Letters to the Editor, December 17, 2012

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 4:02am

Revamp old factories for artists' studios

The Hong Kong government sees economic development as its top priority.

However, because of this emphasis on the economy and the city's status as an international financial centre, arts development is neglected, and citizens show little interest in it.

Local artists do not get financial support from the administration, and so most cannot earn a living through what they create.

With high rents, they often cannot afford a suitable studio to work.

Consequently, Hong Kong's arts culture is not well developed.

To get by, some will take part-time freelance jobs and may even have to accept full-time employment.

Once they do that, they can no longer focus properly on the creative process needed to produce an artwork.

Some of them feel so frustrated by this that they give up art altogether.

The government should be willing to help.

It should revitalise old and empty industrial buildings for use by artists. They would be charged an affordable rent for their studios.

This should not be seen as a one-off subsidy. Artists in Hong Kong will need long-term support.

Juliet Ho Long-sum, Lei Yue Mun


E-books offer healthier option

I agree with your editorial ("HK should press on with e-books", December 6).

It is important to do this given that young people are part of the IT generation.

So many people nowadays have notebooks and smartphones.

Therefore, it will be very convenient for students if electronic textbooks are used during lessons in schools.

It is also environmentally friendly, as there will be less use of paper.

An e-book is also better for the health of students.

At the moment they have to bring a lot of books to school every day and have to carry a heavy load in their rucksacks, which can damage the spine.

It would make a massive difference if all pupils had to carry from home every day was a tablet PC.

They would have a much lighter schoolbag.

Also, in some traditional textbooks the print is often too small and students have to strain their eyes to read it.

With an e-book they can adjust the size of the type so that the material is easy to read.

Given the obvious benefits the government should encourage greater use of e-books in Hong Kong.

Jessica Lau, Sheung Shui


Ease foreign judges out of top court

I refer to the ongoing debate on whether there is a continued need for foreign judges in Hong Kong.

The Court of Final Appeal only hears cases that have been granted leave to appeal. It has invited foreign judges to sit in all its proceedings since the reunion. Screening leave applications isn't the job for dignitary foreign justices, who therefore hear only cases that have been granted leave by local judges.

Foreign judges occupy the lowest rung in the court's order of precedent. In most cases, the contribution of foreign judges can be summarised in the concurring remark, "I agree". They are inconsequential with their minority presence in the court's proceedings. Their presence is what Richard Posner, the distinguished US jurist, would call "a form of judicial fig-leafing". In common law's adversarial system, judges are umpires and not players in the contest between litigants, the skills of whose advocates determine the case.

Our judiciary's mission is to maintain an independent and effective judicial system that commands (not buys) confidence.

The standard of the Court of Final Appeal's independence is finer than that of the lower courts, where it is about immunity from non-judicial influences.

The Court of Final Appeal must develop our own judiciary independently, free from influence of foreign judiciaries. We can't afford to start 2047 with a skeletal judiciary, one with scant local substance and social relevance.

Our rule of law, based on a written constitution and structural separation of powers, resembles the US model. US judges abhor citing foreign decisions. We should ask whether the experience of foreign judges, accustomed to England's parliamentary supremacy, exactly aligns with our judicial orientation.

The Basic Law provides that appointed foreign judges may sit in the Court of Final Appeal by invitation on an "as required" basis. The court is unwise to make foreign judges a constant requirement, depending on them for credibility. To prevent judicial dependence, the Basic Law has provided the chief executive and legislature with full control over judicial appointments. We should cease further appointment of foreign judges and begin to reduce the number of Court of Final Appeal foreign non-permanent judges.

As foreign investors learn that the social system we are building is fair, productive and pleasant, they will come.

Pierce Lam, Central


Protect Basic Law from this bad proposal

I hope that a new interpretation of the Basic Law as proposed by the Hong Kong government over right of abode for foreign domestic helpers and the offspring of mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong will not take place. It is not an easy way out of these issues, as some might think, just the reverse.

In 2004, the pan-democrats were deemed to be building "illegal structures" on the Basic Law when they proposed a public "referendum" about universal suffrage. I hope the Hong Kong government will not knowingly allow "illegal structures" to be built onto that document.

Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po


Time to get tough over animal abuse

The recent case in which a stray cat was tortured and had to be put down prompted a wave of indignation and reignited the debate on animal welfare.

More people are now keeping pets in Hong Kong, but often do not know how to look after them properly.

Individuals have to give greater thought before they buy an animal as a pet. They have to decide if they will be able to take good care of them.

To curb animal cruelty, the government needs to have tougher punishments for those convicted of abuse of animals.

Nicole Lai, Sau Mau Ping


West wing could have legal library

It is good news that the government has come to its senses and will save the west wing on Government Hill from private redevelopment. Also, it will retain the integrity of this important Central site by moving the Justice Department into these offices, emblematically next to the Court of Final Appeal.

The Government Hill Concern Group deserves credit for fighting, and finally prevailing, in a prolonged uphill "battle" with government and vested interests. I support convenor Katty Law's call for a public library at this location, possibly addressing the administrative and legal history of Hong Kong.

Our legal system is supposed to be accessible and transparent. I therefore call for the high railings and heavy gates to be removed from around Government Hill.

Prior to 1997 one could walk freely through this area from Battery Path and St John's Cathedral to Lower Albert Road, without any interference or even a second glance.

During Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's administration, it became like the proverbial Fort Knox. I once had occasion to hand-deliver documents to the Executive Council, and accordingly its secretariat instructed me to visit its offices via the wing wing Ice House Street entrance.

Officialdom had apparently become so paranoid of any direct interface with a member of the public that this simple task took me almost two hours to accomplish, and entailed a (rather bemused) police escort.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has professed that he will pay attention to public opinion.

I therefore hope that his administration will not develop such an entrenched mentality when dealing with members of the public.

Roger Emmerton, Wan Chai


Education can curb teen pregnancy

I refer to your editorial ("Sex education is a health issue", December 11).

Sex is still a taboo subject in conservative Chinese society, and in Hong Kong, students still have limited knowledge and there is insufficient sex education in schools. Some teachers are still embarrassed by the subject. And some parents don't want it taught, because they are afraid it might encourage students to start having sex earlier. But in sex education, students are not just taught about sexuality, but about the meaning of romantic love.

Insufficient knowledge can lead to teenage pregnancies if girls are ignorant about the facts of life and are not aware of the risks involved.

The government has to address this issue. It should ensure that sex education as a subject exists on the curriculum of all secondary schools in Hong Kong.

Kellie Yip, Lok Fu