New subject a blessing for our children
There has been a great deal of discussion about national education as a school subject.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the former Catholic bishop of Hong Kong, has rejected the idea ('Cardinal slams 'brainwashing' in schools plan', September 26), but I take a different point of view.
Introducing national education will give pupils an opportunity to appreciate the motherland. Hongkongers are notorious for not being sufficiently patriotic. You seldom hear pupils singing the national anthem, and they know very little about the structure of the central government. It is time that our children learned about China's unique history and culture.
The United States and Japan have already introduced a system of national education in their schools, and we should follow suit.
I think it is nonsensical to say that teaching this subject is brainwashing and will lead to young people espousing extreme nationalism. Hong Kong is an international city with freedom of speech and a free press.
Unlike in North Korea, schools here can discuss the new subject with the government and reach consensus before it becomes part of the curriculum.
With proper management, and provided there is adequate consultation, it should be seen as a blessing, not a curse, for the next generation.
Grace Luk, Hung Hom
Don't push employees too hard
I refer to the report ('Paid leave key for stressed workers', September 22).
I agree with a survey that shows Hongkongers have different priorities from workers in other parts of the world, because of the pressures they face in their office.
The global survey found that salary is the most important factor in accepting a job, but in Hong Kong paid leave is the main concern. The survey found that in many companies here people work at a feverish pace.
I believe it is important for every firm to take care of its employees. It should foster a sense of belonging among its workers, or it could experience problems.
If bosses put their staff under too much pressure, there could be a lot of resignations. Workers who are pushed too hard will not perform efficiently, and there will be high turnover. New staff are then brought in, but they are inexperienced, and it will take time for them to familiarise themselves with their jobs.
In order to avoid these problems, companies must allow employees sufficient time to rest and relax.
If they are treated fairly, they will be more efficient, and the companies will not suffer from a brain drain.
Jessie Lam Hiu-kwan, Tsuen Wan
Unhealthy living is self-limiting
I wonder if Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, director general of the World Health Organisation, really understands the figures she released about the cost (US$30 trillion) for treating non-communicable diseases ('UN warning of tobacco and fast-food time bomb', September 21).
We have all heard similar arguments from the anti-smoking lobby over the last few years. Governments use this argument of last resort as an excuse for justifying direct action against recalcitrants who will not voluntarily choose a healthier lifestyle.
The day may not be that far off when the government will prescribe our daily menus and proscribe imbibing more than two units of alcohol a day.
While it is true there is a cost of treating unhealthy people who have succumbed to disease at an early age, this needs to be offset against the savings of not having to care for them in their old age and not having to pay a state pension (and in the case of smoking, deduct the tobacco tax that they have paid).
I am not sure that these offsets have ever been made in the figures released.
The reason that state pension schemes, social welfare and health care in the West are in such a parlous state is demographics.
We are on average living longer and therefore consuming, for example, more hospital services and pensions, and there are not enough young people coming into the workforce to support the Ponzi schemes that governments have foisted upon us.
If we stick with financial arguments, then far from forcing people into healthier lifestyles, governments should be issuing us with free cigarettes and super-sized Big Macs from middle age to ensure we do not live past the end of our productive working lives.
So let's forget the financial arguments.
By all means educate people on lifestyle choices, but leave us all free to choose our favourite poison.
Christopher Wood, Discovery Bay
Not enough publicity for No Car Day
I refer to the report ('Wheels come off 'no-car' campaign', September 23).
It is good to see the mainland taking part in No Car Day, given the pollution and severe traffic congestion caused by vehicles.
It has taken the first steps towards environmental conservation, but clearly there is still room for improvement.
For instance, there were not enough adverts promoting the car-free event, so many mainland citizens did not even know that it was happening.
Because of this lack of publicity, it was less effective than it could have been.
Take, for example, an IT analyst mentioned in your report. Zhong Xiaolu was late for work because of traffic jams.
She felt that this problem could have been solved if there had been enough adverts about the No Car Day.
More drivers would have been better prepared and more people would have received the message about the need to reduce exhaust emissions and traffic congestion.
I hope the central government will introduce more of these kinds of campaigns, with the message being put across about protecting the environment, and that in future there will be better planning.
Samantha Li Cheuk-Wing, Kwun Tong
How citizens can help curb air pollution
Hong Kong has been facing two air pollution issues - street-level pollution and regional smog.
The former is caused by pollutants from vehicles and the latter by industrial and power plants in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta region.
Citizens can help reduce pollution levels by choosing public transport instead of using private cars, and switching off lights and electrical appliances when they are not in use.
Drivers should ensure their engines are properly serviced, to reduce emissions, and not keep them idling when vehicles are stationary. Factories should also try to use cleaner technology.
Rosanna Chiu Tsz-yau, To Kwa Wan
Study impact of idling engines first
Throughout Hong Kong, you see stationary vehicles with their engines running. It is particularly bad in densely populated parts of the city where streets are full of private vehicles, with minibuses queued at a minibus terminus.
New research claims that streets full of stationary vehicles with their engines running could be 10 times more polluted than roads full of slow-moving traffic.
However, pollution can be caused by many factors, such as old minibuses, poor street ventilation and emissions from mainland factories.
The government needs to ascertain in a more precise way the contribution to pollution from stationary vehicles before it can evaluate the effectiveness of the law banning idling engines.
Natalie Wong Hoi-yi, To Kwa Wan
Obama was stuck with Bush's mess
Jim Porterfield ('Obama's failed presidency', September 24) states, among other things, that 'Iraq is a success'. Really? Afghanistan, too, I suppose?
Try telling that to the hundreds of thousands of corpses needlessly rotting in their graves amid the continuing saga of grief, misery and hatred engendered by the arrogance and deceit of George W. Bush and Tony Blair.
How can your correspondent ignore the poisoned chalice Bush handed to Barack Obama and the world? An epic financial and fiscal shambles from a healthy surplus eight years before, two vicious, unwinnable wars and generations with deeply diminished prospects.
All this and more can be laid at Bush's door, not Obama's.
Paul Murray, Lantau