Letters to the Editor, January 26, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 January, 2013, 5:18am

We Chinese know English gives us edge

I refer to the letter by Vaughan Rapatahana ("Why this fixation with English?" January 21).

It is an exaggeration to say that English proficiency is quintessential to the overall viability and well-being of the Hong Kong SAR, but there is no doubt that the best-paid jobs in the city with the most promising prospects (whether in government, the professions, consulting, investment banking or other knowledge-intensive occupations) require good English, and parents know it.

Parents' protests forced the government to abandon its "mother tongue" education policy and allow more schools with Chinese as the medium of instruction to use more English.

Parents who can afford it are scrambling to place their children in overseas high schools, international schools in Hong Kong or local schools with a good reputation so that their children can have the benefit of a superior English-language education.

As a lover of Chinese classics, I am not saying this to disparage my own national language or other beautiful languages. But it is a fact that English is the language of international business and commerce. Moreover, knowledge of English helps open the door to the world of Western civilisation.

Good English proficiency is essential to maintaining our edge as an international city. Of course, we also need to maintain strong rule of law, sound management, and an open and fair society. Proficiency in the English language - especially the willingness to read about how other developed societies run and continuously improve themselves - helps us maintain our edge.

We still have an edge over other Chinese cities in our English proficiency and connection with the international community. If we lose that, and become more inward-looking, Hong Kong could easily become just another Chinese city. Or worse, slowly become a second- or third-rate Chinese city.

Regina Ip, chair, Savantas Policy Institute


Critic speaking the language of denial

Vaughan Rapatahana wonders why there is a fixation with "proficiency in English" ("Why this fixation with English?" January 21).

He is "flummoxed" by the assumption, which he claims is "without one iota of evidence, one shred of logic, or one scintilla of statistic". Well, here is some evidence: 80 to 90 per cent of scientific papers are in English, according to Science magazine, up from 60 per cent in the 1980s. Do we wish our students to cut themselves off from the growing majority of scientific knowledge accessible only in English? The students at the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University certainly don't think so, as studies in those universities indicate the importance their students place on knowledge of English - sufficient to learn from those papers.

In trade, English is pre- eminent to an even greater degree. Do we wish to close ourselves off from a main source of our income?

Of course , it's not a matter of knowing only English. It's a matter of being bilingual or multilingual in today's world and one of those languages must be English. There is adequate "evidence, logic and statistics" available to prove this by a simple internet search.

To deny it would be to deny Hong Kong one of its critical advantages and consign us to a backwater.

Peter Forsythe, Discovery Bay


Come to aid of neglected homeless

I regularly attend street sleeper services provided by non-profit organisations in Hong Kong. And it appears to me that these people get no help from the government.

We provide blankets, food and toiletries for street sleepers, but I note that they live in areas that lack sanitation.

I don't feel the government really cares about how they live.

I believe that every human being deserves to have the basic necessities in order to survive. On Sundays, the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation of Hong Kong organises an early morning breakfast service for homeless people and it gives them a feeling that someone cares for their well-being and will offer them hot tea and food.

If the government will not do what it should to help, volunteers and donors can always play their part. All it requires is a genuine heart, and commitment to serve.

Rishi Teckchandani, Mid-Levels


One-party system has its advantages

In the inaugural address of his second term, US President Barack Obama called on the opposition Republican Party to drop the traditional partisan machinations which had heightened the recent fiscal cliff and seize the moment together to get remedial work done for the nation. What enormous electioneering expenses were incurred to come this far.

Japan went through even worse political machinations to now have its seventh prime minister in 6½ years. And Greece, where the word democracy originated, is faring even worse.

So why insist on having a multiparty system? If it comes to bringing down a chief executive whose performance does not live up to expectations and electing a new one, surely the necessary mechanism can be written into the constitution of a one-party system. It is still "for the people, by the people, of the people".

That is what Hong Kong's much-maligned national education guidebook was trying to say.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan


Verdict blows whistle on all noise polluters

The police have successfully prosecuted someone whose whistling caused ringing in "two auxiliary police officers' ears" ("July 1 whistler guilty of assault", January 23).

I wonder if the millions of Hong Kong people, who live in proximity to busy roads, can now expect fully proactive policing to protect their ears from the bombardment of vehicle horns that pound them daily?

Many of these horns are heard inside flats which are hundreds of metres away from the vehicles whose drivers sound them.

It is obvious that the horns are used by impatient, aggressive, angry and intolerant drivers and not for the uses authorised by the Road Users' Code.

I would argue that it is necessary in Hong Kong to introduce a complete ban on the use of car horns between the hours of, say, 7pm and 7.30am, as is the case in many countries.

I would also recommend a complete 24/7 ban in residential areas.

I hope the commissioner of police and the transport secretary will use the pages of this newspaper and others to express their views on such an easily avoided source of noise pollution.

Patrick Wood, Quarry Bay


Solar panels, not sunroofs, to clear the air

The citizens of Hong Kong are becoming increasingly frustrated and angry about the high levels of urban air pollution.

This problem is caused by irresponsible and shallow-minded people in the corporate or administrative world.

Vehicle manufacturers, for instance, still bring cars and trucks off the assembly line that emit high levels of carcinogens and our officials still allow them to be licensed.

One source of unnecessary pollution is caused by the thousands of vehicles with "sun roofs" - glass windows that admit solar heat, thus requiring excessive burning of fuel to drive the air-conditioner.

This design is totally unsuited for Hong Kong.

Any official with a brain should know that these vehicles are inherently more polluting than the alternatives.

Why do we allow selfish corporate and personal whims to harm our environment?

Car manufacturers catering to such frivolous desires should be black-balled by consumers and the public.

The office in charge of the environment should quickly issue a ban on the further import of such polluters and mandate that all vehicles be fitted with solar panels to take advantage of Hong Kong's ample sunlight.

Enough power could be generated by the panels to provide lighting and possibly even air-conditioning to reduce our excessive consumption of polluting fuels.

We citizens have to protect the health of our children.

We have to demand that thoughtless corporations and our officials stop their foot-dragging.

Give us vehicles that save our health and our money.

J. Garner, Sham Shui Po


Land banks tax can boost construction

I am pleased that the government seems to be considering all options to ease the apparent housing shortage situation in Hong Kong.

However, I would question the effectiveness or justice of the "vacancy tax" on its own ("C.Y. warns of tax on unsold new flats", January 21).

As has already been stated by the Real Estate Developers Association, tell any retailer you will tax his stock in hand, and you will be met with a predictable response.

If the government wants a bigger impact from its policy, it should delve further.

All of Hong Kong's developers boast of their very substantial land banks, and a tax on undeveloped land with outline planning permission could trigger an avalanche of property construction.

If this is combined with the "vacancy tax", it could achieve the results the government is hoping for.

Lawrence Cheung, Mid-Levels