Swire Group, whose activities span property, aviation, beverages, marine services, and trading and industrial, is a Hong Kong listed conglomerate. It is the parent of Hong Kong carrier, Cathay Pacific Airways, and Dragonair, and Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co (Haeco) is a subsidiary. Swire Pacific and Swire Properties are the main listed arms of the group, which also owns Swire Hotels.
Problem lies with local teachers
I refer to the letter by Rob Leung ('NETs should be replaced by locals', July 17) in reply to my letter ('Disappointed by standard of English', July 10).
I don't think you can blame native English-speaking teachers for the poor standard of English in Hong Kong.
Pupils I have spoken to in local schools say they are mostly taught by local teachers and rarely see the NETs. When they do progress is slow as most pupils can't follow them. They say that the issue is not whether to hire NETs or local teachers, rather it is to improve the standard of local teachers.
In my opinion, even though they understand the local culture better, local teachers perpetuate the poor standards they have learned themselves with regards to pronunciation and grammar, for example, the incorrect use of tenses (such as the past perfect) and the passive voice, and I hear the same mistakes repeated by almost everyone unless they have studied overseas.
Another problem is that most Hongkongers are unwilling to use English in public and avoid it whenever possible. Therefore there is little chance for the pupils to gain a good command of English.
I experienced the same problem growing up in Britain when I learned French from a British teacher. Being top of the class, I thought I spoke good French until I went to France and found that French people spoke quite differently from what I had learned; my vocabulary was too formal and my pronunciation was incorrect.
More practice with native speakers from whatever geographical location is definitely an advantage and the only way to truly learn a foreign language.
Cecilia Li, Tai Po
NETs are making a difference
I refer to Rob Leung's letter ('NETs should be replaced by locals', July 17). As a NET who has worked in Hong Kong for seven years, I take strong exception to his letter as some of the information is untrue.
NETS are certainly not paid like bankers. They are employed by the Education Bureau. It has one pay scale for all teachers. The only financial advantage NETs enjoy is a special allowance which is provided mainly to cover housing costs. This is only reasonable as most NETs have mortgages to maintain in their home countries. With rentals skyrocketing in Hong Kong, the allowance does not cover the present cost of rent and many NETs have had to move to more affordable flats.
I would like to know on what evidence Mr Leung bases his claim that 'the results of their placement (NETs) is negative'. Pupils will generally not speak English to local teachers but when I'm communicating with them they must speak English.
The standard of English in the school I work in has improved markedly in the time I've been there. Teachers practise and improve their English as well since they must also communicate with me in English.
If NETs renew their contract after the initial two years they are paid a retention bonus. I suspect most people cannot imagine what it is like to live in a foreign country away from family and friends. Most schools employ only one NET so we work in isolation: in a language environment we don't understand and in a cultural environment that is alien to us in many ways. Some financial reward for enduring this hardship is appropriate.
Does any rational person really believe that a decline in the standards of English in Hong Kong is due to the presence of NETs? Might the ever-increasing addiction to the internet and the havoc created by sweeping and very speedy changes in educational policy in Hong Kong not be having some effect?
Barry Sadleir, Tuen Mun
Tibetans a peaceful minority
I agree with the Dalai Lama when he says that China should not meddle in the process of his reincarnation and who will be chosen to replace him.
He is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and head of the Tibetan school of Buddhism. The process of the Dalai Lama's succession has been going on for centuries without any government interference and without any problems.
The central government should realise that Tibetans are a peaceful ethnic minority. You do not see them acting like the Taliban who in Pakistan kill fellow Muslims and use human beings as suicide bombers.
Beijing should try to co-operate and develop mutual understanding with the people of Tibet. It should realise that all its ethnic minorities are a part of the nation's heritage and the government should be proud of that.
K. M. Nasir, Mid-Levels
Australia can ban export of greyhounds
I refer to the report ('5,000 back end to dog racing in Macau', July 17). As the largest greyhound protection organisation in the US, GREY2K USA (www.grey2kusa.org) applauds all individuals and animal welfare groups that are speaking out against the cruel existence and the ultimate routine euthanasia perpetrated upon Macau's greyhounds.
The public's increased awareness of the cruelty inherent in greyhound racing is contributing to its decline in other parts of the world. Dogs endure inhumane confinement every day and face the risk of injury and death racing around an oval track to earn income for us. We cannot imagine not caring for dogs if they become injured or as they age.
Yet, the Canidrome greyhounds remain captive in a cruel activity, governed by an antiquated system which does not permit them to be adopted in Macau or exported to Hong Kong and abroad. Instead, the racing industry considers the defenceless greyhounds inconsequential and disposable after their money-earning days are over.
We urge Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to ban the export of greyhounds to Macau. We offer our support to Macau lawmakers as we ask that they begin the process of ending greyhound racing.
I have adopted beloved ex-racing greyhounds since 1997.
Caryn Wood, member, board of directors, GREY2K USA, Gilbert, Arizona, US
Cathay's cocoon seats still here
Last October the South China Morning Post published a report about a change of policy by Cathay Pacific with regard to its cocoon seats ('Cathay axes fixed-shell seats for long-haul').
The company said it would retrofit 40 aircraft. On an economy class flight from Hong Kong to New York on July 1, Cathay advised my family that we would be flying their latest aircraft. However, the torturous cocoon seats remained.
For those who have never had the experience, these seats do not recline and curve your back painfully. If you are taller than 1.68 metres your legs are crammed into the seat in front of you when you move your seat forward.
Cathay told the media that it would remove these seats, yet months later their 'new' planes sport the same uncomfortable seats.
It would appear that the company has no intention to actually redesign its economy class seats but is paying lip service to passengers' complaints.
What is particularly galling to me and a lesson on bad corporate behaviour for my two children is that Cathay used the media to gain positive PR for its false promises to improve its seats.
The promise I will uphold to my children - who were equally dismayed at Cathay's failure to deliver - is that our family will be choosing another airline for our next holiday.
Catherine LaJeunesse, Sai Kung
Doctored ads bad news for teenagers
There are many billboards around Hong Kong advertising slimming products and programmes.
They have adopted a marketing strategy which makes assurances aimed at attracting customers. But I wonder if you can actually believe the claims that are made.
Some companies have admitted that the pictures of models featured in their adverts have been doctored to improve some of their features.
I do not believe slimming centres and firms offering slimming products should adopt such tactics. People are influenced by these images.
Everyone wants to be slim, especially teenagers. Some youngsters may adversely affect their health and natural growth if they become obsessed with slimming. They may also incur huge financial losses when they pay for some of these expensive slimming programmes.
There is nothing wrong with people losing weight, but they must do so in a healthy way and make sure they are eating a good diet and exercising regularly.
Regina Chan Ka-yan, Wong Tai Sin