Letters to the Editor, February 1, 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 February, 2013, 3:09am


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Legco should back property intervention

The chief executive announced various measures in his policy address to the Legislative Council, aimed at increasing subsidised housing and also at stabilising home prices, especially for lower-income families.

Despite this, many members of the public are still concerned that rents and home prices will continue to rise beyond their affordability. A basic reason no doubt has to do with the current production shortage of home units suitable for lower-income families.

Another reason is that the short- and medium-term home building plans stated in the policy address will take a number of years to be realised.

The Hong Kong Civic Association notes that the secretary for transport and housing was recently reported in the media as saying that the government was obliged to intervene in the housing market if home prices rose beyond the affordability of residents, and that it would study any possible option to enhance home supply.

Since home prices in Hong Kong are reportedly among the highest in the world, the government will have no choice but to take timely and appropriate measures in the public interest, to keep home prices, particularly for lower- and middle-income families, as stable and affordable as possible.

This should be done now, as well as in the near- and long-term future.

Our association fully supports whatever steps the government should take and will take to protect the public interest in this direction. We urge legislative councillors to give their full support as well.

Hilton Cheong-Leen, president, Frederick Lynn, chairman, Hong Kong Civic Association


Right decision to prioritise Bar affairs

Alex Lo's column ("Top lawyer fears guilt by association", January 30) missed the point completely.

No "guilt" attaches to being a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which I understand is a laudable organisation. However, the chairman of the Bar Association has the unique role of representing the independent Bar in Hong Kong.

When he or she speaks, there should be no shadow of a doubt what he or she stands for. This in no way diminishes the strength or clear intention of the Bar in maintaining effective communication with mainland officials or bodies. Is Lo suggesting by any chance that "mainland officialdom" is inhibited about communicating with anyone outside its own advisory body?

The decision of Paul Shieh, SC, to give priority to the affairs of the Bar while he serves as its chairman is perfectly proper. I am confident that it is not only fully supported by members of the Bar but also respected by the community.

Margaret Ng, Central 


Poverty line not the way to help needy

It was announced in the policy address that the Commission on Poverty would set a poverty line to help officials come up with the right policies that can help alleviate the plight of the poor. However, I do not think this mechanism is the best way to help those in need.

There is a risk that once it is set, it labels poorer families and this could help ensure that discrimination, which may already exist in schools and in the workplace, gets worse.

Also, once it is established, policies would help only those people who are under the line. There may be families just above the line, not that much better off, but who would not be recipients of government aid.

Finally, a lot of resources will go into calculating this poverty line.

I would like to see more concrete policies such as providing more job opportunities and increasing the statutory minimum wage.

Isaac Fong, Kwai Chung


Overwhelming case for law on cyberbullying

The suicide of Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, in October, raised my awareness about cyberbullying.

I did not realise how serious it was until I read about her plight.

Because of one mistake she made when she was an innocent girl, she suffered mental torture online.

Cyberbullying is becoming a more serious problem and causes its victims, like Amanda, extreme mental anguish.

It can have an even worse impact than forms of bullying that involve physical contact.

It can include the sending of threatening messages and some of these bullies might access the victim's personal data.

Because it might spread on the internet, the scale of the ostracism can expand. Some surveys in Hong Kong have shown that more than 30 per cent of secondary students interviewed said they had suffered from cyberbullying and almost the same percentage of students admitted to bullying.

Cyberbullying is obviously very harmful.

It leaves victims feeling depressed and with a low sense of self-esteem. Some resort to taking drugs and drinking alcohol.

The stress can adversely affect their academic performance and these inhumane acts by the cyberbullies can have tragic consequences and, in some cases, lead to the victim's suicide.

Something must be done before the problem gets worse. I would like to see legislation that specifically prohibits acts of bullying through electronic media.

I also suggest the government establishes laws to protect students, for example, requiring schools to develop anti-cyberbullying strategies that enable them to punish perpetrators even if their online bullying was done off-campus.

I hope those individuals who are guilty of cyberbullying will come to realise that it is dangerous and that the only thing it achieves is to harm other people.

Isabella Shao, Yau Ma Tei


Charities' staff threatened by data disclosure

While I have always supported press freedom, I have to side with the government on the proposed changes to the Companies Registry requirements.

In my more than 15 years of experience working for and with not-for-profit and charitable organisations, I know how difficult it is to recruit volunteer leaders to serve as directors.

These individuals, who provide much needed pro bono expertise and often philanthropic support, may become even less willing to step forward if they know that for HK$18, their private data may be downloaded from the Companies Registry site.

I serve as a director on one such board and recently completed a term of office for another.

While journalists may argue that the available data has not been abused, the sad reality is that identity theft is rampant throughout the world.

Our local journalists may well seek to protect the innocent but they cannot offer assurances that the data will not be misused by others.

Susan Madon, president, Minerva Non-Profit Management Consulting


Legislation on working hours long overdue

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying made many promises during his election campaign in order to win support, but he has not lived up to all these pledges.

I was disappointed that in his policy address last month, there was little or no mention of universal suffrage, standard working hours or tackling the problem of discrimination against people of different sexual orientations.

It is unacceptable that in 2013, the government has still not implemented a standard working hours policy even though it was being discussed during the administration of the previous chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

Having such legislation would allow people to strike the right balance between their private and working lives.

Many people have to work long hours in the office instead of being able to spend the time they want, for example, with their families, dating, or perhaps pursuing a further education course.

It is difficult to have a private life if you are working from 8am to 8pm, but it is possible if you have fixed hours.

More than 100 countries already have working hours legislation.

I do not accept the argument that this legislation would reduce Hong Kong's competitive edge.

Singapore, which is known as one of our rivals, has a standard working hours law and still managed to beat us and be voted as the region's most popular business destination in the annual Accor Asia-Pacific Business Traveller Research.

The chief executive should not give up on legislation because it will be difficult to reach a consensus.

Catherine Fung, Tai Wai 


Plan ensures disadvantage for employees

I strongly disagree with industrial sector legislator Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen's proposal of capping weekly working hours at 65, without overtime pay.

This proposal does not benefit employees. If such a law was passed in companies where people worked less than those hours, many employers would seek to increase the workload to the full 65 hours.

This would lead to people working extra hours without additional pay.

This in turn could lead to people having less free time to spend with their families.

Having that spare time is crucial to employees. It maintains their relationship with family members, and gives them adequate rest.

Faced with longer hours, people would become more stressed and more tired and their productivity would suffer.

If the government cares about Hong Kong's working population, it should not accept Mr Leung's proposal.

Leung Ka-yan, Ma On Shan