Letters to the Editor, September 13, 2012
Good hygiene should be daily priority in city
The authorities in the capital are undertaking a massive clean-up drive ("at Tiananmen Square and its surroundings") ahead of the upcoming National Day celebrations ("Beijing launches clean-up campaign", September 8).
This is something that seems to happen every year, but it should not just be seen as an annual event.
The city's level of hygiene should be maintained at the highest standard all the year round. Otherwise, the grimy state of the city will continue to leave a poor impression with tourists and persuade some of them to stay away.
China has become a rich and powerful nation. It has made great and rapid advances in economic and technological development, but problems with public hygiene remain unresolved.
It seems as if the leaders' priority is to shine on the international stage.
However, many social problems within the nation have emerged and the government tries to ignore them or cover them up. They hinder the further development of the country.
I have made one trip to Beijing. I noticed that many of the buildings were modern, with impressive architecture, but if you looked down on the pavement and you would see rubbish and spittle.
This is not what I expect to see in such a powerful nation and a modern city.
The Beijing authorities launch these clean-up drives when a big event is approaching, but keeping the city clean should be an ongoing effort, a task that is undertaken on a daily basis.
Given what China has achieved in global terms, it surely must have the resources to improve this situation.
Developing new technology is one thing, but a nation will be judged in how it deals with its social problems.
I think the key to solving these hygiene problems is public education.
If the message gets through to citizens from an early age that they must not spit or drop litter on the streets, they are more likely as adults to act responsibly. I hope that when I return to Beijing I will see clean, litter-free streets.
Cress Tam, Tsuen Wan
Blasé attitude to national education
For an educator, Kelly Yang takes quite a bizarre and confused stance on national education ("A love-hate affair", September 11).
Falling back on moral relativism, her reasoning is that she was brainwashed in the US at school to pledge allegiance (something that Europeans do find rather off-putting) and about the heroics of Christopher Columbus. Also, she says religious schools brainwash about Jesus. She claims that this approach did nothing to impair her ability to think critically. If we just trust schools, teachers and parents everything will be OK, she claims.
Ms Yang ignores some critical factors. Firstly, her education was presumably conducted following the Enlightenment tradition encouraging inquiry, questioning and intellectual exchange.
Secondly, it was conducted in a culture that enshrines academic freedom of thought that enabled her to discover the atrocities connected with the conquistadors. Thirdly, she grew up in an environment that values freedom of speech and the press. She was fortunate enough to be educated in a context which allowed her to make up her own mind.
It is a strange thing for an educator to propose that the content of what is taught is not all that important because people will make their own minds up anyway. Ms Yang's attitude of "Don't worry, be happy" will not foster the sense of urgency and need for constant vigilance in our young people that is necessary to push back the slow erosion of academic freedom that is so pernicious.
Thankfully, the young people who gathered at Tamar and forced the government into a U-turn on national education understand this and are not so blasé about their freedoms.
Chris White, Sai Ying Pun
Is obvious solution threat to the party?
Given the government's backtracking in the face of strong opposition to the moral and national education initiative, is it not time that we did like most of the world and required students to study the country's history?
I understand that this might not provide a quick fix for those hoping to instil a greater sense of patriotism in young people.
It could, however, help them to better understand China and its place in the world.
Indeed, by studying historical events and learning how to interpret them critically, young people might acquire a far more profound sense of patriotism.
But perhaps such an obvious solution would pose too great a risk for the Communist Party.
Brian Thompson, Clear Water Bay
Difficult to brainwash HK students
Students can benefit from a national education course.
China has become one of the world's most powerful countries and is progressing on the political and economic fronts.
It will offer today's teenagers new opportunities to develop their careers.
Many of them, when they are ready to join the workforce, may choose to go to the mainland. National education can help prepare them for this.
Many foreign people study Chinese culture and Putonghua so they can take jobs on the mainland.
Young Hongkongers should be just as knowledgeable in these areas. If they cannot compete with such people they will lose out on any career opportunities that may exist on the mainland.
It is difficult to brainwash Hong Kong students since they live and learn in what is a very open city. I therefore do not think any effort to influence them in that way through national education would be successful.
Also, as many of them speak Putonghua and cross the border on visits, they are able to speak to mainlanders and this enriches their knowledge of the country.
However, I would still be opposed to teaching material that was biased and that tried to exaggerate the achievements of the country without looking at its weaknesses.
The government has already pledged that schools will be free to choose and prepare their own teaching material and I think this can counter any fears of bias.
We should always welcome the opportunity to acquire more knowledge.
By learning more about China in national education classes, students can develop their critical thinking faculties.
Fang Meng-fan, Yau Yat Chuen
New tactile tiles will be provided
I refer to the letter by Allan Dyer ("Facility for blind people destroyed", August 29).
The yellow tactile paving stones at the top and the bottom of the staircases and ramps of the footbridge across Aberdeen Praya Road near Ocean Court were installed in August, 2011.
The footbridge was handed over to the Civil Engineering and Development Department in September of that year for renovation to enhance the tourism appeal of the Aberdeen area.
The ceiling, railings and paving of the footbridge are now being renovated. The department's contractor started the repaving works in July and has provided temporary tactile tiles as an interim measure to minimise inconvenience to blind people. Upon completion of the repaving works next month, new tactile tiles will be provided.
We will closely monitor the progress of the works to ensure that they are completed as soon as possible. We have contacted Mr Dyer and explained the case to him. We also thanked him for his interest and advice on improving the sequence of works and communication among the concerned parties.
Robert Tsoi, senior engineer/media communications, Civil Engineering and Development Department
Action needed on subdivided apartments
Many Hong Kong citizens have expressed concern about subdivided flats in the city. Their existence highlights the problem of poverty.
Underprivileged groups of people often have no choice but to live in these subdivided units. They may, for example, be new migrants or single individuals who cannot afford to pay the skyrocketing rents to get a flat and do not qualify for public housing. Proprietors split up their building to create the subdivided flats at an affordable rent and information on available places can be spread through word of mouth.
However, in creating these units, they ignore fire safety and other regulations and may demolish walls that cause structural problems in a building.
The Hong Kong government should establish an ad hoc committee to estimate the number of subdivided units that exist. If there are structural problems, the government should ensure the units are demolished.
It should also provide higher housing allowances to underprivileged groups to make it easier for them to get public housing. It also needs to construct more public housing units.
Officials must raise levels of awareness so that citizens have a better understanding of the safety issues relating to subdivided units.
Wong Lai-ting, Tseung Kwan O