Letters to the Editor, South China Morning Post, August 17, 2012
Stop stalling on air quality objectives
As a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Hong Kong has an obligation to formulate and implement policies to provide Hong Kong people with the highest attainable standard of public health.
In 1987, it adopted air quality objectives (AQOs) that at the time reflected international standards but which now have been superseded in most developed economies.
In 2009, the Environmental Protection Department finally conceded that the 1987 AQOs no longer offered sufficient protection for public health.
It recommended new ones but has still not put them into effect. It says legislation is required to allow the old AQOs to continue to apply in environmental impact assessments, while the department tries to achieve the new standards. While we wait for this legislation, Hong Kong is without a clear policy target for reducing air pollution.
The department continues to treat the old AQOs as being in effect, even though they do not protect public health.
It refuses to implement the new AQOs, which it acknowledges better protect public health, while it waits for the Legislative Council to act.
It is the administration's, not Legco's, job to make policy.
No one expects the new AQOs to be achieved overnight.
They would hardly represent the highest attainable standard of public health if they could.
It is the Environmental Protection Department's job to aim to achieve them as soon as reasonably practicable. It needs to stop dithering over when and how to adopt them.
The new AQOs should be used in all current environmental impact assessments so that the department can start formulating and implementing the tough policies that will be required to achieve them.
This is particularly important if it intends to keep saying yes to huge polluting projects like the third runway at Hong Kong airport.
David Renton, Repulse Bay
Taking issue with hedge funds article
The article in Money Post by Hans Schlaikier ("Behind the hedges", August 13) contained important misconceptions about hedge funds.
The main assertion - that hedge funds exist only to deliver absolute returns - is mistaken.
Investors allocate to hedge funds for many reasons, including better risk-adjusted returns than the market (or "alpha"), lower volatility than equities, diversification, lower correlations to the market and downside protection against bear markets.
These are all important to investors, which is why assets globally under management by the hedge fund industry recently hit a new high of more than US$2 trillion.
The article also appeared to suggest that all hedge fund strategies are market-neutral when of course there is a large variety of different strategies pursued by different firms in the industry that seek to achieve different things for their investors.
Finally it appeared to be written from the perspective of retail investors, when of course investing in hedge funds is for qualified investors.
Hong Kong's hedge fund industry provides thousands of local jobs and is an important part of our role as an international asset management centre.
Christophe Lee, chairman, Alternative Investment Management Association Limited Hong Kong
Not enough issues for the voters
I have been a registered voter since the early 1990s and I have voted for the pro-democracy camp in every election.
With the next Legislative Council election in September, I can't help asking myself if I still want to vote for the pan-democrats.
When I look at the issues they focus on, I can only come up with democracy, universal suffrage and human rights in Hong Kong and on the mainland. I really cannot think of anything else.
When he stood in the chief executive election in March, the platform of pan-democrat candidate Albert Ho Chun-yan fell short in such policy areas as economics, welfare and education.
Don't get me wrong, I support their fight for democracy and human rights. But they really need to give me other good reasons to vote for them.
I have always known that an election is about voting for the candidate you hate the least so the one that you hate most won't get elected.
I just hope that the pan-democrats can give me more good reasons to vote for them.
Andrew Lee, Tung Chung
An erosion of 'one country, two systems'
I refer to the letter by Cress Tam Hoi-ka ("Do not delay national education", August 13).
Your correspondent cited "one country, two systems" as justification for implementing the national education subject in our schools.
I think it is a reason for not having this course introduced. Hong Kong is part of China, but has separate rights when it comes to policymaking, including education.
Hong Kong parents joined a march in protest against national education because they see it as an erosion of "one country, two systems".
To learn about a nation, you study its history, culture and language and as regards China that is already done in the current curriculum through Chinese history, Putonghua and liberal studies.
As we have these subjects, there is no need to add a separate national education course.
Also, government-funded teaching material, The China Model, has praised the Communist Party and described it as being progressive.
Praising the party is not the correct way to learn about a nation. The concepts of "party" and "nation" are completely different.
If the course is brought into our schools next month, then many Hong Kong people will see it as further evidence of the collapse of "one country, two systems".
W. Tsang, Ma On Shan
Anger at national education
I feel angry about the implementation of national education in Hong Kong's primary and secondary schools.
There have been many changes in the city since the handover in 1997, and I am sure that citizens have a far better knowledge and greater awareness of the nation than they did 15 years ago.
Most public schools hold flag-raising ceremonies during assembly, while almost all primary pupils are taught to sing the national anthem. Surely, this is evidence that we already have national education?
Even if the government wants to introduce the subject, there is no need to act with such haste. It is because it is being done in such a rash way that thousands of people took to the streets to register their opposition.
Some material that will be made available is clearly biased towards the Communist Party.
I am also concerned about the way the subject will be taught. Hong Kong's public school system has traditionally placed emphasis on rote-learning. If teachers adopt this approach in national education classes, it could have an adverse effect on young people.
There are lots of ways in which we can show our patriotic feelings towards our country. In the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, Hong Kong people exhibited their generosity and love for the motherland.
I hope the central and SAR governments realise that Hongkongers do not feel apathetic about their country. But this course should only be started when all the concerns expressed by citizens have been addressed.
James Au, Lai Chi Kok
Let's have a fund to do good
I understand there is an unspent balance of HK$7 billion, perhaps more, in the Lotteries Fund.
This balance will inevitably continue to grow.
Could we not stop any further contributions to this monster? We could create a parallel fund for culture, sport and heritage similar to the fund in Britain, which is doing such widespread good. It makes donations to projects whose owners are often at their wit's end and don't know where to turn to find a few extra million dollars for projects which would bring so much happiness to these organisations and the people they serve.
The Jockey Club, to which we all turn, cannot be the fairy godmother to all. A free-standing fund with its own citizens' board separate from government and bureaucracy could do a power of good.
David Akers-Jones, Yau Ma Tei