PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 September, 2011, 12:00am


Beijing must stand firm on value of yuan

US Vice-President Joe Biden's visit to China has had a far-reaching impact upon our country. He revealed to reporters that his granddaughter has been learning Chinese. Also it was clear from photos taken at a Beijing restaurant that he enjoyed Chinese food and felt at ease using chopsticks. He clearly respects Chinese culture and his government is sincere in its desire to maintain good relations with Beijing.

Mr Biden is a shrewd politician and realises that the downgrading of the US credit rating by Standard & Poor's dealt a blow to the US economy. China is the biggest owner of US debt and Mr Biden sought to convince Beijing that US government bonds will continue to be a safe investment for any country, with no risk of default. Chinese people have wondered why our government continues to purchase these debts given the depreciation of the US dollar.

During his visit, Mr Biden sought to allay the concerns of Chinese citizens. He stressed the importance of having close ties and an economic alliance between the two nations.

China has been one of the few countries to emerge unscathed from the recent financial downturn. It plays a crucial role, along with the United States, in driving the global economy.

If there is a disagreement between the two governments, it is with regard to the renminbi. Washington has been urging China to raise its value. However, a sharp appreciation of the renminbi would cause a big drop in our exports, which would lead to an increase in the country's unemployment rate. This would have negative consequences for China's economy and would have an adverse impact on global economic conditions.

We should not forget the consequences for Japan in the 1990s when it allowed a rapid and large appreciation of its currency and suffered as a consequence.

The US government cannot afford to lose China's support, given the financial difficulties many Americans are experiencing. Therefore, Washington needs to understand that the appreciation of the renminbi must be a gradual process overseen by the central government.

Holden Chow, chairman, Young Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong

Disappointed by inferior MPF scheme

I started working in Hong Kong in 2008 and was surprised by the lack of choices for retirement savings.

I worked in Singapore and Malaysia prior to that and their Central Provident Fund and Employees Provident Fund (EPF) schemes were much better than what is offered in Hong Kong. Both had the flexibility to withdraw funds partially for paying for a first property, education and medical needs.

Most importantly, the capital is preserved on these schemes with more attractive dividends than banks. In Hong Kong, however, the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) contribution requirement of 5 per cent of monthly salary and maximum of HK$1,000 is insignificant for middle-income earners and burdens low-income people. I don't see any benefits to this scheme except for fund managers who are earning a decent income on the annual management fees they charge and are hence guaranteed lifetime jobs at our expense.

My MPF and Occupational Retirement Schemes Ordinance (ORSO) funds are in the red while my EPF savings would have provided me a total return of about 12 per cent since 2008. When I decided to reorganise my ORSO portfolio, I discovered that some funds on the monthly fact sheets do not disclose the switching and other related fees. There is also very little choice for funds with capital preservation. As I reach retirement, I want my funds moved to more stable choices having seen those who retired in 2008 lose up to 30 per cent of the value of their portfolio.

The Hong Kong government relies on property tycoons to ensure housing and fund managers provide retirement planning for their people.

It is obvious which party has benefited from the government's relinquishment of its duties to its people. It is no wonder Hongkongers are taking to the streets to vent their dissatisfaction with the government.

Lil Lau, Pok Fu Lam

Children are left with no choice

In her letter ('Church has done a lot of good things', August 30), Aissa Montecillo said that believing 'in God or belonging to any belief system is also a choice'.

Religion, be it Christianity or Islam, mainly spreads through family. The children of all adults I know who are religious follow their parents' religion.

In other words, the children were not given a choice. They were denied the opportunity to make an objective assessment of what belief system they wanted to opt for. I am not saying if this is good or bad, but it seems unfair.

Tony Yuen, Mid-Levels

Accusations are not unfounded

I refer to the letter by Aissa Montecillo ('Church has done a lot of good things', August 30), in reply to my letter ('Church that cares a lot about money', August 24).

I have read many books about Christianity, the origins of Christianity and the Catholic Church. I was brought up in a Catholic household and educated at a Catholic boys' college. I have first-hand knowledge of the Catholic Church's practices so I am not misinformed and my accusations are not unfounded. I do not follow blindly what an organisation tells me, saying that it is in the name of God.

Making a donation under pressure and feelings of guilt can be described as a voluntary act, but many Catholics feel that it is not purely voluntary.

I made my comments based upon the church's financial dealings. I am sure your correspondent has heard of Archbishop Marcinkus and Roberto Calvi, fairly recent cases of the church's murky financial history. I am fairly certain that Pope Benedict has heard of them. I specifically did not raise ethical and moral questions about the present pope's involvement in the Hitler Youth or his role in protecting child-abusing priests.

I was responding to his comment about ethics in financial dealings. I do read about religions, including the Catholic Church, and my reading tells me that if there is a God, he does not have a very good PR, sales and marketing organisation here on earth.

Michael Jenkins, Central

People in countryside vulnerable

Thanks to technological advances, many people now enjoy a higher standard of living.

However, we still face many environmental problems. On the mainland, some factories continue to release chemical waste unchecked and this can pollute rivers and other water sources on which nearby villagers depend for cooking. It can also affect their source of food if marine life is poisoned.

These pollution problems will get worse unless the central government takes more decisive action.

I urge the authorities to do more to curb the damage that is being done to the environment, especially in the rural areas.

They should not wait until the situation deteriorates even further.

Agnes Tam, Kowloon Bay

We must preserve our rural gems

Those of us living in urban areas have to put up with such things as concrete structures, vehicle exhaust fumes and smells from cooking.

Our problems can be exacerbated through the pressures of work.

Luckily, for Hong Kong residents, there are places we can go to in order to wind down.

Our countryside and outlying islands cover nearly 40 per cent of the SAR's land area.

There are still villages which have escaped new town redevelopment and when you reach them from an urban area, it seems like a world away, thanks to the vegetation and tranquillity.

I do hope that we will continue to protect Hong Kong's natural treasures.

Yuen Ching, Yuen Long

Plea over liquid soap puzzling

Ever since the scare brought on by severe acute respiratory syndrome, the government has been urging citizens to wash their hands.

We are urged to use liquid soap.

When it comes to the proper handling of food items, the Centre for Food Safety specifically instructs us to use liquid soap as opposed to bar/cake soap.

If the government really believes that bar soap is simply not safe enough, why is it allowing its sale?

Or is there actually no difference and the phrase 'liquid soap' is wrongly used?

G. Marques, Lai Chi Kok