Census categories explained
I would like to respond to the questions raised in the letter by Janine Doggett ('Unmarried couples don't really count on seriously flawed census form', July 2) regarding the classifications used in the 2011 Population Census.
The data topics included in the census and their definitions, classifications and questioning approach were drawn up after consultations with government bureaus/departments, academic institutions, professional associations, chambers of commerce, prominent non-governmental organisations (including the Equal Opportunities Commission), and taking into consideration such factors as operational concerns and international standards and practices. There is no discrimination against any groups of Hong Kong residents.
On the question of there being no option to put 'partner' or 'domestic partner' under 'Relationship to household head' in the census questionnaire, the distinct options available are meant to cover only those more common types of relationship to household head in Hong Kong while the less common types of relationship (for example, 'partner' or 'domestic partner') are grouped together with the other miscellaneous ones (for example, 'friend') under the category of 'Others / unrelated persons'.
Moreover, the census is conducted under the Census and Statistics (2011 Population Census) Order, which is enacted under section 9 of the Census and Statistics Ordinance. According to the ordinance, all persons specified in the order are obliged to provide information required in the census and any person who provides any particulars which he/she knows to be false commits an offence.
Given that some respondents may not be willing to disclose their 'partner' relationship, the existing classification of the relationship of 'partner' or 'domestic partner' under the category of 'Others/unrelated persons' is considered to be a more flexible approach. It caters for people who, on the one hand, need to report truthfully in the census but, on the other hand, have concerns about disclosing their 'partner' relationship. As regards same-sex spouses, if they would report themselves as 'partners'/'domestic partners' and their sex accordingly in the census, no error message will appear.
On the question of 'ethnic group', the classification adopted in the census is determined with reference to a combination of concepts such as cultural origins, nationality, colour and language.
This practice is in line with the recommendations in the Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses (Revision 2) published by the United Nations in 2008, and has also taken into account the practices of other countries/ territories as well as local circumstances.
According to the 2006 by-census, 95 per cent of our population were Chinese, and among the non-Chinese population, Asians accounted for about 83.4 per cent while 'Black' and 'White' are the two other major ethnic groups. Therefore, there are more Asian-related ethnic groups in the census.
I hope this information is useful for your readers to have a better understanding about the classifications used in the census.
John Lam, for commissioner for census and statistics
Don't make moral subject compulsory
As a student, I can see no reason why the government should make moral and national education a compulsory subject. With the new education system, students and teachers are under pressure and face heavy workloads.
They already have a tough schedule with, for example, other learning experiences and school-based assessments.
The government has said additional resources will not be made available for the national education subject. Presumably schools will be expected to provide all the necessary material.
There is nothing wrong with the government introducing this course, but it should not be compulsory and it should be restricted to the primary rather than the secondary school curriculum.
Katy Chui Ho-suet, Yuen Long
Protect rights as power of nation grows
At the celebrations held on July 1 to mark the Chinese Communist Party's 90th anniversary, President Hu Jintao said that under the lead of the party, China gradually became a powerful nation.
I admit that the country has made advances in the last decade - economically, militarily and on the international stage.
However, is it enough just to become a powerful country? It is sad to see that social conflict and corruption have not been eradicated. People from the grass roots are still exploited by local authorities and officials who sometimes resort to violence.
It does not matter how powerful the nation has become in a global sense, ordinary Chinese citizens live under intense pressure.
The country's strength means little if the people cannot enjoy human rights.
The central government must fight corruption in order to ease social tensions.
Norris Leung, Tsuen Wan
A call to respect other opinions
It saddened me to read about the recent verbal attack on the psychiatrist Dr Hong Kwai-wah for his work in assisting gays and lesbians who want his help.
Is he not entitled to his opinions based on his experiences? I was a lesbian for years and had been since I was a teenager. I did not get help from friends and family but the grace of God helped me.
Those who do not follow the same path as I did are entitled to make their own choices. Some people may not wish to change. Many people have left homosexuality and not all chose to become Christians.
One amazing woman that I know, Charlene Cothran, was actively promoting homosexuality in the US through her publication Venus magazine. She left lesbianism after years of involvement. No one should discriminate against a person for leaving homosexuality or write that it can't be done when there are so many who have chosen to leave.
Shemmie Yong, Sha Tin
Take steps to cool property price rises
Mainland buying has been highlighted as one of the drivers, which, along with low interest rates and restricted supply, are putting upward pressure on home prices in Hong Kong.
Setting restrictions on property purchases by non-residents, as is common in other countries, such as a minimum price threshold of, say, HK$16 million, could be considered by the administration to relieve pressure on the mid-range property market.
On the other hand, the proposal to restrict the purchase of new smaller flats to local residents appears to do nothing to limit sales to non-residents in the secondary market. Neither will the recently introduced mortgage restrictions which, while seriously reducing affordability for local buyers, will hardly affect cash buyers from the mainland.
Buying is not the only option for those actually living and working in Hong Kong, and the administration should also consider boosting the rental market. For example, rental payments up to HK$10,000 a month could be made tax deductible to assist those on lower incomes and mirror the tax benefit already available on mortgages (in effect a lopsided subsidy in favour of home ownership).
Weak tenants' rights and security, which have been identified in Britain as factors discouraging more people from renting, could also be improved by lengthening the standard lease term to two or more years at a fixed rental, with the break clause at the tenant's option only.
Making long-term rentals a viable and secure alternative to home ownership for local residents should also be part of the administration's efforts to damp down this overheated property market.
Paul Gardiner, Happy Valley
Investigate NT villa additions, too
The issue of illegal structures in the New Territories has received much attention in recent weeks.
However, the focus has been on illegal additions to village houses. I have yet to see any reference to the equally illegal additions being performed on non-village houses or 'villas', as I believe they are classified by the Buildings Department.
Take a trip around any of the New Territories developments that are not village house bases to see how these, generally much larger, villas are sprouting additions left, right and centre.
Also, on the same subject, I hope the authorities are also aware that not all modifications are above ground, there is also a not uncommon practice of adding basements to New Territories houses.
Bob Rogers, Sai Kung