Letters to the Editor, November 26, 2012
HK's economy benefits from beef monopoly
There have been calls, because of rising prices, for the scrapping of the monopoly of the sole distributor of mainland cattle in Hong Kong, Ng Fung Hong.
The company has raised the wholesale price of cattle five times this year and this has not been well-received by the public.
However, I do not agree that taking away the monopoly will benefit Hong Kong at all. We should keep it, and try to solve this problem through other means.
First of all, I think that Ng Fung Hong's price rises are simply honest reflections of increased demand and higher production costs. Hong Kong consumers are constantly competing with their mainland counterparts for beef, and with the rising wealth of mainlanders, they can afford to pay more for the cattle. Add to that the appreciation of the renminbi and inflation on the mainland, all of these factors are driving up the price of beef.
Second, abolishing the monopoly will just make things worse. Monopolies have leverage in negotiating business deals.
Mainland beef suppliers have no one else to turn to if they want to sell in Hong Kong. Add competition to the market, and those same suppliers could just turn to someone else to sell their stock in Hong Kong.
In other words, abolishing the monopoly will remove all of the economies of scale associated with Ng Fung Hong and in the end make beef prices higher.
If the government aims to bump down beef prices, subsidising Ng Fung Hong seems like the best option available. By cutting its costs, the company can afford to lower prices while still staying in business.
However, I think the main reason there is so much resentment about this issue is that the incomes of Hong Kong people cannot keep up with inflation.
I'm sure that no one would be complaining if their incomes went up in proportion to the beef prices.
If the government wants to fix this problem once and for all, it needs to come up with a solution to close the income gap and either keep inflation under control or increase the incomes of its citizens.
William McCorkindale, Ma On Shan
PCCW made independent bid for league
I refer to the letters by Michael Lau ("Premiership deal denial of free economy", November 17) and Lester Lim ("Crying foul over Premier League deal", November 18).
PCCW would like to emphasise that we made an independent bid for the Barclays Premier League in an open and competitive environment, and in accordance with the professional and high standards of the bidding process and rules set by the Football Association Premier League.
We are committed to bringing the best content line-up to our viewers and are therefore pleased to be able to bring the English Premier League back on our viewing platforms from the 2013-14 season.
C.K. Chan, head of group communications, PCCW
Allow flexible approach to class sizes
The government has offered to cut class sizes, but I do not think its proposed reduction will be enough.
Even with the smaller size proposed by officials, classes in Hong Kong's schools will still be too large. Teachers will continue to have to deal with too many pupils in the classroom.
The government should scrap its proposal and allow schools to have flexible class numbers.
Class sizes would then be structured to meet the needs of a particular school.
School staff and the head know what is best for that institution, which is why they need the government to adopt a flexible policy.
Leanna Chim, Tsuen Wan
ESF's unique role should not be ignored
I refer to the letter by Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim ("ESF no different from other international schools in Hong Kong", November 19).
The English Schools Foundation provides Hong Kong with a unique alternative to independent international schools that brings a great additional element to the overall offering of schools.
This is very attractive to a wide range of Hong Kong residents. It should be protected. However, some interest groups seek to undermine and ultimately transform what is unique into another series of independent international schools.
The education secretary's letter seems to be too focused on ordinance and lacks the strategic thought critically required to ensure the ESF is able to achieve its maximum potential with regard to its role in Hong Kong.
M. Young, Repulse Bay
Integration of minorities is so important
Hong Kong claims to be Asia's world city, but those citizens from ethnic minorities who feel marginalised probably don't see it that way.
The major obstruction many of them face is to do with language. They may grow up in a household where Chinese is seldom used and consequently their level of language proficiency is poor.
This makes it difficult for them to join the mainstream education system or get a job. They may find they can only get a low-skilled job on a meagre wage or even find that they are unemployed.
These families will often find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. Some young people may even resort to crime in order to make some easy money quickly.
It is important that there is greater integration of ethnic minority groups in Hong Kong. This is important, not just on humanitarian grounds, but also if young people feel less alienated and have hope for the future, they are less likely to resort to crime.
The government has to play an active role in this regard by, in effect, bridging the gulf between ethnic minorities and mainstream society.
For instance, the Education Bureau should review the current education system and assessment mechanism, and find ways in which the Chinese language proficiency requirement could, in some instances, be relaxed to accommodate ethnic minority students.
It should also provide more resources to schools and community centres to introduce tailor-made Chinese-language classes for ethnic minorities to effectively address their special requirements.
If we are to justify the title of "world city", it is important that ethnic minority groups with different cultural backgrounds are accepted in our society.
Mark Tsang, Siu Sai Wan
HKU could use building left empty
Yannis Mak Ka-yan suggests converting empty industrial buildings into hostels for university students ("Sensible way to ease hostel shortage", November 19).
Even if converting buildings designed for non-residential purposes is workable, money would still be needed to get them up to the standards required for residential premises.
There is a far more sensible solution to deal with the accommodation shortage; simply use existing residential buildings. For instance, near the University of Hong Kong, there are several residential buildings which have stood empty and unused for years. One such example is Hai Kwing Mansion at 71-77 Hill Road.
This vacant residential building is owned by a mainland company. With it, HKU could have solved its temporary student accommodation problem that occurred at the beginning of this academic year.
The question to ask is why entire residential buildings are allowed to remain empty and unused while there is an accommodation shortage?
Will Lai, Western district
We must speak out against tragic trade
I congratulate the Hong Kong authorities on confiscating their third major haul of ivory this year ("150 elephants died for ivory load", November 17).
The haul came from Tanzania and the elephants, ranging from the smallest to mature adults, were slaughtered to satisfy the greed of those who are grotesque enough to think that owning ivory is impressive.
A big hand to those working hard to end the needless slaughter of these magnificent and intelligent animals. We should support and promote their work and at the same time expose those who are the dealers, carvers and buyers.
Colin Dawson, Central
Stiffer fines can curb animal cruelty
In recent years, I have read more reports of animals being mistreated, the latest one involving the torture of a cat at a public housing estate in Kwun Tong.
It is depressing to know that some people would derive pleasure from making an animal suffer. You do get a lot of stray cats in some estates and they can be annoying, but that is no excuse to mistreat them.
The government must allow courts to impose harsher penalties for those people convicted of mistreating animals.
Officials must also do more to control the number of stray animals in the city.
Ruby Kwok, Tsuen Wan