Letters to the Editor, September 14, 2012
Dialogue key over national education
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's decision not to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Russia, which no former chief executive has missed before, shows his priorities are focused on Hong Kong.
Resolving urgent issues such as national education, affordable homes for Hong Kong people, and coping with large flows of mainland tourists require his staying in the city at this time to ensure the right solutions are found and implemented.
On the national education issue, Anna Wu Hung-yuk, chairwoman of the Committee on the Implementation of Moral and National Education, has said that the committee "will be free to recommend any suggestions after thorough discussion" ("Committee will consider all options, chairwoman says", September 6).
Then it was reported that Mr Leung had "scrapped the three-year deadline for implementation and announced schools will be free to choose independently whether to teach the subject" ("Leung's 11th hour U-turn on education", September 9).
He promised "not to push for compulsory lessons while in office"
The Hong Kong Civic Association was established in 1954 as a citizens' political concern group on matters including education.
We wish to urge the National Education Parents' Concern Group, the Scholarism group and the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union to maintain a dialogue with the chief executive and with Ms Wu.
They should discuss and work together to find the way forward for the sake of Hong Kong's primary and secondary school population and their concerned parents.
One of our association's core values is the willingness to engage in dialogue to arrive at solutions to community problems.
This core value has sustained our faith in advocating and pushing for progressive change to enrich the lives of Hong Kong people.
We commend it to these three education concern groups as well as to the student leaders of the citywide university class boycott just held.
Hilton Cheong-Leen, president, Frederick Lynn, chairman, Hong Kong Civic Association
Forum would have made more sense
As an educator, I'm sorry to see that 8,000 tertiary students and teachers decided to boycott classes on Tuesday to demand the scrapping of the national education curriculum.
They did this even after the government had relented and made the subject optional rather than compulsory, and even though it is a question of how the subject is taught and not the subject itself.
The protesters would have made more sense - and done something for education rather than against it - if they had held a forum on how to educate our younger generation to be enlightened, responsible citizens.
I'm reminded of the saying "Education makes a people easy to lead but difficult to drive, easy to govern but impossible to enslave".
The protesters (and many others in Hong Kong) have proved the part ("difficult to drive" and "impossible to enslave"), but when will they learn to be "easy to lead" and "govern", which requires enlightenment, reasonableness, and a sense of objectivity and balance, not just emotions and inflammatory rhetoric?
Tony Hung, Ma On Shan
Why would we all want to think alike?
In his column ("The echo chamber that is public opinion", September 12) Alex Lo approvingly cites Walter Lippmann's quip that, "Where all think alike, no one thinks very much".
And this is precisely the point against national education. Who would wish to live in a community where we all think alike, where critical thinking is discouraged, where young people are told what to think?
Agreed, there's no place for character assassination or threats, and nuanced debate and reflection are always welcomed.
Ultimately, this controversy is about values and ideas.
In this connection, I would not say the fight against national education has been won.
The students did a truly impressive job but ultimately succumbed to exhaustion and arm-twisting. "Turning the decision over to schools" will surely be an effective way for the government to promote compliance through clientelism and other means.
The government now claims the issue is in the past. Time will tell.
In the meantime, please explain why it is "dogmatic" to call a curriculum that whitewashes history brainwashing? It is what it is.
Jonathan D. London, Ngau Chi Wan
A waste of time and resources
The aim of implementing moral and national education was to strengthen students' national identity and nurture patriotism.
However, protesters saw the new subject as a form of brainwashing.
I believe it is not necessary to introduce this course into the school curriculum.
Most Hong Kong schools already have Chinese language, Chinese history, liberal studies and classes which focus on morals and ethics.
Students are already able to learn about the history of China, but also about current affairs in the country. National education just leads to repetition.
Teachers and pupils complain about the heavy workload they face. National education would mean one more subject and would lead to increased pressure.
It is clearly a waste of time and resources.
Cheung Man-wa, Yau Yat Chuen
Local workers don't have expats' perks
I pity Hong Kong's poor expatriates for receiving the "lowest" actual salaries despite having the fourth-highest pay packages in Asia ("Hong Kong's expats suffer as wages squeezed", September 7).
According to a survey, the high cost of education and housing in Hong Kong means they get the "worst deal" in the region.
But what about us ordinary local workers who do not have the benefit of housing, entertainment, transport and housing allowances, and have to rely solely on our overstretched wages to provide for our families?
Should we also now think of "relocating to Singapore?"
Ruel F. Trinidad, Hung Hom
Rationale for movement of staff puzzling
An HR consultancy warns that wages for expatriates in Hong Kong are falling, and actually falling behind wages in other cities such as Singapore ("Hong Kong's expats suffer as wages squeezed", September 7).
It also warns that companies may move expats from Hong Kong to Singapore for that reason.
Expats are mobile of course, that's the nature of the beast.
While I understand them finding a new job and moving to, say, Singapore because of the bad air in Hong Kong, I don't understand the rationale behind companies moving their expats to another city. And why to expensive Singapore, not to the mainland, where the company can save lots of costs on living expenses?
Companies must have their reasons to pay over-the-top packages to incite people to move halfway across the world, and if they need these people in Hong Kong, they will station them in this city and not in Singapore.
These companies will also pay pretty much whatever it takes to get the staff they need to move, and that may include hardship allowances to overcome the bad air.
If it is so easy to move your expat staff from one city to another, then it seems it's not that important where this staff member is, so why not keep such people in their home country at half the cost?
Wouter van Marle, Tai Po
Prospective homebuyers bewildered
The law which stipulates that property developers should use saleable instead of gross floor area of a new flat as the basis for quoting prices and sizes should be extended to cover the secondary market.
There is no set standard for property agencies and this leaves prospective buyers bewildered. Some will use gross floor area while others might opt for saleable area. Some developers do not even state which type of standard they are adopting. As a result, confusion reigns.
Thus, a clear and specific area calculating standard must be defined, regardless of whether it is the new or secondary home market, in order to increase transparency.
The differences between gross floor and saleable area of a flat can be huge, with the actual usable area of a flat being much lower than is stated. This means the rights of consumers are not being protected.
Many people in the secondary market are from the middle class or "sandwich class". If they are quoted the saleable area, they will know exactly what they are getting for their investment and this can avoid arguments.
I would also like to see the law extended to commercial and industrial buildings and even shops in shopping malls.
Jackie Yau, Sha Tin