PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 April, 2012, 12:00am


Deng sought co-operation over islands

The gist of Philip Bowring's erudite article ('Island mentality ignores history', April 22) is the 'fact that China has a long record of written history does not invalidate other nations' history as illustrated by artefacts, language and genetic affinities, the evidence of trade and travel'.

China's position is merely that it has as valid a claim to the disputed island groups in the South China Sea as anybody else, as is borne out by written records. Indeed, in an article in the South China Morning Post in 2010 ('High stakes'), Jerome A. Cohen and Jon M Van Dyke, postulated as much.

Indeed, the late Deng Xiaoping showed China's objective recognition, in regard to the Diaoyu/Senkakus dispute, as well as the South China Sea disputes, that neither side's evidence overwhelmingly invalidates the other's. A very reasonable offer was made to Japan to set aside difference and jointly develop the islands.

It is evident that one has got to start from somewhere in history, preferably dated written records. Otherwise, the 1898/1900 treaties signed between Spain and the US that Mr Bowring referred to would equally not be worth the paper they are written on.

It is thus worth noting from the Cohen/Van Dyke article that it was in fact Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government in 1947, not the subsequent communist administration, that published the nine (originally 11) dashed lines encompassing the three South China Sea island groups.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan

Tourists would love water taxis

I think a water taxi service in Victoria Harbour would be a boost for the tourism sector.

You can compare local ferry services with buses on our roads.

Most commuters will stick to the bus services, while others opt for taxis. Similarly, most Hongkongers who use established ferry services to get to work would continue to do so. Many tourists, unfamiliar with the ferries' timetables, might opt for the water taxis, which would probably be more convenient for them.

Also, after the ferries have stopped sailing for the night, the water taxis would presumably continue to operate and this would be helpful to people who have to work late. I do not think they would pose a threat to Victoria Harbour's established ferry routes.

Sean Choi, Ma On Shan

Forgotten maritime tragedy

This month the sinking of the Titanic has received major coverage in the media and entertainment industry.

Newspapers, television and radio have covered the tragedy exhaustively. Thanks to block-buster movies, all the world knows the story; or at least Hollywood's version of it. But very few know about the greatest maritime disaster in history; the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Around 1,500 died on the Titanic. However, nearly 10,000, about 4,000 of them children, died on the Gustloff. On January 30, 1945, the Gustloff was part of the largest evacuation of civilian and military personnel in history.

She sailed from the German port of Gotenhafen, taking refugees from the vengeful armies of the Soviet Union, which were closing in on the shattered remnants of the German army.

The Soviets were merciless, just as the Germans had been when they invaded Russia in 1941.

The terrified refugees aboard the evacuation ships knew they could expect no mercy from the Soviets. The Gustloff was built for 1,850 people but every available space was crammed with panic-stricken people when it sailed into the Baltic Sea.

Many had scrambled aboard at the last moment, so there are no exact records of names or numbers. The ship was a legitimate military target. A Soviet submarine spotted it and sank it with torpedoes.

The sea was stormy and the temperature below freezing. Only some 996 people were saved. By one estimate, the final death toll was 9,600. There are many possible reasons why the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff is not commemorated, but I think it should be.

John Jones, Lantau

Unimpressed by choice for French

The French people have such a rotten deal. The have to vote for Nicolas Sarkozy or Francois Hollande as president in next Sunday's run-off election. Sarkozy has failed to deliver and make good on his campaign promises since he took office in 2007.

Hollande, in his effort to replace the incumbent, has taken some extreme political positions.

Whatever the result, when you look at the candidates it is clear we will see a divided France.

With these candidates and with France's unprecedented public debt, [almost] 90 per cent of gross domestic product, and an unemployment rate of 9.6 per cent, how can the country help solve the euro crisis?

Hollande has said that if he wins, he would implement a 75 per cent income tax rate on people who earn more than Euro1 million (HK$10.2 million) annually. Taxing the high-income individuals who create jobs and boost consumption will lead to an exodus of these people and be extremely risky for the country's economy.

Samantha Datwani, Pok Fu Lam

Tax break will help couples

The introduction of a child-friendly policy and tax exemption to encourage Hongkongers to start a family would be beneficial for our society. It could help reduce the problem that we face of an ageing population. Also it would be an important boost to many couples, as a tax exemption can reduce the financial pressure they face.

Hopefully it can encourage more couples to start a family and in some cases to have a son to carry on the family name, which is an important tradition in Hong Kong.

Charmaine Cheng Lap-kwan Tai Wai

Mediator role can defuse tension

The head of the Independent Police Complaints Council says there is a need for it to get involved in helping officers and protesters communicate during demonstrations ('Watchdog wants a say on protests', April 23).

I strongly agree with the view expressed by the council's chairman, Jat Sew-tong. Playing such a role can keep a difficult situation under control and helps protesters to get their views across.

This can help to cool emotions when sometimes they are running high. If protesters get angry because of what is happening, then a situation can get out of control. For example, they are planning a march and may be unhappy with the route that is allowed by police. In such cases, the council can act as a middleman and resolve any problems.

Sometimes when activists communicate with officers directly at the location of a demonstrations things can get out of hand and it is difficult to strike the right balance.

Again, the council can prevent this kind of problem through having a mediation role.

Tensions are all too common in Hong Kong given the prevailing social problems, such as the wealth gap and drug abuse.

This means there are great differences in society and we can see this reflected on the front line of demonstrations when police face activists.

If it is to perform this important mediation role, the Independent Police Complaints Council should be given sufficient resources.

Cyrus Li, Sha Tin

Leung must listen to all parties

Leung Chun-ying won the chief executive election last month with a low vote. His popularity has also been dented by questions about political affiliations.

If he wants to win over more citizens then he must make good his pledge to improve people's living standards. Disappointment with the government has grown as property prices have continued to rise.

Mr Leung will have to address this issue and other problems connected with our standard of living. The first two chief executives enjoyed wide support when they began their terms of office, but Mr Leung will not have this honeymoon period.

He will therefore have to ensure that he listens to all parties and that he gets across the policies he plans to implement to the public.

If he fails to tackle important social issues, including welfare, then he faces a very difficult future in the top job.

Christy Cheung Yan-tung Tsuen Wan