Letters to the Editor, October 2, 2012
No unfettered free speech in practice
Andrew Nunn is wrong about Hong Kong's relationship with the mainland and the significance of free speech ("Protesters still proud to be Chinese", September 27).
Every country or community has its own laws and norms to regulate free speech. One people's freedom may be another people's poison. That's why, although the nude photos of the Duchess of Cambridge are all over the world, British media have imposed self-censorship and abstained from their much-hyped habit of making a fetish of freedom of expression.
There is no heaven of unfettered free speech anywhere on earth. A speech is not a soliloquy. Free speech is never an end in itself, but a means to enrich communal life and promote social development.
Having lived and worked in various Western "democracies" for many years, I can well appreciate that national education should help our politically disoriented youngsters overcome the self-denigrating national identity instigated in the colonial era and develop a proper sense of national dignity based on an objective recognition of modern China's contributions to global development in the past 30 years.
Protesters against national education are like tone-deaf music aficionados who try to stop the music in a concert because they, despite their inability to play and read music, think they have a better interpretation. They should simply leave instead of disturbing musicians and audience from enjoying the programme.
Cynthia Sze, Quarry Bay
Trip shows how badly we need clean air
I recently returned to Hong Kong from a fabulous 10 days in New York - clear blue skies, clean air, low levels of roadside pollution.
New York is a walking city. People choose to walk to work and to shop. Why? Because the air is clean and the pavements are in good condition.
What have I returned to? Choking levels of pollution. My eyes are sore; my throat is dry; my sinuses are playing up and I have a constant headache. I have never felt so awful. You cannot walk to work in Hong Kong because the pollution is dire and the pavements are in terrible condition.
What does it take for our government to wake up and realise that it is not doing enough to clean the air and that these high levels of pollution are killing us? Please, clean up our environment, and make Hong Kong a liveable city again.
Anita Gidumal, Repulse Bay
Minimum wage raise is fair, humane
I agree with the group set up to review the minimum wage that the hourly rate should be increased from HK$28 to HK$30. Although employers really do have a point when they argue that the 7.1 per cent hike will lead to price rises for food and higher building management fees, I think that the advantages of increasing the minimum wage outweigh the disadvantages of doing so.
To begin with, inflation in Hong Kong is getting more serious. The lower-income group can barely scrape by with the little bit of money they obtain from their salaries. They have to be so cautious about how they spend their money, they either have to buy discounted food or buy less.
Something must be done to lift the weight off their shoulders. Increasing the minimum wage to HK$30 is thus a possible means to provide them a better quality of life.
As for the argument that raising the minimum wage will lead to a surge in food prices since it will increase the operation cost of the restaurants, you can't deny that other factors, such as electricity fees and rental prices, also contribute to this phenomenon, so employers shouldn't be so opposed to this suggestion.
Would it lead to higher building management fees? Yes, but those who buy their own flats are recognised as some of the wealthier people, who are more capable of paying the fees.
What's more, if the owners want tighter round-the-clock security in the buildings where their flats are, the duty to pay for it falls on them.
Increasing the minimum wage to HK$30 an hour is simple justice. Sometimes we need to protect the interests of all kinds of people, including the low-income groups.
Crystal Lam Sze-chung, Fo Tan
What's taking so long to fix environment?
In response to the letter from J. Tse of Sha Tin ("Department has lost control of contractors", September 28), I'd like to point out that environmental issues have dogged both the government and society for ages, and they have not yet been solved.
Actually, the problem J. Tse mentioned - the issue of contractors undermining recycling efforts - was discovered a long time ago. It was previously raised by one of the television channels in Hong Kong.
The issue seems to be simple buck-passing: when the reporters asked the head of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, the reply was that they were not responsible for the case and that they should speak to the head of Environment Bureau. Officials at the Environment Bureau told them to go to the department. Instead of tackling the problem, bureaucrats disavowed jurisdiction and pointed fingers.
In fact, there are some small non-profit organisations in Hong Kong that help collect recycled materials and send them to recycling facilities. Unfortunately, although the government has supported these organisations with money, the cost is huge and the government is helping only a bit. Volunteers are doing the job but get no credit for it.
On the other hand, big organisations such as Greenpeace or Green Power asked citizens to donate money every month, but what else do they do? Do they care about this issue? Did they try to figure out solutions to really help the environment? Or did they only sit back and earn money from the public's donations?
The bottom line is that the government and the organisations need to work together to solve this problem with suitable measures before so much rubbish - recycled and unrecycled - is dumped into our landfills that they reach their capacity and our environment reaches a point of no return.
Sheena Chung, Tsuen Wan
If Israel seeks peace, it must take first step
Not angry words, Mr Netanyahu, nor threats of bombing and destruction: the surest way to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons is for your own country to dismantle its destabilising arsenal.
Martin Magill, Wan Chai
Look past Chao story for real gay issues
The hysterical offer by property tycoon Cecil Chao Sze-tsung to pay HK$500million for someone to marry his lesbian daughter should be taken with a pinch of salt. The response of gay rights activists to call upon the Equal Opportunities Commission to repair damage to Hong Kong's image is a drastic overreaction to an event that has far more to do with ostentatious wealth and vanity than the reality of being gay in Hong Kong.
As a gay businessman who speaks out publicly on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, I am more concerned that an apparent "cornerstone of the Pink Season is the Mr Gay Hong Kong pageant" ("Chao's husband bounty 'blow to HK image'", September 30). This is also an event that should be taken with a pinch of salt; it tells the mainstream community that the gay community is frivolous and obsessed with image over substance when the community has worked tirelessly with corporations to ensure acceptance at all levels of society.
The recent surge in corporate acceptance of sexual diversity has allowed younger members of the LGBT community to work without persecution. There remains an immense amount of work to be done, especially for LGBT members who are not part of graduate trainee programmes but work in everyday jobs where such support does not exist.
Being gay is not a middle-class privilege, and the continued work for LGBT support networks must be to ensure that all persons, regardless of education and fiscal position, are allowed to develop their full potential free from fear and with a social support network to assist, train and educate all members of our society.
Mark Peaker, The Peak
Philharmonic shines under new director
To classical music lovers, the season opener-cum-National Day concert on Friday night was a sheer delight. The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra's new music director, Jaap van Zweden, brought to the stage an energy and vitality that made the 100-strong ensemble gel, producing an exceptional tonal quality rarely before displayed.
Ning Feng's sensuous interpretation of the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto by Chen Gang and He Zhan-Hao brought tears to my eyes, and he so graciously entertained us with two delicate encores. Beethoven's Symphony No7 brought out the best of Jaap and the orchestra. On the ferry after the concert, I talked to a young Philharmonic string player who held the same views about the chemistry between the conductor and the orchestra members. I salute our government and those who have been working tirelessly to give Hongkongers something they can be proud of.
Philip S. K. Leung, Pok Fu Lam