Electioneers overlook English vote
It is that time again, for the undemocratic district council elections.
All over town we see party banners written in Chinese, ignoring the 5 per cent of voters who are unable to read the language. There is other more serious discrimination too. A few days ago I was waiting in line for my bus in Tsuen Wan, where a party worker dressed in a New People's Party uniform was handing out information to all the people queueing in front of me, one after another.
When it came to my turn, the party worker just walked past me without eye contact and without attempting to address me. I am what some call Caucasian.
When I turned around and asked what the party stood for, no English was spoken and no information was available in English. I can only assume that, as a non-Chinese-looking person, I was assumed to be unable to speak Chinese and therefore didn't need the party information. But in an international city we are all proud of, is democracy only for Chinese-speaking citizens? Should grass-roots democracy be conducted in this way?
Does the New People's Party and other parties not know that there are two official languages in Hong Kong, and that only 90.8 per cent of the population use Cantonese as a first language?
I see the party has an excellent dual-language website, but how come the bilingual effort does not go further than that in these elections?
B. Ivarsson, Ma Wan
Commission could reduce charity fraud
Bogus charities and perplexing accounting balances of charitable organisations are probably the major inducements for the establishment of a new charity commission by the Hong Kong government.
Although there are those who argue that it could lead to the closure of charities that cannot obtain licences, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
The establishment of a commission could help eliminate fraud. Groups would have to meet tougher rules to qualify as registered charities, reducing the risk of citizens mistakenly giving to bogus charities - people could search for licence details before making a donation.
There is also less chance of misconduct as organisations will have to present clearer budgets showing how the money donated is used.
With citizens feeling better protected, there may be an increase in the sums donated. These organisations could then undertake more charitable works.
Current public trust in charities is fragile.
This commission could also enhance Hong Kong's international status if it was known abroad that tougher regulations were in force.
Many countries in Asia, like Singapore, have strict regulations governing charities. By having a commission, the government is not saying most charities are incompetent, but just that citizens must be protected against fraud.
There are so many charities at the moment in Hong Kong. After the commission is in operation, there may be some that will fail to meet the legal definition of a charity.
But I am sure that the commission will not pick on any particular organisation and it will not be influenced by any coverage in the media.
If everything is normal and above board, the commission is unlikely to change the trustees or directors in any organisation.
Pensi Lam, Tsuen Wan
Card swipe gives gift of convenience
I believe a lot of people have sometimes felt conned when asked to give money to charity.
But this problem will be solved with the new electronic flag-selling programme being launched by Octopus and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service. Under it, a sum of HK$5 will be donated each time a card is swiped ('Octopus expands into worthy causes', September 29).
I think this is a very imaginative way for a charity to organise a flag day. Passers-by will think it is an original idea and so it will attract their attention. This could lead to increased revenue for the charity concerned.
It is a very convenient way of giving and receiving money as people can give simply by swiping their card. It is perfect for a fast-paced city like Hong Kong. It is also better for the people collecting as they do not have to walk around with a heavy bag full of coins.
However, although I largely support it, there are drawbacks. Some people may not pay attention to the charity concerned and think about what they are giving and to whom. They are therefore not paying attention to the meaning of buying flags.
The aim of a flag day is to send a message about the charity and the work it is doing. The Octopus method, to some extent, undermines that aim.
However, overall, I think it is a very creative idea and, more importantly, it will lead to charities receiving more donations.
But people should still not lose sight of the purpose of a flag day and realise that showing concern for a good cause is more important than simply making a donation.
Stella Man Suet-ming, Ho Man Tin
Wall Street protests echo voice of few
Your editorial, 'Wall Street protests deserve support' (October 7), was shocking.
It gets off very poorly with the remark that the police were 'rounding up peaceful demonstrators who wouldn't hurt a fly'. If similar protests blocked the Cross-Harbour Tunnel here, what would we expect the police to do?
The protesters are then urged to 'take back American democracy and restore true capitalism'. It is utterly naive to believe that this lot of ultra-left loons can, or seek to, do anything to 'restore capitalism'.
American democracy is in quite good shape, witnessed by the overwhelming rejection in the national election last year of ever-expanding government, huge debt and massively unsustainable entitlement schemes. The Wall Street protests represent a tiny minority and are a mere ripple on the surface.
William Meacham, Happy Valley
Bring down wall around freedom
I refer to the article, 'House built to imprison blind activist' (October 8). Shandong authorities have built a house where blind activist Chen Guangcheng , who was released from jail a year ago, lives. The purpose-built house is surrounded by a high wall. As a result, Chen and his wife can be kept under closer watch by security agents.
It's not the first time something like this has happened. Last year, Liu Xiaobo's wife was also not allowed to leave her house to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony due to the government's undisclosed reasons. These two cases highlight the problems of human rights in China.
I sincerely hope the central government can learn from history and respect human rights and freedom. No one can deprive others of their freedom without a logical and understandable explanation.
They should know that activists are not threats to society. Sometimes, their radical actions and speeches can help the government realise social problems. It is true that sometimes their methods are violent and can affect social order. But the government should penalise lawbreakers in more peaceful ways that do not violate human rights.
In addition, the punishment should not be extended to the criminal's family unless they were also involved in the case. Why does the government apply such unreasonable treatment to innocent people? Chen's six-year-old daughter should not be penalised because of her father.
I hope the government can restore Chen's freedom as soon as possible or its efforts to improve its world's standing will have been wasted.
One sign of a country's prosperity is its way of treating people and human rights.
Emily Chan Weng-yee, Cheung Sha Wan
A note on charges for opera series
I refer to the letter by Bill Proudfit ('Rent rise bad news for opera fans', October 2).
It contains a misconception which cannot go unremarked, namely, that of a rent increase.
The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts has been subsidising the series of performances at the Wellcome Theatre of our Bethanie campus, live from Metropolitan Opera, The Met: Live in HD series, without charging rental. Collaboration will depend on activities that can be shown to support and align with the values and primacy of student education and serve the interests of stakeholders from a wider community.
Professor Kevin Thompson, HK Academy for Performing Arts