National education in Hong Kong

Letters to the Editor, October 7, 2012

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 October, 2012, 2:09am

Transport officials need to look harder

As tragic and sad as the recent ferry accident near Lamma is, it is not shocking. Over the years that I have been a resident of Hong Kong, I have noticed that local drivers (private, taxi and public transport) as well as ferry captains are very lax, even careless, about passenger safety.

I use the Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry twice every day. I have noticed that the passenger bylaws posted on the ferry boats are not followed and not enforced. The sailing crew is never in the passenger cabin; they are always at the helm, chatting with the captain. I am also concerned that life vests are not being stored in immediate proximity to passengers. Passengers are allowed to roam around the cabin while the vessel is in motion.

I would like to propose that the Transport Department announce "public transport safety consultation" events, which would allow members of the public to voice their concerns and complaints, and make suggestions on how to make Hong Kong public transport safer.

The least the Transport Department should do is a thorough investigation and re-evaluation of safety rules and how closely they are being followed.

Either way, the recent incident is proof that a change in safety rules and their enforcement is necessary.

Peter Kahl, Lamma Island


Rule of law not scrutable if it hasn't arrived

Ng Tze Wei's column ("End of Bo Xilai saga looks to be bad news for rule of law", October 5) can only be described, in the words of Jiang Zemin, as "too simple, sometimes naive". After all, are the recent Bo-related trials the first sign that the "rule of law" is lacking in China?

Look at the case of Fang Hong, a retired civil servant sentenced to a year of reform through labour for a brief tweet colourfully mocking Bo. This, and plenty of other cases across the mainland in recent years - such as the troubling case of Sichuanese activist Tan Zuoren - repeatedly remind us that the so-called rule of law is a convenient slogan but also a troublesome reality in a one-Party state.

Bad news for the rule of law in China, then, is not new. And the arrest and sentencing of Bo will neither improve nor diminish the situation.

The only relief that one can receive from such developments is that, at least, Bo has ironically fallen victim to the system he once so avidly used against his own enemies. Yet such relief is short-lived when we realise that this system always seems to survive those in power who occasionally become its sacrificial lambs - leaving the people of China, people like Fang and Tan to continue to live under its often absurd rule by law, perpetually awaiting the arrival of the elusive rule of law.

Kevin Carrico, Ithaca, New York, US


HK students need sense of national pride

Stuart Brookes ("Patriotism without propaganda", October 4) responded not to Cynthia Sze's argument ("No unfettered free speech in practice", October 2) but to his own biased reading of it.

Ms Sze holds that "national education should help our politically disoriented youngsters overcome the self-denigrating national identity" and "develop a proper sense of national dignity". She neither claimed nor implied that rejecting national education is unpatriotic, as Mr Brookes alleged.

Patriotism is irrelevant. What is important is to have a fair and constructive mentality for personal and social development. Some local Chinese have contracted a low ethnic self-image, growing up in a colonial environment where their mother tongue is deemed inferior, native English-speaking ability entails privileges, and judges have to don white wigs to assure that the "justice" they administer is foreign.

Finding little traditional value to cherish, they simple-mindedly misinterpret Hong Kong's seeming receptiveness to "Westernisation" as justification for its affected superiority over other Asian regions. They shun the nationalist government that represents traditional China in Taiwan, which is part of the nation. They also overlook that development of indigenous institutions has moved other Asian cities ahead while Hong Kong has regressed; engrossed in aping the West and chasing outdated dreams of hyperbolic rights and freedoms that Western governments have learnt to question.

They try to distinguish China from the reigning Communist Party, but the nation and the government are interactive and practically inseparable. Their cognitive frustration is aggravated by their political prejudice, which exaggerates the failures and downplays the achievements of the Communist Party. Overloaded with frustration and prejudice, youngsters give up intellectual articulation and resort to symbols; hence the silly arms-crossing gesture and chanting of vacuous slogans.

Our youngsters should learn that a nation is a process. In the US, for example, the nation-building process involved slavery and genocides that extinguished dozens of tribal nations and tens of millions of native Americans. Yet US students proudly pledge their allegiance to the flag every morning despite the nation's history of domestic and foreign atrocities.

In comparison, the Chinese have every reason to be proud of their nation. Our youngsters should learn to empathise with their compatriots' endeavours and hopes in building a better Chinese nation.

Pierce Lam, Central


Commercial boats need ID system

I agree with Alex Lo ("This is not time to rush to judgment", October 4). We should not start the "blame game".

Neither should we rush to judgment on safety matters, like calls for mandatory wearing of lifejackets on our ferries.

There is, however, one item that jumps out at me from the reports on the tragedy. Only the Sea Smooth had an Automatic Identification System. Had the Lamma IV also had it, it would have indicated they were on a collision course. Moreover, it would have sounded an alarm if the vessels had continued on a collision course.

So one obvious recommendation might be that all vessels taking passengers for payment should be fitted with this system. Should operators object that it's too expensive, I would point out that even small yachts are required to have it if they race offshore. I have it on my yacht and found it invaluable.

The system is a great tool and one that I would recommend the government make mandatory for all commercial vessels, no matter what size.

Peter Forsythe, Discovery Bay


Let them eat mooncake, so give to charity

I refer to the report about the selling of luxurious mooncakes on the mainland ("Solid gold mooncakes whet the appetites of officials", September 27).

According to a survey by Green Power, local families threw away more than 2.51 million mooncakes last Mid-Autumn Festival. I was shocked. We should feel guilty about this tremendous waste.

I'd like to suggest that people donate leftover mooncakes to charity. Why shouldn't the poor celebrate this festival, too?

Wong Ming-yan, Tsuen Wan


Taiwan's long path to US visa waivers

I refer to the article by Christy Choi ("Upset over no US visa waiver", October 4). I'd like to echo Richard Vuylsteke's viewpoint that the Taiwanese government has worked closely with US government.

US approval of Taiwan's inclusion in the programme comes after a lengthy process. Taiwan obtained Visa Waiver Programme candidacy status in December after years of effort. It was not until the past few years that the island met several programme qualifications.

Taiwan had also adopted important measures to strengthen its security and immigration systems in accordance with US statutory requirements for membership in the waiver programme, including issuing e-passports and signed three agreements with US for closer co-operation in crime prevention.

Since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008, there has been a huge change in Taiwan's relations with the mainland and the rest of the world. Working from a basis of mutual trust, our government has now pursued cultural, economic and trade diplomacy. Part of the result is visa waivers. A total of 129 countries and territories now offer Taiwan visa-free travel, with the United States the latest addition.

Suzie Chen, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office


Means test part of a good proposal

I was shocked by some legislators' threat to veto the government's proposal to increase the fruit money to HK$2,200 if the means test is not scrapped. What are they thinking?

The government's proposal will also help elderly who are not eligible for, or do not want to apply for, Comprehensive Social Security Assistance and yet need additional help.

Sitting on a large reserve does not mean we should squander taxpayers' money.

David Akers-Jones, West Kowloon