Some deny post-colonial reality of HK
There have been many responses to my letter ('Expats have done little to benefit city', January 3).
The theme of my letter relates to the competitiveness of Hong Kong but your correspondents focused on the contributions of individuals, which is a different matter. This misunderstanding caused an overreaction and harsh language from some letter writers.
I did not suggest a lack of contribution on the part of foreigners and domestic helpers despite the headline (which I did not write). Every citizen contributes to our society one way or another. Even people living on social welfare can claim they contribute to our economy because they are also spenders.
Hong Kong's competitiveness is measured by its infrastructure, modern airport and container port facilities, communications technologies, good social systems, financial services, industries, tourism, medical services, an efficient police force, good governance and a hard- working population, supplemented by the support of the mainland under the 'one country, two systems' concept.
Foreigners in Hong Kong share the success of Hong Kong's competitiveness.
As Graham Price pointed out ('Foreigners make a big contribution', January 6) many chose to make Hong Kong their permanent home because of job opportunities and a friendly environment that makes it easy for foreigners to settle.
However, some foreigners who lived through Hong Kong's colonial era still fail to acknowledge that this city has returned to Chinese sovereignty. They suggest that local people's views should be expressed only in the Chinese-language media.
I extend a welcome to all foreigners if they share the view that the competitiveness of this city is not solely due to the presence of a small population of expatriates. And I hope your correspondents will no longer feel offended after my clarification.
Sam Wong, Sha Tin
Angered by swim school changes
Following your coverage of the decision by the Discovery Bay Recreation Club to change the service provider of the swim school at the club, I wish to clarify a number of issues.
The club has so far failed to respond positively to residents' requests to meet to discuss this decision, including a proposed meeting with Amy Yung Wing-sheung, the district councillor representing Discovery Bay.
It is unclear why it will not agree to meet to explain the basis for its decision.
The alternative service provider proposed by the club is supposedly intended to improve the service.
This is difficult to understand when the charges for the new provider are between 8 per cent and 48 per cent higher than those of the previous provider, the lessons are shorter, and there are fewer class options for the children than were previously offered. How can this be considered an improvement?
The current swim school, Aqua Gym, teaches more than 400 children.
It has taught swimming to children in Discovery Bay for nearly 20 years and is the biggest service provider at the club. To cancel the Aqua Gym programme and replace it with an inferior offer without consulting those using the existing swim school is unacceptable.
The club must be more open in discussing the reasons and process for changing the swim school service provider.
Colin Ward, Discovery Bay
Tutorial colleges can help students
I refer to the letter by Ho Kam-tong ('Tutorial centres' false promises', January 8).
It seems that Mr Ho does not really understand the whole situation.
He criticised tutorial centres that trumpet themselves as 'leaders of the 3+3+4 system'. Of course there is a profit motive. However, the 3+3+4 system is new to all stakeholders.
Under such circumstances, these tutorial schools offer students an option to acquire additional knowledge outside their schools. I do not think there is any harm in that.
The fact that these tutorial businesses are expanding proves that there is a great demand among students and parents. They see attendance at a tutorial college as being similar to purchasing insurance. Students hope the tutorial centres can help them get better grades in the public exams.
Although reading newspapers, listening to news programmes and practising writing (as Mr Ho suggests) do pave the way to achieving success, students also have to recognise they study under an exam-oriented educational system. Being familiar with the exam format makes it easier for them to tackle the questions in the papers.
Taking mock exams can help. They help prepare students physically and psychologically before the real exam.
Kathy Ng Ka-ying, Chai Wan
Increasing international awareness
I refer to the article by Peter Gordon ('Writers' block' January 4) on the benefits of promoting Chinese fiction overseas and Hong Kong's possible role in helping to develop Chinese 'soft power' in this way.
Readers may be interested to know that the process has already started. Last November, the China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC), a Hong Kong-based think tank, piloted a programme to fund participation in overseas literary events by sending two leading Chinese writers - Xu Xiaobin and the Man Asian Literary Prize winner Su Tong - to help anchor a new Asian literary event at the Asia Society in New York. We were also able to work in a well-attended talk at Harvard University.
In spite of the word 'energy' in our name, CEFC is also strongly committed to promoting Chinese culture and literature.
It believes that increasing international awareness is an excellent and cost-effective way to improve China's global standing, and we have several active programmes in this area. Being based in Hong Kong and entirely independent, we have more flexibility than organisations based across the border.
Our first foray was, we thought, very successful and as we seek to widen the pilot into a more extensive ongoing programme of sponsorship of Chinese fiction and literature in key countries overseas, we urge others to do likewise.
This would certainly lead to a better understanding of China, its people and government.
A better understanding of a major player on the international stage would no doubt lead to a more harmonious world.
Patrick Ho, secretary general, China Energy Fund Committee
Yes, ducks do suffer from force-feeding
In answer to Mischa Moselle's quasi-rhetorical question, yes, ducks and geese are force-fed in order to produce foie gras and yes, it is cruel ('Peta, mixed up in pate, cooks celebrity butcher's goose', January 5).
Foie gras production has been denounced by leading poultry scientists all over the world, including Canada's top poultry expert, Ian Duncan, and Britain's top poultry experts, Donald Broom and Christine Nichol. According to Dr Nichol, foie gras production causes the animals unacceptable suffering. She says it causes 'pain during and as a consequence of the force feeding, feelings of malaise as the body struggles to cope with extreme nutrient imbalance, and distress due to the forceful handling. The most extreme distress is caused by loss of control of the birds' most basic homeostatic regulation mechanism as their hunger control system is over-ridden.'
In fact, the scientific consensus on the cruelty of force-feeding is so strong that foie gras production is banned in more than a dozen countries.
A recent investigation of foie gras farms in France (which export foie gras all over the world), revealed that ducks are confined to cramped, filthy cages barely larger than their bodies. I recommend the video (on www.peta.org.uk) narrated by Sir Roger Moore.
It's hard to imagine that, after watching it, anyone could dispute that these birds are suffering.
Jason Baker, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Asia
Rich-poor gap in society is divisive
Regarding the rich-poor gap in Hong Kong, many critics of the government believe it favours the affluent sections of society and that wealth distribution is unfair.
I think the administration should do more to narrow the wealth gap in the city.
More policies should be adopted that help the disadvantaged to help raise their income levels and improve their living environment. I am particularly concerned about cubicle apartments, which people are forced to rent because there is not enough public housing.
People on low incomes must be given more educational opportunities, as they often find it hard to get work because they are unskilled.
With more retraining they can raise their skill levels and find better jobs. This enables them to raise their standard of living through their own efforts.
If the wealth gap is narrowed then we will see a more harmonious society in Hong Kong.
Derek Ho Wui-hei, Tsuen Wan