could be trusted to manage monetary policy. In the meantime, US interest rates - random to our economic conditions but at least consistent and predictable - are probably the lesser of two evils.
Dominic Quinnell, Central
Ability and experience important
I refer to the letter by Audrey Lam ('Native aspect of a language is not important to people learning English', June 30).
All languages are used and abused. It has nothing to do with where you come from or whether it is your mother tongue. Hire English teachers based on skills, ability and experience, not whether they are cheaper because they come from Singapore or India. Stringing some English words together does not a comprehensible sentence make.
I don't entirely agree that language can be taught without a cultural context, simply for 'communication purposes', as the cultural context is what adds colour and texture. From my own experience, to have learnt English without being taught through English literature would have been dreadful. It is the very appreciation of language, on every level, that helps us become more effective communicators.
C. Chow, Tai Po