Letters to the Editor, October 14, 2012
Insight on Diaoyus from both sides
I refer to Minnie Chan's article "Rules of diplomatic game broken" (September 29) in the context of Teddy Ng's article "Japan's PM calls for meeting over Diaoyu dispute" (October 12).
The article quoted Professor Peng Xi, deputy director of Nanjing University's Institute of Japanese Studies, saying: "The current deterioration of bilateral ties between Beijing and Tokyo has been triggered by [Prime Minister Yoshihiko] Noda's betrayal of a verbal diplomatic understanding which was made by the two countries' former leaders in 1972, when both sides resumed relations."
When Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka visited China in 1972 to try to restore bilateral relationships between the two countries, he raised the question of the Diaoyu Islands (called Senkaku in Japan) with Premier Zhou Enlai . Zhou did not want to discuss the subject, as he saw it could be a stumbling block to the signing of the communiqué, so the issue of the islands' sovereignty was not mentioned in the formal document normalising bilateral relations signed by the two countries on September 29, 1972.
From the Japanese point of view, sovereignty of the islands clearly belongs to Japan. They respected Zhou and did not want to press the subject. China felt that as it was more important to normalise diplomatic relations, it would be better to shelve the issue of the islands' sovereignty. Japan's silence on the sovereignty issue means they agreed to shelve it. Here lies the key difference between the two countries, and also the cause of the present flare-up.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's decision to purchase the three islets within the Diaoyus from the Kurihara family was made to pre-empt the impending purchase of the islets by Tokyo's ultra-rightist governor, Shintaro Ishihara. If it went ahead, Mr Ishihara would most likely do something with the islands that China would view as extremely provocative. Noda was actually trying to defuse a potentially explosive situation. Instead, China took it as a provocative act.
Mr Ng's article states that Noda has called for bilateral talks to contain the economic damage from the diplomatic row. China would do well to agree to talk rather than making it a precondition for talks that "Tokyo correct its errors first".
Alex Woo, Tsim Sha Tsui
Government out of touch on 'fruit money'
I am in complete agreement with Albert Cheng in his article "Officials' insistence on means testing for old-age allowance is simply mean" (October 12).
It appears this new regime has still not learned its lesson by categorically introducing controversial matters without giving a second thought to whether they will be readily accepted by the community.
Mr Cheng rightly points out that most of those who qualify do not claim the "fruit money"; the Li Ka-shings, Cecil Chaos and many others will not go to fill in the required forms. And many of our Chinese citizens, although quite poor, are too proud to accept welfare handouts.
We can only hope enough of our legislators will have the courage to reject the bill.
John Wilson, Yau Ma Tei
Relations with mainland not just one way
I am writing to comment on Mr Lu Ping's letter ("HK can't do without mainland", October 12).
Instead of his overstatement of Hong Kong's sole dependence on the mainland, I think both the city and our motherland mutually benefit through co-operation in different areas.
Hong Kong has been vital to economic and social development on the mainland. In terms of trade, about 30 per cent of mainland goods were shipped via Hong Kong to foreign countries in 2011, according to speeches given by Mr Norman Chan Tak-lam, chief executive of the Monetary Authority, in London and South America.
While mainland people are forbidden to commemorate important events such as the June 4, 1989, incident, in which hundreds of people were killed during their protests in Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong provides a platform for both local citizens and mainland travellers to mourn their deaths in candlelight vigils every year.
Mu Lu has suggested that we should not look back to British colonial rule over Hong Kong. However, our fair and clean legal system inherited from Britain is something we should be proud of.
So perhaps our city could also influence the central government so that our mainland brothers and sisters can enjoy more social and legal rights.
James Au Kin-pong, Lai Chi Kok
Does surname now identify a Hongkonger?
Alex Chan of California recently weighed in on the ongoing national education debate (Self-righteous stance lowers tone of debate, October 11). He criticises earlier letters by declaring: "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."
My immediate question to Mr Chan is: "How do you know they are expats?"
They may be, as Mr Chan suggests, expats here on a short-term contract, or they may have been born here. I don't know, and my guess is that neither does he. Because of Hong Kong's history, there are Hongkongers from across the ethnic spectrum.
Are we now going to decide who is and is not a "real" Hong Kong resident based on a last name? Decades of intermarriage have given many Chinese people Western-sounding surnames and vice versa.
Furthermore, the population of Hong Kong exploded from less than 500,000 after the second world war to more than seven million today. That level of mass immigration makes the use of the term "native" relative to Hong Kong a subjective term.
Mr Chan's letter indicates he lives in Santa Barbara, California. Based on that information, do I ask what right a "foreigner" has to enter a discussion into Hong Kong's internal affairs, or do I assume that, due to his Chinese-sounding surname, he has immediate standing to do so? In the end, the question comes to this: can Hong Kong be a place for all Hongkongers regardless of race and ethnicity, or will we step backward and declare people "in" or "out" because they have the wrong-sounding name?
Steve Hackman, Park Island, Ma Wan
People use 'Hongkonger', so it's a word
I cannot agree with Lau Nai-Keung's claim that "Objectively speaking, there is no such thing as a 'Hongkonger'." ("No place for nostalgia for a HK identity that never was", October 12).
He cannot claim that Hongkonger "is not an official English word", as there is no such thing as an official English word. Unlike the Académie Française in France, no official body exists to give words their passports into English.
True, "Hongkonger" isn't in the Oxford English Dictionary, but it is a word used by English-speakers here to refer to a concept that does indeed exist.
To the extent that "Hongkonger" is used by people, it has the same status as every other word in English. After all, isn't a language supposed to reflect the society that it's a part of?
Terry Collmann, North Point
Mainland tourist limits make sense
I'm writing to express support for limiting the number of mainland visitors to Hong Kong. Their visits benefit the tourist industry but create many local problems, such as cross-border trading and illegal employment.
The number of mainland visitors allowed to enter Hong Kong should be reduced around public holidays and major festivals and increased at other times of the year. But I don't think quotas should be set for visitors from other countries. For one thing, there are considerably fewer of them compared with mainland tourists, and they do not concentrate on certain places, such as shopping districts, as most mainlanders do.
Christy Tse, Tseung Kwan O
Dismissal of small coins just isn't right
Last week a friend was about to pay for a food order in coins of less than HK$1 at one of the small restaurants in Wan Chai. In a very loud voice, the woman shopkeeper said: "We do not accept coins [less than HK$1]; these coins are useless!"
We did not challenge her, as we did not want to create a scene, but we felt humiliated. But these 10-, 20- and 50-cent coins are legal tender, so why can they not be accepted by the shop?
I can understand that some outlets in Hong Kong do not accept HK$1,000 notes for fear that they are counterfeit or they cannot make change for them, but not accepting the smaller-dominated coins cannot be encouraged. They would be a huge relief to the poor, who depend on them for survival.
Thomas Won, Discovery Bay