Letters to the Editor, January 3, 2013

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2013, 4:21am

Time almost stands still at Now TV

After reading the correspondence focusing on Now TV often showing repeats of BBC series, I am writing to say that this is too often the case and is widespread across English-language channels.

Now Broadband TV might transmit over the internet, yet is a company where time almost stands still.

We might watch a "new" drama series here, then find it aired two or three years ago in Britain or the US, where viewers are already a couple of seasons ahead of Hong Kong. And then, back come the same episodes, so that when flicking through channels there's an almost perpetual feeling of déjà vu.

Repeats can benefit people who missed shows the first time around, but not these multiple repeats. In other places, viewers can record shows transmitted by broadband, and watch them when convenient. Here, however, Now TV sees no need to implement such services.

Also, when I switched on the cricket channel for the first day of a recent match between England and India, the commentary was in Hindi. I promptly phoned Now TV, saying its provider was sending the wrong channel, instead of the English-language cricket channel.

It took around four days before I had a proper response from Now TV, telling me that after investigations, they had found - you guessed it - the provider had transmitted the wrong channel. I asked why it took so long for a response, especially given I was watching a live sports channel at a premium price, but the only answer was that my comments were being taken into consideration.

As Now TV has no direct local competitor, its management may feel the company can do as it wishes. But in moving at a snail's pace along the information superhighway, it will surely lose customers as other options become available via the internet. And few people will mourn its decline.

Martin Williams, Cheung Chau


MPF changes could hurt employees

In November, the rules were modified allowing employees in Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) schemes to change their MPF plans and trustees.

The Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority argues that the new arrangement gives employees greater autonomy and further enhances market competition of trustees, but I am not convinced.

The employee-choice arrangement increases employees' autonomy but could lead to greater instability. Previously, MPF trustees regularly received and invested a fixed sum of money. But as employees can switch to other schemes every year, trustees may now take a short-term perspective with speculative investments, in the hope of getting high returns. This is an unhealthy development.

Furthermore, most employees do not possess the knowledge and expertise needed to decide which MPF plan is suitable. They will tend to choose those with low charges and high returns, unaware of the risks involved.

The new arrangement will lead to unhealthy competition between MPF trustees and could lead to employees losing their savings.

Ivy Kei, Tseung Kwan O


Xi must make the army even stronger

Last month, new Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping visited military bases in Guangdong and emphasised the importance of the army.

He talked about the need for military readiness on the part of the People's Liberation Army ("Xi Jinping tells military to be combat-ready", December 13).

I can understand why he puts so much store in the military, given China's history.

There have been periods in the past when a weak China was bullied by other nations, such as the United States, Britain and Japan.

During Qing times, the Empress Dowager Cixi neglected the importance of the military. This encouraged other countries to become more aggressive in their demands. Parts of the nation were invaded, with one of the goals being to exploit its natural resources.

During such conflicts, China's military was no match for opposing forces.

Defeated in these wars, China was subject to cruel indignities and insults.

Times have changed and a strong nation needs a powerful army. I hope that Xi, when he becomes president, strengthens the army.

Bessy Mak Hiu-ching, Lai Chi Kok


Crack down on dangerous 'gutter oil'

I have been concerned to read about restaurants using substandard oil. Although I know about the use of what is called "gutter oil" on the mainland, I never thought it would affect Hong Kong.

Gutter oil is a term used to describe illicit cooking oil which has been processed from waste oil collected from sources such as restaurant drains, grease traps and slaughterhouse waste. It contains cancer-causing substances.

Some unscrupulous restaurant owners will use it instead of cooking oil as it is cheaper.

How can the owners of these eateries do such a thing when they know the risks involved? It is unforgivable that they should show such disregard for their customers.

The relevant authorities must crack down on this gutter oil problem. They must carry out more raids on restaurants and check if they have been using this kind of oil. There should be harsh punishments for those involved. If individuals know they face heavy fines or prison, they may think twice getting involved.

In fact, gutter oil can be put to good use. Although it is harmful for humans to consume, if properly processed, it can be turned into biodiesel.

Ruby Kwok, Tsuen Wan


Shootings put spotlight on mental health

The shooting tragedy in a school in Newtown, Connecticut and the previous cases of gun violence in the US have raised questions about mental health issues.

In some cases, there was nothing to indicate the perpetrators were likely to take this kind of action; they appeared relatively normal. It may be time for the US government to examine the need to have more psychologists and social workers in schools and within the wider community.

More counselling could be made available to troubled families, as a dysfunctional family environment can damage a young person psychologically.

Stella Man Suet-ming, Ho Man Tin


Putonghua has limited appeal in Hong Kong

I am concerned about language learning in Hong Kong.

Many people appear to have given up on English, but Putonghua does not appear to have become the new second language. If there is a decline in citizens' language skills, it could adversely affect Hong Kong's competitiveness in the region and the nation.

Shanghai is being promoted by the central government as the country's future financial centre and Hong Kong risks being marginalised.

We used to feel we had an advantage with the widespread use of English, but many mainlanders now have a better command of the language. We are losing the advantages we enjoyed in the past.

The fault lies with our education system. In many schools, Cantonese is the medium of instruction. Since the handover, English has become less important. However, many Hongkongers have not embraced Putonghua instead, and they prefer to stick to Cantonese.

This problem is exacerbated by the lack of quality Putonghua teachers. Even now, 15 years after the handover, Putonghua proficiency levels are very low. Cantonese-speaking Hongkongers do feel distinct from their northern neighbours.

I think the emphasis should not be on Putonghua, but on the development of English-language skills from kindergarten.

Putonghua should be treated as a third and dispensable language for it is not an academic lingua franca.

I would like to see English always being used at tertiary level and extended to secondary schools. It is much more important than Putonghua.

Andrew Au, Kowloon Bay 


Government exercising its legitimate right

I must challenge the arguments put forward by some legal professionals and law academics that it is inappropriate for the Hong Kong government to request that the Court of Final Appeal refers the case concerning foreign domestic helpers' right of abode to the National People's Congress Standing Committee for an interpretation.

In any court case, it is the legitimate right of the two opposing parties to try their best to sway the court to their advantage. The government is doing no more than this.

From a political point of view, I am not surprised to see that Hong Kong people are divided over the government's proposal.

From a legal point of view, however, I am really surprised by the negative comments made by some legal professionals and academics on what the government is doing. Such comments amount to trying to take away the legitimate right of a litigant.

Lai Shing-kin, Quarry Bay