PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 August, 2011, 12:00am


Law interns get valuable training

I read with indignation the article ('Law firms find minimum wage loophole', August 8).

The article adopted a biased approach. It wrongly and unfairly depicted law firms as a miserly bunch taking pains to find ways to pay lower wages to their interns.

An internship with a law firm or legal department of a corporation is a very valuable opportunity for a law student to gain exposure to a real-life legal practice. It helps put in context what the student learns at school and makes the learning process much more interesting and relevant.

The benefits from the close integration of institutional learning and practical training are generally accepted by stakeholders in legal education and training.

In fact, proposals have been made to amend the legislation to allow an alternative training model known as the Integrated Training Programme (ITP).

The ITP will be offered as a sandwich course in which a trainee solicitor can complete the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws course and the two years of practical training in a law firm in a specified sequence.

Before the ITP takes effect, internships during holidays give law students an opportunity to integrate their academic knowledge with practical exposure.

An internship carries an educational and training element that distinguishes it from an ordinary employer-employee relationship.

The policy intention of the Minimum Wage Ordinance is very clear. It is intended to cover employer-employee relationships, not internships. Hence, there are express provisions in the ordinance to exempt student interns and work-experience students.

Junius Ho, president, Law Society of Hong Kong

Bad habit to seek ruling from Beijing

The Hong Kong government's invitation to Beijing in 1999 to supply an interpretation of the Basic Law on residency met with minimal opposition.

This is probably because the public was worried the court decision in question would inevitably open the floodgate to mainland immigrants.

The interpretation from the National People's Congress (NPC) was intended to be a quick fix, according to its proponents.

It's been more than 10 years since then, and, today, we can tell it was speedy, but we aren't so sure if it fixed much that needed fixing.

One side effect has begun to surface: local mothers-to-be are running out of maternity places as their mainland counterparts try to ensure their babies will be permanent residents in the city.

The controversies surrounding residency seem never-ending, and so is the desire for more interpretations. Now there are calls for another NPC interpretation regarding an abode issue.

It appears that the 1999 interpretation was more of a fix to an addict than a cure.

So that these controversies can be put to rest, the Basic Law should be amended once and for all.

The supporters of interpretation may feel amending the law may set a bad precedent. Such a concern is unfounded; there are sufficient safeguards against amending at whim.

But a worse precedent is set when rights are denied and provisions changed in substance under the camouflage of interpretation. An interpretation doesn't require the consent of two-thirds of legislators as an amendment does.

If interpretation means bending the rules for the administration's convenience, the rights promised in the law can go when they stand in the way of the government.

All these promises would exist in name only - this would be something Hong Kong people should worry about.

Leung Ka-kit, Yau Tsim Mong

Museum coming to Central

I can't comment on the suitability or otherwise of redeveloping the Central Market as a museum ('Turn Central Market into a merchant marine museum to celebrate heritage', August 6), but I can say that Hong Kong should look forward to the relocation of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum from Stanley to Pier 8, Central, in early 2013.

This exciting development, which will give residents and tourists alike a truly world-class experience, is the result of a partnership between the Hong Kong shipping industry and the government.

The museum opened to the public at Murray House in Stanley in 2005 and has attracted more than 30,000 visitors per year ever since.

The move to Central will allow four to five times that number of visitors to experience 15 new galleries on all aspects of Hong Kong and southern China's maritime past, present and future.

K.N.Wai is correct in identifying the region's merchant marine history as a key element in Hong Kong's development, and the museum is vigorously collecting artefacts to illustrate this story. Equally important, we are working to educate the public regarding the current contribution of the shipping industry to the prosperity of the Pearl River Delta.

Richard Wesley, director, Hong Kong Maritime Museum

Guidelines on saleable area in place

I refer to the letter by Jason Sylvester ('Apartment size rip-off unacceptable', August 14).

While we can sympathise with Mr Sylvester that the flat he leased may not be up to what he thought he had negotiated, the situation he describes does not in any way fall within the purview of the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong (Reda) or its members, so we are not in a position to answer his question.

Reda and its members operate under a clear set of guidelines in respect of the calculation of gross floor area and saleable area in the sale of residential properties.

These are published on the association's website. They can be found in the 'Viewpoint' section of www.reda.hk under the 'Guidelines' heading: 'Revised Template for Presentation of Floor Area and Price in the Price List'.

I hope this clarifies Reda's responsibilities in this regard.

Louis Loong, secretary general, Real Estate Developers Association

All doctors should sit same exam

For me as a member of the public, it is really distressing to read that the various authorities of the medical profession in Hong Kong remain divided over an antiquated, inequitable and discriminatory licensing requirement for overseas versus local doctors ('Foreign doctors' test 'too tough'', August 8).

This issue is the stumbling block for recruiting and attracting additional resources to meet the needs of patient care in the city.

I would like to voice my full support for the stand Dr Cheung Hon-ming, head of the Medical Council's licentiate committee, is taking against the unfair licensing examination requirement for overseas doctors wanting to practise in Hong Kong.

Dr Cheung hit the nail on the head when he said there should be one licensing examination for both overseas and local medical professionals.

The examination subcommittee of the Medical Council sees fit to have two sets of exam papers for licensing doctors. The more difficult one is reserved for overseas doctors on the grand pretext that we do not want to undermine the quality of patient care in Hong Kong.

Nobody has yet been able to explain convincingly why this discriminatory examination approach is still necessary.

P. Chan, Tai Hang

Ground for new subject is infertile

Moral and national education is not a problem per se. Admittedly, our students generally lack awareness of societal and familial issues, and many have trouble embracing their national identity. Moral and national education, if implemented appropriately, can fill these gaps.

Let's assume that our government genuinely wants to educate - not brainwash - our kids. Even then, good intentions are not enough. Such a complex and sensitive subject requires a conducive, open-minded environment to be effective. Hong Kong schools obviously do not have these qualities.

Our education system is infamous for its bias towards regurgitation rather than open discussion. As long as this new subject is examinable, the purpose of teaching it will be defeated. Students are likely to end up memorising textbooks and going to commercial tutors for exam tips.

Against this backdrop, well-intentioned moral and national education courses could easily become indoctrination. What our students need is an education system that rewards inquisitiveness, creativity and a variety of talent.

Lily Lo, Tsuen Wan