Strengthen accountability commission
The Department of Health has come under fire for its failure to adequately regulate private hospitals.
The latest report of the Audit Commission revealed that the department had not conducted inspections of private hospitals promptly and had failed to maintain proper documentation of checking performed.
It also noted that the department did not issue advisory or warning letters to the concerned private hospitals in some cases of irregularities. This undermines the efficiency of management. Enforcement action is designed to act as a deterrent.
Similar audit reviews have found shortcomings in other government departments.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has pledged to address our deep-rooted livelihood issues by formulating people-oriented policies. He needs an effective executive arm to implement these policies. But it is difficult to achieve improvements with the present bureaucratic system.
The Audit Commission has been doing a great job in promoting the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of public organisations in discharging their duties. But, given resources constraints, we cannot expect it to detect every irregularity of public and subsidised bodies.
Therefore, I hope in his forthcoming policy address that Mr Leung will consider allocating more resources to the commission.
He could even consider introducing a whistle-blowing mechanism to reward people who provide information about serious administrative problems in public organisations.
Stanley Ip, Tseung Kwan O
Obama's kiss of death for diplomacy
The visit by US President Barack Obama to Southeast Asia so soon after his re-election underlines the importance of the region in formulating future global polices of the United States.
While I was pleased to see my president with the prime minister of Thailand and the president of Myanmar, I was embarrassed by his lack of respect for traditions and basic manners prevailing in Asia.
While visiting with Aung San Suu Kyi, he embraced and kissed her. This form of greeting is welcomed in Europe and the States, but it is not acceptable practice in other parts of the world.
It may actually be seen as offensive in some cultures, as is resting one leg over another, exposing the sole of a shoe, as the president did when seated with Myanmar's President Thein Sein.
With all the resources and advisers at his disposal, one would expect these facts would be made clear to Mr Obama before his visit.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, Mr President.
Marian Schneps, Wan Chai
Crack down on errant maid employers
Kudos to Alan Crawley ("Maids being duped by urban myths", November 8).
Unfortunately, 99 per cent of employers of domestic helpers in Hong Kong are either unaware of the legal stipulations in the employment contract which they sign, or choose to disregard the law altogether. No one in the Labour Department or Immigration Department who authorises the contracts seems to care that the laws are being ignored.
In the 30-plus years that my husband and I have ministered to Filipina domestic helpers through our small independent church in Hong Kong, no employer of the ladies we try to serve has ever acknowledged that the helper is entitled to a 24-hour rest. Most of these ladies also have an imposed curfew. They tell us that while they are fully aware of their rights, they dare not express any objection to their employer about the lack of a 24-hour rest day for fear their contract will be terminated.
The draconian measures which the Immigration Department has imposed on domestic helpers, insisting they must find a new employer within two weeks and exit Hong Kong while awaiting a new visa, have only helped to foster the fear and made these helpers very vulnerable to exploitation.
How can the authorities pursue adherence to laws which they claim to uphold without putting the domestic helpers at risk of losing their employment?
Doesn't the Hong Kong government take pride in "rule of law?" I suggest that before the employer signs the contract, he/she be required to swear to abide by the conditions in the contract as determined by the Labour Department.
Also, it would be helpful if employers were required to go to the Immigration Department to sign the contract, and to be reminded by the officer in charge of the requirements set forth in it.
Nisa A. Crutchfield, Sha Tin
Photographers losing out on gallery space
I thank Mark Peaker for his observations regarding the outlets for artists to show their work in Hong Kong ("Bright picture for flourishing arts scene", November 17).
While my concerns were for artists in general ("Artists need more space to exhibit", November 6), perhaps I did not put enough emphasis on the fact that not all artists use the brush; many use the camera, and we do seem to be the poor cousins in the art world, lacking space to show our work.
Give us snappers our fair share of wall space with easy access where the general public and tourists can appreciate our efforts.
Roy Cuthbert, Kam Tin
Ads on elderly grant pursue unfair agenda
I agree with those who say that the government's advert promoting the proposed Old Age Living Allowance was inappropriate ("Think tank chief defends PR campaign", November 18).
The advert was not explaining established policy or legislation that had been passed. Its purpose was to rally support in a political debate and seek to influence the outcome of the legislative process. That can hardly be seen as a non-partisan announcement in the public interest. It was an attempt to shift public support to the government's position on this issue.
In the debate on the allowance, it has given an unfair advantage to those in power. Opposition groups will rightly feel they are being deprived of getting a fair hearing.
Paid political advertising is effectively banned on local television. The government has huge financial resources to pay for its ads; opposition groups must rely on party donations. Even if the ad ban was lifted, these parties would still be at a disadvantage.
The administration should withdraw its partisan TV ads so that all sides can have the fair hearing they deserve.
Leung Ka-kit, Yau Tsim Mong
Protests in city should remain peaceful
I refer to the editorial ("Two sides to the right to protest", November 19) concerning the escalating number of prosecutions arising from demonstrations.
It may be that the tactics of some protesters have changed. They may feel that by being confrontational, they have a better chance of attracting attention to the issue they are highlighting.
Rarely does a day pass without seeing in the news stories of small-scale conflicts between protesters and police.
In the past, most Hongkongers took no part in political activities, but this has changed. Thanks to the internet, it is easy to organise protests and now we are seeing more of them.
Regarding claims that the police are becoming stricter, it is up to the various political parties to ensure that the right to protest is safeguarded in Hong Kong. And if there are complaints lodged against the police, then the Independent Police Complaints Council has an important role to play and can protect protesters' rights.
Even if Hong Kong has a reputation as the "city of protests", this should not undermine its core values.
With the efforts of various parties, we can maintain the tradition of demonstrating in a peaceful manner.
Derek Chu Pak-fai, Quarry Bay
Distribution of free papers an obstruction
Hong Kong now has many free newspapers, which are handed out at MTR stations and other busy places.
One morning recently at the Tai Po Market station four different free newspapers were being handed out during the morning rush hour and this caused a serious obstruction for pedestrians.
The thoroughfare was blocked by stacks of papers and people queuing to take one and the situation was made worse by people then switching queues to get another paper.
There were already a lot of commuters in the station who just wanted to catch the train, so they could get to work.
While I have no problem with these free newspapers, I do not think a crowded MTR station like Tai Po Market during rush hour is an appropriate location to distribute them.
It is already too crowded even without people handing out these papers.
I do not understand why the government allows such obstruction.
I have seen hawkers being chased out of the station by hawker control officers, even though they were using far less space and it was a less busy period.
The papers can be distributed outside the station away from the main passenger flow. This would not cause a serious obstruction.
Wouter van Marle, Tai Po