Letters to the Editor, September 29, 2012
Performance rating plea for all hospitals
I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal on ways to improve better public monitoring and rating of hospitals in the United States.
I believe we should adopt similar recommendations to those outlined in the article including publication of various performance metrics of hospitals in Hong Kong, whether public or private.
There is an unspoken rule among medical professionals to keep quiet about mistakes and mismanagement by their colleagues to protect the reputation of these people and the health sector. This is done at the expense of public health.
Better disclosure of hospital and surgical performance metrics will lead to enhanced public monitoring and hospital management. As the article says, if restaurants get rated, so should the hospitals.
Many years ago, my father suffered from a gall-bladder illness which was curable. However, he was placed in the hands of inexperienced trainees.
Without immediate family with him to monitor the level of hospital care, he eventually passed away despite initially having a minor ailment.
Not everyone has the time or financial resources for a lawsuit against a hospital.
It is time hospitals and doctors got rated, with performance metrics publicised.
Thomas Chow, Sha Tin
Freedom of speech is so important
I refer to the report ("3 bloggers jailed for posting 'anti-state propaganda'", September 25).
In Hong Kong, citizens enjoy freedom of speech, but this report highlights the fact that not all cities or countries allow citizens that right.
The Vietnamese government claims its citizens enjoy freedom of speech, but it still acted against these three people for "anti-state propaganda" and tried them in a court in Ho Chi Minh City.
I am glad I was born in Hong Kong and enjoy my right to express my views.
It is unfair for governments to stop people from saying what they think. Leaders in nations should be willing to listen to different opinions. If they do that, people will have more faith in them.
Governments should listen to their citizens.
Carmen Cheung Ka-man, Tsuen Wan
Odds are in favour of strong China
Beijing refers to old Ming dynasty maps to support China's claim to ownership of the Diaoyu Islands.
So, could the Italian government also display a map from the days of the Roman Empire and show this to the Germans or the French?
Ownership of these disputed territories is a grey area. It is a bit like kids fighting over a toy. Whoever is stronger keeps the toy and the odds are more in favour of China this time.
W. Yam, North Point
Tumours not associated with arsenic
The dramatic photos of tumour-ridden mice above the report ("High levels of arsenic found in rice products", September 21) are confusing and require clarification.
It is important to note that the risks posed by high levels of arsenic in rice are different from those associated with genetically modified (GM) corn, as are the sources of such dangers and the policies necessary to protect consumers. Arsenic in rice is likely a combined result of naturally occurring arsenic in groundwater as well as excessive pesticide use over time.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, arsenic can remain in soil for more than 45 years.
GM corn came on the market in the late 1990s. It constitutes 86 per cent of corn grown in the US and 32 per cent of corn worldwide as of 2011.
Arsenic poisoning symptoms are well established - headaches, confusion, diarrhoea, vomiting - and do not include tumours.
The symptoms of eating excessive GM foods are not well known and thus have raised many concerns - but it is suspected they may affect immune and reproductive system functioning among others.
The awareness of food safety issues among the Hong Kong public is relatively low and it is important that such reports bring more clarity to readers.
Eric Stryson, Tai Koo Shing
Property sale check proposal long overdue
Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong's proposal for vetting measures to gauge the source of funds used by mainland Chinese to buy Hong Kong property ("'Vet cash source of mainland buyers'", September 24) is so sensible that if Legco rejected it, the reasons for doing so should immediately be made public.
Mr Leung's proposal would placate local sentiment which rightly or wrongly largely links mainland fortunes to unsavoury business practices. And, by reducing one of the supposed sources of the property bubble, it would provide further clarity on what actually is keeping the market so high, which in turn will help to formulate the correct policy response.
If Russians or South Americans were investing in our property market on the same scale as mainland Chinese, I guess such measures would already be in place.
David Konn, Kwai Chung
Simplified characters insult citizens
I have noticed that a growing number of HSBC Premier Centres in Hong Kong have prioritised the use of simplified Chinese over traditional Chinese characters on their signage. For example, I took a photograph of one at Pacific Place, in Admiralty.
This is disgraceful because HSBC has given the city's written language lower priority and, more importantly, accorded the people of Hong Kong lower priority, even though over many years, rain or shine, they have grown up with this bank.
It seems HSBC Hong Kong has let greed, or money coming from the mainland, blur its vision.
Before HSBC's management jumps back with a defensive argument claiming traditional Chinese is still a form of Chinese, I wish to reinforce that I am not trying to point out a linguistic issue, but rather a social-cultural one.
It is, to me, appalling that a company of this magnitude can be so insensitive to local presence.
Are you really "the world's local bank"? I urge you to have a rethink about this.
P. Lebrun, Happy Valley
Columbarium in Pok Fu Lam must be halted
On Tuesday evening, I attended a public briefing session on the plans of the Chinese Christian Churches Union to build a huge, 10-storey (36,000 niche) columbarium in Pok Fu Lam; an environmental catastrophe in a residential area.
The church's attitude was summed up by its spokesman who said that what the church was doing was legal and that the colonial government had given the church the site for the cemetery 100 years ago.
There are two issues I would raise.
First, regarding the "legality" of the colonial gift, it should be recognised that, 100 years ago, Hong Kong was sparsely populated and cemeteries were small-scale affairs.
The government at that time could not have envisaged this monstrosity.
Indeed, a Planning Department representative at Tuesday's meeting said it had advised that it was too large and the church should reconsider the proposal.
Is the Christian church not supposed to stand for more than mere "legality"? What about "doing unto others"? Should it not be supporting people (living and dead) rather than just the interests of its members?
Laws can be changed in Hong Kong and this is a case where urgent legislative intervention is needed.
Michael Fisher, Pok Fu Lam
Missing simpler and safer festival
The Mid-Autumn Festival tomorrow means different things to different people. For some, it is a part of Chinese tradition, a chance to spend time with family, or just an opportunity to escape from the hustle and bustle of life.
With greater commercialism, it has lost some of its original meaning. Everywhere you go you see adverts for mooncakes made from all sorts of ingredients, including ice cream.
People buy them for friends and family and exchange them as gifts.
However, most mooncakes have a lot of calories and with people now being more health-conscious, they are often discarded and this leads to the generation of a lot of waste. People should consider this when they are purchasing boxes of mooncakes that may just be thrown away.
I am also concerned about the habit of wax boiling during the festival.
Driven by curiosity, some youngsters do this and you read reports every year of accidents where some sustain burns. This happens, despite government warnings in the run-up to the festival.
I wish the festival could return to its simple origins and then people would enjoy it a lot more.
Donald Lam, Pok Fu Lam