• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 5:55pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 April, 2014, 3:17am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 April, 2014, 3:17am

Time for government to act over closure of kindergarten in Tin Shui Wai


Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.

Can there be a more sickening display of ruthless free-market capitalism and government incompetence than the row over the impending closure of a long-running preschool in Tin Shui Wai?

To be sure, there is plenty of blame to go around.

The clueless management of the private Topkids International Preschool must have known for months that negotiations over lease renewal with the landlord, the listed Fortune Real Estate Investment Trust, were hitting a wall. Yet, its managers made no contingency plans for an alternative temporary site for their students and appeared to be as surprised as anyone that they now face losing the school.

The ruthless and shortsighted executives at Fortune are not kicking the school out because it didn't pay rent. The preschool actually offered to double the current rent of HK$260,000. But Fortune has the gall to say a rival school outbid the preschool by 20 per cent. They seem to have no concept of the cost of reputation damage.

Come on, Justin Chiu Kwok-hung and Justina Chiu Yu, have a heart. The father and daughter are respectively the chairman and deputy chief executive of Fortune. Everyone knows Chiu senior as the right-hand man of tycoon Li Ka-shing, whose Cheung Kong flagship owns 28 per cent of Fortune.

I am sure the Chius never heard of the preschool until the row broke out. But they need to train their executive staff better. Ever heard of such a thing as corporate responsibility? When your group leases premises to a school, your responsibility goes beyond making an extra buck for your shareholders.

Meanwhile, of all the premises in the district, rival kindergarten chain Zenith International Education Foundation deliberately picked Topkids and outbid it. It is now poaching Topkids' students. Is this education or good old capitalist cutthroat competition? Does the school have any morals at all?

Last but not least, the Education Bureau led by the unusually incompetent Eddie Ng Hak-kim just folds its arms, saying it can't do anything because it's a private-sector row. If the Labour Department can mediate between workers and bosses, so can you. Ng, pick up the phone.


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This article is now closed to comments

To Johnyuan,
Yes, I understand that the name on a school diploma is like the label on a jacket or the make of a car for some HK parents. And I don't discount the belief that a "proper school" can open doors. But we're talking about a kindergarten here. I don't really think going to one kindergarten vs another is going to make or break a kid's future. Do you?
Ahh Pierce m'boy. LOL yet again. How does the concept of "all things being equal" have anything to do with anything being discussed here? How does it factor into your idiotic use of the US D of I to "blame" the US on Rwanda, while inadvertently justifying US actions in Iraq and anywhere else in the world in the past, present, and future? Besides, it is a concept usually applied in economics. No idea what you're going on about...which is par for the course, since stupidity is your calling card and you lead with that in absolutely everything you say. The redeeming feature, yet again, is that you're hilarious, and you serve your purpose well. Your dedication to your craft is also to be commended. So please, more attempts to make "arguments" right now! That's a good doggy, m'boy. Bring me back more of that funny stuff lurking between your ears.
I must say, I'm encouraged by your quoting of actual concepts of logic. Now if you only apply them, you might sound less stupid. That would be a sad day for me...so I'd much rather you didn't do that. Now there's a good boy. Ring ring.
if some HK parents think that kindergarten is the key for their kids' future, those parents really should give their heads a shake. Besides, was Topkids one of those top flight kindergartens that was the passport into DBS or DGS?
Ahh Pierce m'boy. It's nice if you abbreviate to at least indicate what those stand for first. You've done that now. Well done m'boy. OK, so according to you, the "U.S" D of I is for the whole world to use to judge them...at the world's discretion. But the "U.S. D of I" cannot be used by the US to justify their own actions? So the American D of I is for everyone in the world to use EXCEPT Americans? I see your argument now, but it is stupid and ridiculous. It bespeaks a complete lack of principles as I said before, and I'm not surprised.
When the US DOESN'T do what you want (Rwanda), it's the US's fault due to their D of I. When the US DOES what you don't want (Iraq), it's the US's fault because...well...because...even if liberty, happiness, and perhaps life (for northern Kurds) was at stake. Well then, you could blame the US for everything with those "principles". But I guess that's what CCP apologists do. It's simply ridiculous, stupid, and illogical beyond words. It takes a true village idiot to come up with an insane "argument" like that...so well done, m'boy. I guess if they don't find MH 370, you will blame the US for forsaking the happiness of families in Beijing.
Well done, m'boy. More please. Ring ring.
Hong Kong has a unique view on education. Parents don’t look at schools as a place for education. School represents an identity with which it can make or break one’s future in life. No matter what, they would all fight to preserve the status quo of that dream for their children. It is most convenient for officials to oblige by keeping their hands off in education despite running a education bureau.
For the last three Education Secretaries, Arthur Li was caught playing an electronic game during a legislator session, Michael Suen was caught saying the less one do the better for the education in Hong Kong. Now we have this Eddie Ng caught saying that the bureau can’t do anything over the demise of a kindergarten because it is a private-matter.
Hong Kong parents in fact has bred all these delinquent education chiefs whose existing are all for window dressing. The higher mission in education is both foreign and unnecessary. The fathers and the mothers all know the best. And a dose of commercialization in education is the entire logic one can hold one’s head up. You don’t find any other places have such a unique view. So sickening for me.
Please don't feed the troll below...
Hmm. Where's the beef here? The landlords aren't prematurely terminating the lease; the lease was ending. They aren't renting out to an entirely different type of enterprise that is more lucrative; they are simply renting to another school that is offering more rent. The new school seems to be offering the previous school's students an opportunity to enrol with the new regime, so students aren't being left in the lurch. We're talking about private for-profit enterprises. So what's the problem?
"But Fortune has the gall to say a rival school outbid the preschool by 20 per cent. They seem to have no concept of the cost of reputation damage." --- huh? Where's the "gall"? If the rival school offered the landlords a 20% premium, that's supposed to reflect badly on the landlords? Where's the logic in that? One school will be replacing another, and reputation issues will suddenly befall the landlords? How's that work?
So the new school is running a private business and tries to grow it...this shows a lack of morals? Again, where's the logic in that mode of thinking?
On one level, this seems much ado about zilch. On another, Mr. Lo's disproportionate vitriol here makes me wonder if he has some skin in the game, and whether there is some conflict of interest that he's forgotten to disclose.
It is true there is certain aspect shared by Hong Kong with New York City when come to fighting into a better school or attending one so that an ivy college can be assured. Even a kindergarten at the 92nd Street Y (Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association) in the early 90s became a frantic place for Jewish parents to fight over a place for their kid.
But there is a drastic difference between the two cities. New York provides many alternatives. Private or public schools of many choices including special schools for the gifted all play a major role in education allowing any New York parents so that their children still could have a chance eventually to attend ivy colleges if one chooses to do so. If it is necessary.

To 321...
No school should but HK does seeing name of a school as a label on a jacket.. This is my criticism of HK's education.
Your reply seems to say that kindergarden is not going to make or break one's future so it is irrelvant to lump it with higher education. Perhaps you really burrow deep like the rest of most HK parents that schools are not for education but more for making a living in the future.
Alex, you are twisting the facts and distorting what happened. The lease was ending, and a new bidder came along with a better offer. Of course, the landlord accepted the higher offer. Unless I'm mistaken we still operate a capitalist system in Hong Kong, with business people seeking to maximize profit (That's another discussion.) Now, if I understand your logic, every business transaction should take account of any sob story the involved parties can throw up. Clearly, an untenable idea. Companies are about making profit within the law and corporate responsibility is irrelevant in this instance.
Just as a humorous aside, let's channel the Pierce m'boy "logic" wrt the worldwide application of the US Declaration of Independence and see what hilarity will ensue.
Let's take China, for starters.
So life. Take the PM 2.5 air quality ratings in Beijing, for example. Yikes. That's a threat to Chinese lives. People are or will be dying prematurely from respiratory illnesses. I guess the Yanks will be marching down TAM soon to clean that air up.
Liberty. Well, no one in China has any. Bunch more Americans will be en route to rectify that problem, which may or may not involve relieving the CCP of their power.
Now let's try some amendments. First amendment...oh oh, persecution of Falun Gong, that's not acceptable. China naming their own "catholic" cardinals? That's not on either. Let's send more Americans. Lack of freedom of speech and freedom of the press...that means more Americans still.
Gosh, I hope Pierce m'boy is counting, cuz that's a lot of Americans coming over to set things straight for Chinese people, and we're just getting started. And we know from prior experience that m'boy's arithmetic skills are not top-shelf, so I hope he has a calculator.
...on second thought...maybe the Pierce m'boy "logic" is not so well-thought out after all. And really, that was the first thought. The lesson here, I think, is that doggy logic is not meant for human use.
Pierce m'boy, you were doing so well, trying to make "arguments", and giving me a jolly good laugh. But now, it's back to the meaningless stanzas. Why the back-sliding? I already told you the self-proclamations are simply pathetic, and being pathetic in and of itself (even when it comes from you) isn't all that funny.
So Pierce m'boy, if you want more doggy treats (and let's not kid ourselves...you're a dog, so of course you want those yummy treats), you should go back to expanding on your most excellent argument about the US D of I. That is great stuff. The part about the US D of I being for the use of other peoples rather than Americans is an excellent bit of creativity on your part. I give you credit for an immense amount of stupidity, and I know that your potential in that realm is unlimited, but I must say even I was surprised by the sheer ridiculousness of that one. And that's what is so great about you. I expect so very little from you, and you still manage to under-deliver. That's comedy gold. So more of that please. Ring ring.




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