National education in Hong Kong

Letters to the Editor, September 19, 2012

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2012, 2:28am

Idling engine law proving ineffective

Hong Kong's idling engine legislation is perplexing as it is copied (according to an Environmental Protection Department official I spoke to) from the traffic and boat idling ordinance of Toronto, Canada.

It is bewildering because, in 2011, Toronto was officially ranked No 1 city in the world in quality of living and clean air, and Hong Kong was voted one of the most polluted.

It is inexplicable that Hong Kong copies an environmental programme from a city that bears no resemblance to the problems the SAR suffers from.

Interestingly, the three minutes of permitted idling per 60 minutes was reduced in Toronto to just one minute and enforced regardless of the weather.

Hong Kong continues with its three minutes per hour and should the hot weather signal be in effect, then idling for as long as you like is perfectly legal.

So on days when pollutants should be reduced, our Environmental Protection Department allows empty coaches to idle and trucks to bellow noxious fumes into the air so a driver can sleep in his airconditioned cabin.

It is a travesty of a law designed to appease the very people guilty of polluting our air; our government continues to treat the health of Hong Kong citizens as unimportant and this is simply not good enough.

Mark Peaker, The Peak


Roadside pollution is getting worse

I refer to the letter by Edward Rossiter ("Government failing to curb pollution", September 11).

Air pollution is getting worse and it poses a serious threat to our health.

Current government policies have been shown to be inadequate and ineffective. I am concerned that there has been an increase in the number of private cars but nothing has been done to curb deteriorating roadside pollution.

For those working in Kwun Tong, walking along the pavement for just 10 minutes is absolute torture as the traffic flow is heavy, especially in the rush hour.

Conditions are made worse by urban renewal projects. There are construction sites in operation day and night with dumper trucks coming in and out; the health of Kwun Tong residents is in jeopardy.

The air pollution index does not come up to international standards.

Why is a world city still using an outdated index, especially when it is supposed to be an important yardstick and is relevant to the health of Hong Kong citizens?

We have to face the fact that pollution is really getting out of control. It is high time the government considered curbing roadside pollution. Yet, the effectiveness of banning idling engines is in doubt.

It is not uncommon to find minibuses or taxis still with their engines running while they are waiting for passengers.

For the sake of the health of Kwun Tong residents, the government should do more to tackle the pollution they face at pavement level, like putting more resources into roadside greening and subsiding minibuses to use environmentally friendly engines.

Leung Kit-yan, Diamond Hill


New subject should be withdrawn

There has been a heated debate among different stakeholders about national education.

As a secondary student, I am strongly opposed to the implementation of national education and share the fears of those who talk about possible brainwashing.

Some people argue it would be difficult to influence school students so easily in moral and national education classes as young people have the capacity to think critically about issues and form their own judgments.

It is important to emphasise that even senior students' critical thinking faculties are not fully developed. And what about children at primary level?

You should not force someone to become a patriot. It is an emotion that is heartfelt.

I appreciate that there is much for people to be proud of when it comes to China, such as its long history and sporting achievements in the Olympics. But we also need to be able to look at other aspects, for example, the Tiananmen Square incident and the arrest of Liu Xiaobo .

Even though the government has moderated its stance regarding right of implementation, I believe we should continue opposing national education until it is withdrawn altogether.

Kiki Ho, Choi Wan


Citizens have shown their soul is intact

The recent activism of students, teachers, parents and other concerned citizens against the introduction of national education demonstrates that a strong sense of moral integrity already exists in Hong Kong.

However awkward and immature some of the political debate might be on occasion, there is no denying that through their willingness to sacrifice their time, resources and energy in support of their basic rights to freedom of conscience and liberal education, citizens have shown that their soul is intact.

We should be proud of them, but be mindful that the mainland authorities are not used to compromise and indeed hold such rights in contempt. So, as other commentators have warned, we can expect them to continue to manipulate and conspire to achieve their aims.

Hong Kong children's knowledge and respect for China should be cultivated in a spirit of open inquiry, and through the attraction of engaging in intellectual and aesthetic pursuits which celebrate the fantastic achievements of one of the greatest civilisations the world has ever seen.

This is how love and loyalty is built, not through fear and control.

Hong Kong has the potential to nurture this capacity in its citizens and in so doing seed not only its future as a free society, but also help shape the future of China as a whole and help move it forward from its totalitarian past.

The political dogma of "one country, two systems" was once an important bridge for a backward and isolated China, but today it seems increasingly facile and redundant and does not reflect the realities or complexity of the modern world.

As part of civic education, there will always be a place for an intelligent and sane patriotism, but those who call Hong Kong home know that, today, "the earth is one country, many systems" and that this is the world they must prepare their children to live in.

Their collective survival, peace and prosperity depend upon adopting a broader vision.

Gordon J. Kerr, Macau


No justification for such high oil prices

The unreasonably high price of oil is one of the major problems facing our economy.

The oil companies are quick to raise the price, but very reluctant to lower it despite substantial reductions in crude oil prices globally.

The government of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying must do something to take away the financial pain people are feeling.

We have high hopes for his leadership, unlike the disappointing previous chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who did nothing to relieve economic recession.

Joseph Lee, Pok Fu Lam