Teachers are left with no choice
I refer to the letters by Rob Leung ('Teachers still able to do extra work', September 25) and A. Cable ('Long hours common in HK offices', September 25), in reply to my letter ('Teachers face impossible workload', September 18).
I wish to point out that I am not a native English-speaking teacher (NET) and reports regarding teachers' workloads and stress are not compiled by NETs. They have been released in studies conducted by local universities and professional teachers' unions.
It is obvious that your correspondents have not read the reports, but maybe they should write to the institutions that released them and tell them their sad stories.
My main point is that although Hong Kong labour laws require a rest day be given after a period of work this does not seem to apply for teachers.
I read one report that stated the average time that local teachers get to spend at leisure with friends is 90 minutes a week.
It makes one wonder how they maintain these relationships.
The point about NETs tutoring outside schools is rather moot, as many have permanent residency and have the same rights as any resident to do what they like in their free time.
What is objectionable is that teachers don't have a choice. They are forced to sometimes work 13 days without a break.
Where I come from, workers have a choice to work overtime as well as protection if they choose not to. Unfortunately no such choice is available here.
Tamara Kiew, Fanling
Why retail banks chosen for scheme
I refer to the letter from Helen Ma ('HK$6,000 handout policy unfair', September 25).
In designing the platforms for registration and payment under the scheme, the government hopes to meet the public's expectation for early disbursement of payment under the scheme, and for this to be conducted in an orderly and effective manner.
Retail banks are engaged for the scheme because of their customer base and branch network so that eligible persons can register through the existing network/facilities easily.
The 21 participating banks operate more than 1,100 branches in Hong Kong and about 23 million bank accounts. We believe this should have covered the vast majority of eligible persons who register through banks and is an effective use of public money.
This notwithstanding, there are about 200 licensed banks and deposit-taking institutions in Hong Kong, many of which are not active in the retail banking business.
We understand that some eligible persons may have kept an account with them, including Ms Ma's mother.
To cater for their needs, the scheme therefore also accepts registration through Hongkong Post, from which successful registrants can collect their payment cheques.
In case a registrant is physically immobile and unable to collect the cheque in person, he/she may authorise an agent to register and receive payment on his/her behalf through the Scheme $6,000 Secretariat.
In the case of Ms Ma's mother, the Scheme $6,000 Secretariat has already contacted Ms Ma and is prepared to provide assistance to facilitate her registration through the above channels.
Katy Fong, principal assistant secretary (Treasury), Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau
US does not trust bad air statistics
I refer to the report on a 'global air pollution survey' by the World Health Organisation ('Beijing in top 10 - of dirtiest capitals', September 28).
The important thing to note from the article was that 'pollution data for mainland cities are based on the China Statistical Yearbook'.
Unfortunately this data source is not credible.
In an unusual move, the US Embassy in the Chinese capital, despite protests from Beijing, began collecting its own air pollution data for the city.
US embassy pollution figures are typically double the figures provided by official Chinese sources.
David Dunn, Beijing
Saudi Arabia must repeal driving ban
When I read about a woman being tried in a Saudi Arabian court for disobeying the ban on woman drivers, it made me realise how lucky I am to be a woman living in Hong Kong.
No Saudi woman can drive without permission from her 'guardian'.
However, I can enjoy my freedom and my human rights are protected. In this city there is sexual equality in the workplace and all citizens can vote regardless of sex.
However, this was not always the case in China.
Many years ago in Chinese society women were treated much like Saudi women are treated today. They could not go out by themselves and few had the chance of a proper education.
It took a while for things to change, but over a long period of time Chinese women gradually gained their freedom and are now regarded as equal to men.
They are entitled to an education, can shop by themselves, have a right to vote and are free to travel overseas.
Equality of the sexes is now promoted as well as all aspects of feminism, so why is that in the 21st century, Saudi women still do not enjoy these rights.
There has been some progress, as Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has said women can vote in municipal elections in 2015.
If they can vote, why can't they drive?
I believe that Saudi rulers should take note of the changes that have happened elsewhere in the world and recognise that there is a need for change in their country.
I hope the present legislation will be changed and that some day soon I will see a report on television showing Saudi women driving freely on the country's roads.
Timky Tam, Tsuen Wan
Women's fight for equal rights
Your brief history of women's fight to win suffrage rights in China ('Finding a foothold', October 2) omitted several important victories.
In 1921, 1922, and 1923 women were successful in winning equal political rights in several key provinces - they voted in Guangdong, Zhejiang , Hunan and Sichuan and were elected as parliamentarians in these years as well.
The article's comment that the Chinese Communist Party's victory in 1949 'raised hopes that women would be politically empowered at last' also ignores the 1931 tutelage constitution of the Republic of China that guaranteed women equal rights with men and the constitution issued on May 5, 1936 that confirmed sex equality in political rights.
Moreover, from the mid 1930s women activists fought to secure a minimum quota of seats for women politicians - a victory confirmed in the 1947 constitution and continued in Taiwan.
During the entire first half of the 20th century women maintained a vigorous and successful struggle for sex equality in political rights and were active parliamentarians and lobbyists.
They did not sit quietly at their weaving looms waiting for an 'enlightened' government to bestow these democratic rights upon them.
Their persistence and success remind us to sustain the struggle for universal suffrage today in Hong Kong - it won't be granted unless we keep asking for it.
Professor Louise Edwards, co-ordinator, Modern China Studies, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Hong Kong
Cages in zoo a miserable anachronism
There has been a lot of debate about bringing beluga whales to Ocean Park, but what about the plight of the poor orang-utans imprisoned in Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens?
Modern zoos around the world are moving away from caged exhibits. They are trying to create environments modelled after the animals' natural living conditions. But the conditions in the zoological section of our botanical gardens appear stuck in a previous era, with cages trying their best to look just like what they are - cages.
And the way the enclosures are barricaded with tall fences and grilles certainly do not make for easy or pleasant viewing, especially for those most interested ie. children.
It is a dismal, half-hearted zoo, neither serving the interests of the public well or being kind to the animals under its charge. At least in Ocean Park, the animals seem to have happier homes.
Grace Law, Mid-Levels