Basic Law

Letters to the Editor, October 25, 2012

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 October, 2012, 2:39am

Loss of panel positions bad for democracy

Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong should be making gradual and orderly progress towards democracy.

The pan-democrats won 27 of 70 seats in Legco, which is approximately 39 per cent. This includes three of the five "super seats", corresponding to 60 per cent of the direct popular vote. Yet only four pan-democrats have been appointed to the chairmanships of the 20 Legco panels and subcommittees, a proportion of only 20 per cent ("Pan-democrats lose out in battle for Legco panel power", October 17).

Committee powers have therefore been tilted disproportionately away from the pan-democrats towards the pro-Beijing parties, relative to the number and quality of the seats respectively held by them in Legco.

Surely it would be fairer and more appropriate for the proportion of pan-democrat chairmanships to correlate to the proportion of seats held by pan-democrats in Legco, that is, at least seven chairmanships rather than four.

Moreover, in view of their "super seat" majority, the pan-democrats would merit eight or potentially nine such chairmanships.

The previous Legco had seven pan-democrats chairmanships against 13 pro-Beijing. By arbitrarily reducing the number of pan-democrat chairmanships in the new council, Hong Kong appears to be moving away from democracy rather than towards it.

This imbalance will only exacerbate tensions in Legco and in Hong Kong.

It is a departure from the spirit of progress towards democracy, which underpins the social pact in Hong Kong under the Basic Law.

Allan Woodley, Sydney, Australia 


Blinkered opposition is not helpful

Hongkongers seem to want the status quo to remain intact without any influence from outside forces. But should we shut our ears to suggestions from these forces when it would appear that they could benefit us all?

I can understand lawyers jumping on comments made by Elsie Leung Oi-sie regarding our present legal system, because they are seeking to defend the legal status quo.

However, is it right and proper for those Hongkongers who know little or nothing about the law to condemn what I consider to be fair comments by former justice minister Ms Leung, by claiming that they are protecting the core interests of Hong Kong?

I would question whether such critics really know what the core interests of Hong Kong are.

Tommy Chan Tam-yee, Sai Ying Pun


Relocation of school makes no sense

My daughter attends the International Montessori School's kindergarten in Tin Hau and parents are deeply concerned with the ongoing inability of the government to resolve the fate of its campus.

It is ludicrous that a fully occupied school could even be considered for a youth hostel and we will never understand how this situation came about. Hopefully, with so many concerned parents speaking out common sense will prevail.

We live in the New Territories, and as there are no school buses my daughter leaves home at 7am to take the train and then transfer to a bus to get to Tin Hau.

We will persist, because my daughter loves the school, her friends at kindergarten, the dedicated teachers, and all the other caring members of the school.

The Montessori system is clearly benefiting her growth and development.

We are fully committed to continuing with the school at its Tin Hau campus.

We have already registered our three-month-old baby daughter to attend and benefit from the quality teaching at Montessori.

Finding a place at a good international school in Hong Kong is one of the most difficult experiences that parents have to endure. We have a great school and do not want to see it ruined.

Mia Lam, Fo Tan


Hostel can aid youths from poor families

Parents from well-off families are complaining because it is proposed that an international school, Montessori, be relocated to make way for a youth hostel.

They are raising these objections even though the hostel would offer assistance to people from the vulnerable sections of society.

In reply to the letter by Montessori parent Erica Pompen ("Baffling school snub sure to alienate expats", October 20), I would say she and other parents always have the option of paying the debenture and enrolling their children at another international school in Hong Kong. Such parents also have the choice of good-quality boarding schools abroad.

However, many local youths from poverty-stricken families have few choices.

Their parents, if they are working, will be lucky to earn the minimum wage and are likely to be existing below the poverty line.

A small room in a hostel can help relieve some of the financial pressure faced by such families. Montessori parents should show some compassion for the more disadvantaged in society.

Also, these parents whose children study Putonghua/English bilingual programmes should be reminded that this a Cantonese-speaking city. I am sure there are suitable schools in Shenzhen that can provide similar bilingual programmes.

Pang Chi-ming, Fanling


Scrapping means test will prove costly

I think there is unanimous public approval for the proposed Old Age Living Allowance.

According to the proposal of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, instead of the "fruit money" originally provided, senior citizens aged 65 or above will be entitled to a higher sum of HK$2,200 per month subject to a means test.

Nevertheless, the government risks defeat, with pan-democrats and the pro-establishment Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions saying they will vote against the means test. I think the political pendulum has taken a swing towards populism when it comes to social welfare.

Legislators who are taking this populist stand are supporting the depletion of the government's resources for the sake of their parties' reputation, and this is irresponsible.

Hong Kong has an ageing population. The government argues that if the means test is scrapped the new old age allowance would cost "HK$35.1 billion by 2041 from an initial estimate of HK$16.2 billion" ("DAB hints at support for old-age subsidy", October 23).

Who is going to pay for this additional sum? While the legislators are zealously playing their role as puppets of public opinion, the government should stick fast to its principle of taking care of the long-term interests of the whole society, instead of working only to win public favour.

Hermes Kwok Nga-man, Sha Tin


Brainwashing just part of education

I wish to add to the debate on national education by talking about my own schooling.

I guess many of the parents and the black-clad protesting scholars are beneficiaries and admirers of British, American, or other Western nations' education systems, but so-called brainwashing was and still is part and parcel of schooling and always will be.

Our masters in school and government themselves need no lessons in keeping the future factory fodder in ignorance of what are deemed to be politically sensitive issues.

It has never been part of any education system to permit teaching subjects that reflect badly on governments.

My own history lessons in Scotland were silent on the fact that concentration camps were an invention of the British, who incarcerated mainly Afrikaner women and children during the Boer war, resulting in many deaths. British imperialism in India resulted in millions of deaths but were not a footnote in the curriculum.

Hong Kong admirers of the American international schooling system would have to listen very carefully to hear the debate on the subject of the genocide of native Americans and the enslavement of Africans in the US.

What proportion of American national education is dedicated to its imperialism, which since 1945 has resulted in the bombing of many countries, including those with democratically elected governments, and the deaths of millions?

Our chief executive will do what needs to be done, and the subject shall be taught albeit with another title. All power to his pen, say I.

John Charleston, Tuen Mun


Puzzled by pointless Peak projects

After 19 years of living in Clear Water Bay I moved to The Peak in 2008. Rents have been going up drastically, apparently because of a shortage of supply.

Strangely enough, we are surrounded by empty town houses that are new and are renovated periodically, but no one ever lives in them.

No 1 Plantation Road, owned by Wharf Holdings, almost new, is being demolished to make way for even more town houses. All families had to look for other homes, and apparently that's why my rent went up despite all the empty houses around me.

It is environmentally unfriendly. Pulling them down means noise pollution, dust, concrete and more. What about the new interior? What will happen to all of it, including bathroom and kitchen appliances and gym equipment? How is this all possible? Is it all a scam? And this next door to the chief executive's home.

Where I come from in Switzerland, this would never be possible or allowed.

Christina Hellmann, The Peak