Letters to the Editor, August 14, 2012
Typhoon proved huts vulnerable
I agree with an advocacy group that the government should set up a task force to "address safety issues of squatter huts" ("Group demands action on condition of squatter huts", August 6).
Hong Kong is a modern city and people who live in flats in high-rises can feel safe when we face adverse weather conditions. There are seldom reports of serious damage.
However, this is not the case with the city's squatter huts, as was shown last month during Severe Typhoon Vicente.
These huts are poorly constructed.
The people who put them up do not adhere to strict professional building codes.
As such, they are structurally unsafe and there are hygiene problems because they are unlikely to be connected to drainage systems. Sewage pipes will often just spill out into the nearest nullah.
A task force set up by the government could look at these issues and suggest ways to address them.
At the very least, the huts should be checked by building professionals.
In the longer term, I hope that the chief executive can make good on his pledge to provide more public housing and then the squatter hut communities can be gradually phased out.
W. H. Chan, Kwun Tong
Waste levy will act as incentive
The widening gap between rich and poor in Hong Kong has been a problem for the past 10 years.
Many impoverished families must endure very low standards of living and they may not always have enough money to buy the food they need.
For some, keeping hunger at bay is the top priority.
For this reason, some supermarkets have been criticised for throwing away food which is still edible each day, instead of donating it to groups which could distribute the goods to needy families.
It is inconsiderate of any stores to act in this way. They should instead be co-operating with food banks.
The government could encourage all these firms to fully co-operate with the food banks and other charities by imposing a waste levy.
For example, there could be a charge of HK$20 per kilogram imposed for edible food that is thrown away.
Since some of these companies are discarding large quantities, the monthly bill could prove to be quite steep.
The heavy financial burden could lead to a shift of policy as firms would have to end their inconsiderate habits.
The government could also combine the levy with a kind of incentive plan.
Food banks could make public those stores which had donated food and this would be a form of free advertising for these companies.
For example a sticker with the name of the donor firm could be put on packaged food.
I feel the attitude of some stores, including the large chains, has in the past been unacceptable.
It is up to all of us to work with the government in an effort to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.
Elton Ko, Ma On Shan
Bus driving standards appalling
The Labour and Welfare Bureau recently ran an advert titled, "Your Ticket to Enriching Life" announcing a fare concession scheme to benefit elderly and disabled people. But I want to raise an issue similar to that of S.A. Summers who complains of poor driving standards and illegal parking by Hong Kong's bus operators in Hong Kong ("Penalise bus operators for bad driving," August 3).
I believe that drivers of Citybus, KMB and New World First Bus badly need to be put through driving school.
It's almost a daily occurrence where one finds drivers of big buses who do not bother turning their heads to see if there are people waiting at the stops (Pedder Street is one example), in their rush to speed ahead before green lights turn red.
These men seem to have been trained for car racing, not bus driving.
When passengers, particularly older ones, board the buses, the drivers seem to delight in stepping on their accelerators so unwary riders need to hang on for dear life.
Their sudden stopping and braking procedures are equally infuriating.
A few minibus drivers nowadays seem to observe good manners, but by and large, this city's public transport drivers need lessons in driving and need to learn to be courteous and considerate.
L.M.S. Valerio, Tin Hau
Some native teachers out of touch
The discussion about whether native English-speaking teachers (NETs) are better than their well-trained non-native-speaking counterparts will never go away.
I think they are both equally valuable, and both have their pros and cons.
The discussion seems to focus on teaching conversational English. I am not so sure that native speakers are so much better. Someone who is used to the English spoken on the streets of London may be totally unintelligible to someone who comes from Adelaide, given the differences in accent and land use.
Both are native English speakers, yet they use very different versions of English.
Another argument is that native speakers are more up to date with the development of their language.
Yet many of the NETs who live in Hong Kong have been here for a long time, possibly for decades.
I have lived in the city for about a decade and find already I am lagging behind in my native Dutch, even though I still use it on a daily basis.
As a final remark, I would like to add that the general lack of English conversational skills by most people in Hong Kong does not convince me these NETs actually teach conversational English well.
I am assuming conversational English is what they're teaching, even though the all-important exams in Hong Kong schools mainly demand competence in written English.
Wouter van Marle, Tai Po
Adding to heavy workload
I accept that national education could help young people become more knowledgeable about events on the mainland and enable them to examine the negative and positive aspects.
However, it is clear that many students are not happy about the new subject.
Last month, up to 90,000 people endured high temperatures to join a march against national education. Among the marchers were students, parents and elderly people.
Opponents of national education say that it is already covered in the school curriculum in liberal and in general studies.
They also argue that it will put additional pressure on students and teachers as there will be extra classes. Pupils already have to cope with a lot of subjects and a heavy workload.
The government should take note of the concerns expressed by students and parents.
Choline Lee Wai-ling, Sheung Shui
A healthy debate constructive
I would disregard the article by Lau Nai-keung ("Hong Kong courts disaster with culture of opposition", August 3) were it not for the fact that he is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee.
What normal observer would consider a simple difference of opinion between the government and a large proportion of Hong Kong parents over the introduction of national education in schools as a threat if not to the nation, certainly to the SAR?
His article is full of outrageous threats to Hong Kong.
I can only hope that the powers that be have the opportunity to hear a more fair, balanced and realistic view.
Mr Lau needs to take a deep breath and relax a little; things will be just fine. Disagreements are normal and constructive in any community. Citizens throughout the country express opposing views every day.
Marian Schneps, Wan Chai
Company is finally listening
It was good to read the letter by Carmen Cheung of Cable TV regarding its coverage of the London Olympics ("Cable had to provide commentary", August 10).
I noted the word "apologise". I believe the company has to be better for finally listening to its paying customers.
Ian Marriott, Pok Fu Lam