Small classes can help bridge gap
Upon reading the report, 'Minorities tested to the limit' (April 2), it became clear to me that it is important for the government to address the needs of ethnic minority students.
It is a shame that Hong Kong, while boasting it is an international financial hub, does so little to formulate policies to help non-Chinese-speaking students.
Competition for international school places is intense, and families which cannot afford the high fees send their children to government schools. Yet, these Chinese beginners take the same lessons with other local students, and get no additional assistance.
It is little wonder they suffer from stress and feel they lag behind their native Chinese-speaking peers in tests and exams.
For ethnic students in secondary schools, the government should employ more resources in assisting small-class learning tailored to them.
The level of difficulty in Diploma of Secondary Education exams, particularly for Chinese and liberal studies, should be adjusted in a way so as not to disadvantage minorities. It is also possible to have two sets of papers, one for Chinese-speaking students and one for ethnic minorities.
If the city wants to retain its cosmopolitan reputation, a better education policy must be devised to nurture a variety of talents.
James Au Kin-pong, Lai Chi Kok
Reclamation option is just not viable
I refer to the letter by Raymond W. M. Wong, deputy director of the Planning Department ('Reclamation is a viable option', March 27).
I note with incredulity that the department is still insisting that the six-pronged approach, including land reclamation outside Victoria Harbour, is still being considered as a viable plan.
In the report ('Harbour 'cheaper route to gain land'', February 20) Robin Lee Kui-biu, deputy head of the Civil Engineering and Development Department's civil engineering office, said the public had 'grave concerns about the impact of reclamation on their living areas and the environment'. Mr Wong writes as if he's not aware of these concerns.
Meanwhile, we all have a new chief executive, Leung Chun-ying.
In the Q & A session published in the South China Morning Post, on February 27, Mr Leung said he did not rule out in the very long term exploring the feasibility of land reclamation outside Victoria Harbour, but his main point was that Hong Kong was not short of land.
He said we lacked 'holistic and long-term planning of land use. At present, only 6.9 per cent of land is used for residential, 0.4 per cent for commercial, 2.3 per cent for industrial, and 6.1 per cent for agricultural purposes. Large areas in the New Territories are underdeveloped.'
Hong Kong needs a vision, not more of the same.
Land reclamation, with its environmental and quality-of-life degradation of existing communities, should be a last resort. The decision to do it should not be based on questionable and the likely exaggerated population growth projections.
For Hong Kong, with its rapidly ageing population, destroying our environment further isn't the answer.
In the unlikely event the women of Hong Kong decide to have many more births than they currently do, by 2047, the SAR will cease to exist and the borders will be gone, creating enough land for all. That is the future.
The concept of additional land reclamation in Hong Kong is dead wrong and should be stopped.
Koos Groot, Pok Fu Lam
Earth Hour message gets garbled
March 31 was a special day for everyone concerned with the environment, as it was the annual Earth Hour, from 8.30pm to 9.30pm.
This global campaign started in 2007 and has enjoyed growing support, but it will only be considered a success when people finally change their habits.
The campaign calls for action to be taken for a short period of time, once a year. It may attract the attention of people, but it is unlikely it will persuade them to change the way they use (and waste) electricity.
WWF, the organisation behind the campaign, needs to persuade people to switch off all non-essential electrical appliances every day, not just once a year.
Many Hongkongers use electricity indiscriminately.
I also think many individuals may have misconceptions about the Earth Hour campaign. They think it is about switching off all lights, but it is only non-essential lights that need to be turned off.
Because of this misunderstanding, people see the idea behind Earth Hour as unsustainable, thinking they could not switch off all lights on a regular basis, even though this is not what is being asked of them.
Because of this misunderstanding, WWF has to work harder at trying to get across the real message behind the campaign.
It should take follow-up action after the end of Earth Hour in an effort to change citizens' habits.
Ng Kwan-wai, Sha Tin
Develop recycling industry
Many citizens now care about the environmental problems that Hong Kong faces.
Given that our landfills are nearing capacity, the government proposes building an incinerator to process the large amount of waste generated every day. But, the project will be expensive and, when rubbish is burned, toxic gases will be released into the atmosphere, even if the latest technology is used.
Neither landfills nor incinerators will solve our environmental problems.
We must enhance the recycling industry.
If this sector is developed and expanded, we will be in a better position as a society to process much of the waste that is being generated daily.
Ensuring optimum use of recycling facilities will necessitate educating the public. People will have to be taught to change their daily lifestyles so they recycle as much of their rubbish as possible.
Lulu Chan Shu-lok, Kwun Tong
Ease up over alfresco dining
I refer to Wendy Li's letter ('Ban on tables and chairs is pointless', March 3).
I agree that the government should be much more accommodating and relaxed about allowing tables and chairs outside places of service entertainment, in all areas.
At one stage, even places like Cheung Chau became a barren waterfront because of a similar ban. However, sense prevailed. On Mui Wo, Lantau, food stalls once flourished along the beach, and the government even advertised this fact in leaflets at one point. But the beach suffered a crackdown and the stalls are gone.
The communal living experiment under the HSBC building, though, can be seen as the 99 per cent gaining a small foothold over the 1 per cent. What was once a dingy, sunless area is now a human camp, with cultural programmes and discussions.
Tony Henderson, chairman, Humanist Association of Hong Kong
When will protesters be moved on?
Would the relevant authority please let us know, through these columns, when the demonstrators supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement will be told to pack up and leave their alarmingly permanent-looking camp, at the HSBC headquarters in Central?
Also, could they show us that the reason they haven't yet been moved on isn't a racially or politically motivated decision, by moving the whole sorry circus a few metres down the road and allowing it to park in front of the Bank of China building for the same amount of time?
Stuart Brookes, Sheung Wan
One-child policy is destructive
The central government adopted the one-child policy to curb overpopulation. However, this policy has created social problems.
It has led to a gender imbalance, with a shortage of girls. Families traditionally prefer boys, so many women have abortions if they were expecting a girl.
Also, the child grows up to be the single breadwinner of a family in a country which, like other societies, has an ageing population. This will put a great financial burden on future generations and welfare services. It is time for Beijing to abandon the policy.
Veronica Leung Sze-kan, Tze Wan Shan