National education in Hong Kong

Letters to the Editor, January 11, 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2013, 2:27am

Uninformed views harming vet profession

I must take issue with what I felt was an incomplete report ("Top doctor questions sky-high HK vet fees", January 7).

I feel qualified to write because I have been administratively and politically involved in the veterinary profession since arriving in Hong Kong 17 years ago.

The article highlights one big problem that exists in para-clinical professions here (such as pharmacists, physiotherapists, psychologists and vets). That is the all-pervading and uninformed influence of the medical profession in these professions. It seems that only in this city does the medical profession have such influence in the registration and business practices of the para-clinical professions.

Medical doctors pontificating on matters they do not understand and that do not concern them is obstructive for progress of the veterinary profession. This opinion is borne out by your report. Dr Chow Pak-chin's opinion is uninformed about the reality of veterinary practice.

There are huge differences between veterinary practice and medical practice.

The average veterinary GP, to meet consumer expectations, has to have ultrasound equipment, an X-ray machine, blood bank supplies, blood chemistry equipment, anaesthetic machine, hospital caging, emergency and critical care and pharmacy services as well as regular consultation facilities.

An average Hong Kong medical GP has none of this equipment except for the consultation facilities, pharmacy services and possibly emergency revival equipment. If blood tests, an X-ray or an ultrasound are required, these services are outsourced to specialists. If the human patient is in need of critical care, they are referred to a hospital. This hospital is likely to be subsidised by government funding.

On the other hand, if a veterinary patient is in need of critical care, the animal is taken into the clinic and cared for on-site using in-house facilities. The practitioner has to buy this equipment, maintain it and be trained to use it, which can only be done by charging appropriate fees.

In Hong Kong of all places, the public in general and medical doctors in particular should appreciate these basics of private enterprise - clients pay for services and the fees reflect the quality of service and level of facilities offered.

If nothing else, this debate reinforces the argument for a veterinary school in Hong Kong where veterinary GPs will have access to a 24-hour referral service and the South China Morning Post can seek opinions from knowledgeable, informed and impartial academic members of the veterinary profession.

Dr Anthony James, director, Laboratory Animal Services Centre, Chinese University of Hong Kong


New real estate trust needed to counter Link

The listing of the Link Reit was once a successful privatisation story of the government. The original intention was to realise the value of the Housing Authority's retail facilities through asset enhancement and modernisation of management.

At the beginning of its operation, it had been effective in revitalising retail premises while providing a decent return to its investors.

But after a series of shareholding transfers and management change, the new management has adopted an aggressive business strategy in an attempt to squeeze out the remaining value of the facilities. The drastic increase in rents and change of tenant mix have threatened the survival of small and medium-sized enterprises and reduced the daily necessity choice of ordinary citizens.

Opinion groups blamed the practice as a contributing factor of local inflation. Some people advocated that the government should buy back the Link.

This idea seems attractive in a community of rising populism, but may not be feasible or at least sensible in reality. The diversified shareholding base of the Link means a high acquisition premium is needed. It appears to be an unwise use of public money.

The government should commit more resources to expedite the construction of new public housing and associated retail facilities. Besides this supply side method, it might even try to counteract the market influence of the Link by creating another real estate investment trust for these new retail facilities while maintaining significant board representation. To solve a market problem, the government still has to rely on market forces.

Stanley Ip, Tseung Kwan O


Contrition on structures can bolster Leung

Surveys indicate that the support rate for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has been steadily dropping.

The main reason has been the perceived lack of integrity over illegal structures at his home.

A frank admission on his part regarding his mistake could lead to forgiveness and help to restore public confidence.

The actions of the chief executive are linked closely to the efficiency of the government and prosperity of the city.

If he does not enjoy the trust of Hongkongers, it will inevitably be more difficult for him to get his policies implemented.

Wendy Chan, Tseung Kwan O


National learning fears unfounded

Last year, a debate raged over the proposed introduction of national education in Hong Kong's schools and there was huge public concern.

There were fears that the aim was to change Hong Kong from a capitalist to a communist society and eventually the government backtracked.

Now the dust has settled, I think it is worth reflecting on this issue and I believe national education might have been much better for schools than was thought at the height of the furore.

Such a course would have helped prepare primary students for Chinese history and policy lessons at secondary level.

Also, because of its economic advances, China is now a world power.

As Hong Kong citizens, we should be proud of that and should want to learn more about the nation.

There has been a lot of negative publicity about the country and a national education course might have helped counteract that to some extent. Pupils could have learned more about the positive reforms that have been introduced on the mainland, and the open door policy which has led to China having so much success on the global stage.

The course might also have helped reduce some of the tensions that exist between Hongkongers and mainland visitors. Students would have learned to appreciate the cultural differences between the two groups.

I think a lot of people opposed it because they did not really realise what was being proposed.

I also have doubts about the suggestion by some that it was tantamount to brainwashing.

I am sure people in Hong Kong are capable of independent thought and they could decide for themselves whether an attempt was being made to brainwash them.

Cheung Chi-fung, Ma On Shan


Time to stop defending the indefensible

I refer to the letter by Charlie Lim of the Marine Products Association ("Drying fins is sensible use of available space", January 8), regarding the rooftop drying of thousands of shark fins.

He described it as being "a good use of space". That's like saying that the appalling cage homes many elderly people in the city live in are a good use of space. We should be ashamed that we allow either to exist in what we claim is a civilised society.

Despite Mr Lim's amazing assertions about wildlife groups fabricating the evidence, there is no debate that shark finning takes place on a massive scale. The "estimated 30,000 fins" on that roof are proof of this ("Shark fin blanketing roof proves dirty trade thrives", January 4). It may take many years, but shark's fin soup is going to leave the menu.

There is also no doubt that the practice is unsustainable and it has nothing to do with insulting the Chinese people.

A few people living in coastal areas 150 years ago catching a few sharks wasn't a threat to the shark population worldwide. But, what mankind could do then we cannot do now, thanks to our ever-increasing numbers and our ruthless efficiency for catching and killing. We live in Mr Lim's "la-la land" , where we can be blind to our actions and to their consequences, at our peril.

Shark's fin soup is a delicacy that needs to be consigned to history. For my Chinese friends who enjoy it, I am sorry but we can't go on defending the indefensible.

Thinking people must take action on an issue that is plain to all, except, it seems, for Charlie Lim.

Laurence Mead, Lamma


Power firms' price hikes plain greedy

CLP Power has raised charges by an average of 5.9 per cent and Hongkong Electric by an average of 2.9 per cent.

Both companies have said they will offer rebates for low users while CLP will impose penalties on heavy domestic users.

However, I still think it was unreasonable for the two companies to raise charges. Electricity tariffs are already high in Hong Kong and people living in poverty are unlikely to be able to afford the higher rates. The hikes will make their financial situation worse.

Also, both firms raised prices last year and doing so again this year is greedy.

They should not just be thinking about profits. They should have listened to the views of the public and abandoned their latest tariff increases.

They should be considering the impact their policies have on the poor in our society.

Shirley Kwok Wing-shuen, Tsuen Wan