Supporting our refugees has its rewards
I learned first-hand over 2-1/2 years the difficulties asylum seekers face living in limbo in Hong Kong.
Through the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre in 2010, I met Gabriel, then a 20-year-old Rwandan asylum seeker with little hope, no family and no connections here. He had survived horrendous atrocities in his youth.
A mutual love of science led me to have old textbooks sent to him from Australia so he could occupy his mind in the dreary days and months when he was unable to work or take up formal studies here.
A self-starter, Gabriel found hope in these small gestures and I soon helped finance his undergraduate studies once he had found a course that would take him even without a Hong Kong ID card.
Gabriel excelled, even helping other students and giving motivational talks. His confidence grew.
He was one of the lucky ones who could articulate his case eloquently, and the High Commissioner for Refugees approved his refugee status last year. He was accepted for resettlement in the United States this year, so to ready himself for further studies there, Gabriel found an SAT preparation course in Hong Kong.
He has started working towards his dream of becoming a medical doctor. He hopes to return to Hong Kong and Rwanda some day to help others in need. Without suitable support from charities and individuals, this young, energetic mind may not have had a start in life.
Imagine what Hong Kong could achieve for itself and the world if it adopted the UN Refugee Convention, and devoted the relatively small financial resources required to build an efficient refugee-processing and support system.
Katherine Abrat, Mid-Levels
CY critics only creating storm in a teacup
The pan-democrats increasingly resemble the US "tea party".
Just as the tea party cried foul over President Barack Obama's birth certificate, Albert Ho Chun-yan and his gang are creating a storm in a teacup over a very trivial issue.
So far, C.Y. Leung has done a very admirable job governing Hong Kong. He has achieved much more over the same time span than his predecessor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
Rather than waste his time, the pan-democrats should allow Mr Leung to continue doing his job.
Instead, maybe it's time to overhaul the rules regarding these so-called illegal structures, as most of these are entirely harmless. In most Western democracies, people have the freedom to make such harmless alterations.
The government might consider drastically shrinking (or even abolishing) the Buildings Department and reallocating its staff to other departments.
Probably some of these inspectors could focus on issues that are much more relevant to Hong Kong society, such as enforcing the routinely neglected "idling engine" law.
Kristiaan Helsen, Sai Kung
No excuse for US generals' sex scandals
After reading the article ("Sex scandal snares another general", November 14), I felt absolutely disappointed with the conduct of the top US commander in Afghanistan, John Allen, and former CIA director David Petraeus.
Petraeus and Allen play vital roles in America. They are leaders and should behave well. Otherwise, the country's image will be damaged.
We each have a role to play. The leaders are like the parents, and the public are their daughters and sons. If the parents do not behave well, what about their children?
In addition, I loathe the behaviour of the women these generals were linked to - one had an affair with Petraeus and another had inappropriate communications with Allen.
If I were those women, and I was married, I would not have gone so far. I would not do anything that would betray my husband's trust. I think the two women were shameless and acted without self-respect.
Sadly, there have been many sex scandals in the US military. For example, it was reported that Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair had inappropriate relationships with five women.
I hope there will be no more scandals like this.
Wendy Cheung, Tung Chung
Will pressure produce good students?
I would like to ask Alex Lo ("When the best route is learning by rote", November 29) about the Hong Kong school system: is it worth it?
Does the cost in tutors, stress, anxiety and missing out on other aspects of life because of the relentless pressure from school lead to evident benefits for Hong Kong students, compared to their peers who graduate from so-called creative and fun learning (international) schools?
In particular, in the context of the globalised economy, are very high cognitive skills what it takes to be successful?
I come from a country where there is very little academic pressure at the primary, secondary and even university level. Still, we [the Netherlands] rank seventh on the [Global Index of Cognitive Skills and Educational Attainment].
We have only twice as many inhabitants as Hong Kong, but quite a few successful multinational companies. Also we do quite well globally in architecture, music, design, arts and sport.
In Hong Kong, people who can afford it send their children abroad in order to escape the local system. In the end, it is the competition for too few university places among those who are not fortunate enough to escape that drives the system, as it does in other Asian countries.
Josephine Bersee, Mid-Levels
Education can help prevent animal cruelty
It is sad that animal cruelty is alive and well in a "civilised" society such as Hong Kong.
Low self-esteem is a poor excuse for such barbarous behaviour as kicking a cat around like a football.
The lack of education is one of the root causes. Parents brought up to loathe and fear animals perpetuate this attitude among their children.
If you are raised to be selfish and uncaring, the end result is a self-centred, thoughtless adult.
Do you really think stray puppies on our outlying islands no longer end up in the cooking pot? Cruelty goes on behind closed doors and neighbours feign ignorance.
People learn only when there is a fear of reprisal. With a big fine and a prison sentence long enough to act as a deterrent, change will happen.
Joan Miyaoka, Sha Tin
People's habits also to blame for pollution
Everyone is blaming the government for not doing enough about pollution. Isn't it time to shift the focus to the people of Hong Kong, who are doing their utmost to pollute?
I read articles on pollution in Hong Kong (Tom Holland's "The sheer wilful stupidity of official inaction on pollution", November 16, and Mayling Chan's "Beyond a choke", November 19) with interest.
I hope I do not offend anyone if I suggest that most (or all) the articles on the subject are missing the point.
People's opinions on artificial beaches cannot be deduced by merely walking around the city, but their stand on pollution can. Everyone will notice that the average citizen will bear any suffering as long as it is guaranteed to increase pollution.
Last winter, I was at Tsim Sha Tsui and dropped in at Ned Kelly's for lunch. Inside, it was cold, but with the added misery of "wind" from the air conditioner.
I asked if they would be so kind as to turn it off. They said they couldn't because they would have to open the door, and it would get even colder.
The next day, it dawned on me: the younger generation have never worked in a place with no air conditioning, so they assume it is needed for air supply. Turn it off and we will die from hypoxia!
I have watched tourist buses waiting outside the Jumbo for hours, with the driver sound asleep inside, and the engine and the air conditioning running full blast.
When waking up in arctic conditions, what does he do? Turn off the engine? No, that would reduce his proud contribution to the traditional Hong Kong air, so he leaves it on and goes outside to thaw.
Taxi drivers, even on long stretches of road with little traffic, move their foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator and back again every few seconds (our famous "kangaroo drivers"), increasing fuel consumption.
We do not live in a democracy, but if the government imposes regulations on us that actually work, yet which the majority happen to oppose, should that be accepted?
If we are moving towards free elections, I don't see how we could condone laws that "force" us to reduce pollution.
For the record, I am very much in favour of reducing pollution - if the majority of us can agree on it.
Sven Topp, Mui Wo
KMB buses should turn up the heat
May I suggest one way for the Kowloon Motor Bus Company to cut their costs and thereby lessen their fare increase demands?
Turn the air conditioner off on colder days! It was freezing on the bus I took today.
Mike Pitcher, Pok Fu Lam