National Education

Letters to the editor, October 11, 2012

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 1:43am

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

Since taking office more than 100 days ago, Chief Executive C.Y. Leung has formulated some new policies, including "Hong Kong land for Hong Kong people", an increase in old-age allowances as well as swift action against parallel- goods trading in Sheung Shui, in response to public demand.

These policies are supposed to be favourable, if not overwhelmingly popular. However, despite his genuine effort, he has been heavily criticised by the press and been described as unpopular.

People have been lamenting high property prices for years and urging a revival of the Home Ownership Scheme and an increase in the housing supply. C.Y.'s government has taken the initiative to resolve the problem. For instance, the northeastern New Territories will be developed to provide more than 50,000 new homes, including about 23,000 public housing flats, which can be used to implement the "Hong Kong land for Hong Kong people" policy.

Nevertheless, the proposal is portrayed by protesters as a "conspiracy" to build a backyard for wealthy mainlanders. Protesters, as usual, want the project withdrawn.

We can all agree that public discontent has already escalated to an unprecedented level, and that it is time to take action to tackle the problem. However, every action taken by the government can be demonised; some people would take every effort to exaggerate the downside risk and blow things out of proportion. Whatever you do (or fail to do) can be denounced by the opposition. We need more housing, but we cannot carry out reclamation; the countryside must be conserved, without any chance of it being developed, though little room for further development is left in the urban area.

Protesters' favourite demand in every campaign is the withdrawal of the government's action. There is no room for any sort of compromise.

With the help of the media, every livelihood issue can inspire a big rally against the government, and perhaps some people would be delighted to see top officials or even C.Y. step down eventually as a result of such rallies.

C.Y.'s government may well be paralysed by the opposition. I wonder how grass-roots and middle-class families will be able to get new homes and how people's livelihoods can be improved if every government action is blocked.

Holden Chow, chairman, Young DAB


Cyclists ruin visitor's hike in country park

I recently visited Hong Kong for a short break, and as part of my holiday I wanted to take a walk in one of the many country parks in the New Territories.

So on Saturday morning, along with some other friends, we set off along the Kap Lung Ancient Trail in Tai Lam Country Park.

About halfway up the hill, I was nearly knocked down by some local mountain bikers, who were speeding down the trail, one after the other. I was lucky I wasn't bowled over by these cyclists - although I'm 58, I am quite fit, and was therefore able to get out of their way - as these riders made no effort to stop.

But after this shock, I wondered how other walkers might have fared, particularly the many older local walkers who seem to use this trail regularly, especially as there are many blind bends along the route.

Although I enjoyed the views, climate and the challenge of the rest of the walk, this incident was a real shock and disappointment to me, as I had noticed signs at the start, and at various points along the route, that clearly stated that cycling was not permitted.

The last thing I expected was to come across bikers, and it has certainly made me worry whether, when I next return to Hong Kong, I will risk trying out other beautiful trails in your lovely country parks.

In view of this experience, could I ask the relevant authorities not only what measures they intend to take to enforce these "no cycling areas" in the country parks, but also how walkers can be made to feel safe walking on the country park trails without the threat of these bikers?

Mountain biking has rapidly expanded all over the world, and unless sufficient alternative, challenging routes are set aside just for bikers, then they will surely continue to use routes they shouldn't. If this continues, the day may come when someone will be killed or seriously injured on one of your trails in a biking incident.

Duncan Lightfoot, Sevenoaks, Kent, Britain


Self-righteous stance lowers tone of debate

Diatribes against supporters of national education are characteristically self-righteous, chauvinistic and irrational.

Ray Peacock ("Values would find resonance across border", October 8) wrote that Cynthia Sze ("No unfettered free speech in practice", October 2) should go to live on the mainland. Would he also advocate that Catholics migrate to the Vatican and Christians should relinquish evangelism and go to live with their Heavenly Father?

Anti-national-education demonstrations in Hong Kong have never assembled much more than 100,000 or so protesters. In a city of more than seven million, loud and cheeky contrarians usurp attention which otherwise could have been paid to practical and worthwhile social causes. The city's silent majority has been exceedingly tolerant of the protesters' chutzpah.

Andrew Nunn ("Protesters still proud to be Chinese", September 27) said "anyone who has a problem with free speech should say goodbye to Hong Kong". However, "free speech" is never a qualification for the right of abode anywhere in the world. The meaning of free speech is context-dependent.

If expatriates in Hong Kong want to join the national education debate, they should learn to discuss rationally instead of making the stupid suggestion that native residents who don't share their bizarre ideas of free speech should leave the city. They should appreciate that they are in Hong Kong, because back home they couldn't find the economic opportunities that China has made possible for them.

Alex Chan, Santa Barbara, California, US


Ferry victims memorial idea noted

I refer to P.A. Crush's letter ("Build public memorial to lost lives", October 6). We would like to thank Mr Crush for his suggestion to build a memorial and columbarium for those who died in the Lamma vessel collision. Every one of us is saddened by this incident. The government will do whatever we can to help the families of the victims and the survivors. Mr Crush's suggestion is noted, and we will share it with the relevant parties.

Martha Lo, press secretary to secretary for home affairs


Insights of Bo's ex-wife sobering

Thank you for reprinting the excellent New York Times article on Li Danyu, former wife of Bo Xilai, who poignantly described her relationship with Bo from 1975-81 and provided new information on the paranoia of Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai.

I realise you may have space limitations, but your condensation of the original omits some important elements - particularly the ending, in which Li says: "In those early years, it was pure love," she said. "Even though he didn't see me for 30 years, I forget the bad things and remember the good. You don't want to live with hate."

These are sobering insights into the soul of a man recently believed by so many - in both China and the West - to be destined to join the Politburo Standing Committee.

Robert Woll, Beijing


Crack down on insensitive TV reporting

I could not agree more with the article by Alice Wu ("Hong Kong TV media should be ashamed of its insensitive ferry disaster reporting", October 9) regarding the treatment the Hong Kong television media gave to the ferry tragedy.

It shows a complete lack of respect towards human beings, and it's simply sick to ask horribly cruel and completely inappropriate questions of the victims under such tragic circumstances just for the sake of gaining an audience. This is a great example of what the opposite of serious, professional and decent broadcasting is.

The appropriate authorities shouldn't let such irresponsible behaviour be repeated, particularly when it makes the victims' pain and suffering worse.

Javier Fabregat Degen, Tai Kok Tsui


Jet ski safety too costly, complicated

I own a jet ski that I use for fishing or a day at the beach with my wife. For safety reasons, I fitted it with a global positioning system and, in case of emergency, I want to have a marine radio and personal locator beacon on board. However, under Office of the Communications Authority regulations, I have to register them to my jet ski and have a radio operator's certificate for them. The only course available to get the certificate is run at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (cost HK$7,200) and is spread over eight days. The course is held only twice a year.

Could the Communications Authority devise a simpler and cheaper way for pleasure vessel owners to use these important safety devices, especially in light of the recent disaster?

Terry Greene, Yuen Long