Letters to the Editor, February 18, 2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 February, 2013, 1:55am

Long working hours bad for your health

It is common for employees in Hong Kong to work long hours.

There appears to be no change in this state of affairs despite efforts by the government to change the working culture.

In fact, if anything, in some cases, things have got worse as businesses, faced with soaring rents, cut back on staff in order to reduce costs and stay afloat. Those employees who still have a job face even longer hours.

Labour unions are calling on the government to introduce standard hours legislation, but employers' representatives are opposed to this. As with the debate preceding the minimum wage law, there seems little chance of reaching a consensus without government intervention.

Many studies have highlighted the social costs of long working hours, such as family and health problems. Also, they can cause tensions within the workplace. It is unethical for businesses to deal with the problem of rising rents by exploiting employees.

The successful implementation of the minimum wage proved that it is possible for us to strike a balance between economic flexibility and protection of labour rights.

In his maiden policy address, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying promised to set up a special committee on standard working hours to figure out the way forward.

I accept that the government needs to carefully consider the implications and any demands for a swift decision are unrealistic. However, I still hope we will see standard working hours legislation introduced.

It can help restore public trust in the government.

Stanley Ip, Tseung Kwan O


City's unique character disappearing

I have lost count of the number of visits I have made to Hong Kong. Since the bar code reader was installed at Chek Lap Kok, I can no longer keep track by looking at entry stamps.

For me it has been Asia's "go-to city" for as long as I have been able to fly. The airport and Hong Kong's transport network remain the best in Asia.

My problem now is what to do next. I have observed, with apprehension, alarm and sadness, that Hong Kong [meaning Fragrant Harbour] is losing its "Hong". The "fragrance" is disappearing, sucked out by the likes of Louis Vuitton and Gucci.

I now land in a shopping mall, stay in one and can't seem to find much else. I can't see my favourite small, Chinese restaurant in an alley near the Sheraton in Tsim Sha Tsui lasting long.

I'm sure rising rents will kill it. Some firm like Prada will move in. For me, the day I can't get my pork and noodles at that eatery, I will decide my next trip to Hong Kong will be in the airport's transit lounge, on my way to another part of Asia.

Matthew Hewitt, Nelson, New Zealand


Subsidies can help poorer students

I refer to the report ("Rich grab more university places", February 1).

Obviously, richer citizens have more financial resources and can ensure a better learning environment for their children. The better you do academically and the more talent you show, the greater your prospects.

Also, children from well-off families are part of an extensive and privileged social network. This helps to open doors when they are seeking career opportunities. Many youngsters from low-income families have lost before they even leave the starting gate.

Key to changing this is government policy. It must offer more subsidies to poor students to help create a level playing field and it must ensure these subsidies help these students acquire the skills they need to progress.

Zoe Cheung Lok-in, Kwai Chung


Pleas to free dissident fall on deaf ears

Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has languished in captivity since 2006, is reported to have had visits from two relatives at a prison in Xinjiang region.

The case of Mr Gao, a Christian, has been widely publicised in the West in newspapers such as The New York Times. His wife Geng He has made pleas for his release, through the Western media. He is one of scores of Chinese dissidents who have been sentenced to prison for "inciting subversion".

There is little evidence that pleas for their release have effected any significant change in the government's human rights policy.

An editorial published in The New York Times in April 2010 called on US President Barack Obama to "squarely acknowledge - and protest - the Chinese leadership's continuing, ruthless stifling of any serious political dissent".

The civilised world can ill-afford not to speak out on behalf of Mr Gao and hundreds of other political prisoners who cannot speak for themselves. For many, it is a matter of life and death.

Brian Stuckey, Denver, Colorado, US 


Angered by obsession with more homes

I refer to the report ("Baptist University fights new homes plan", February 8).

If there is any vacant land next to a university, the Town Planning Board should not grab it for homes, but automatically assign it for the university.

It is only fitting that a world-class city, which Hong Kong claims to be, should have adequate facilities for its universities.

The government must avoid turning Hong Kong into a concrete jungle and putting houses on all available land.

To be a world-class city, Hong Kong requires other facilities, some of which it already has (theme parks like Ocean Park and Disneyland), and some that are in the planning stage. The future sports complex in Kai Tak and the West Kowloon arts hub are excellent.

I hope this government will not degrade them, again, by building more houses there.

Also with regard to the city's private clubs, these are essential for the prestige of a world-class city.

They are not a "privilege" and they should not be dismantled in order to make way for more houses ("Exclusive clubs may lose their leases", February 6).

To make any facility user-friendly, there must be adequate car parks and convenient and frequent public transport links.

There are so many other things that the government must take care of besides just constructing houses. Why not limit the number of immigrants to start with?

Ng Mei-ling, Repulse Bay


Clarifying law on money laundering

I refer to the article by Jake van der Kamp ("Proof needed to show a crime has been committed", February 7).

The Hong Kong Police Force investigates money laundering offences in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong, one of which is the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance. The relevant provisions of the ordinance have been tested to a very great extent before the courts of Hong Kong.

The ordinance relies on what is commonly referred as "the reasonable man test". It has been upheld in the Court of Appeal that it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove the commission of a predicate offence. What is required to be proved, by evidence or inference, is that a defendant has reasonable grounds to believe that the property represents any person's proceeds of an indictable offence.

The law, and the courts, take the view that if a reasonable man is dealing with a large amount of money, he should form an opinion about why he has been dealing with it.

The courts have considered very carefully, over many cases and legal arguments, what opinion a reasonable man might have about why he is dealing with millions of dollars.

As an international financial centre, Hong Kong is vigilant to the risk of being abused by criminals or terrorists to launder the proceeds of crime.

The Hong Kong police will continue to enforce anti-money laundering legislation vigorously.

Kwok Pak-chung, acting chief superintendent, police public relations branch


Electric car owners kept out of bays

I would like to bring to the attention of your readers the selfish behaviour of some owners of cars which use petrol.

I am the owner of an electric car and every time I drive into the car park I use, the few charging bays allocated to electric vehicles are occupied by a traditional petro-powered model.

It is so inconsiderate of these people. They have a whole multi-storey car park to choose from and they park at our few designated slots. I know these incidents happen at other car parks and in some cases there may only be one charging bay.

In the case of the car park I use I have complained to security personnel. They say these car owners ignore the signage indicating it is electric-only space, remove the cone and park their cars without feeling a shred of guilt. They say they can't do much about it and I find this so frustrating.

Some car parks have dual-purpose parking lots, and conventionally powered cars are entitled to park where they wish. But it is unacceptable for them to use a slot designated for electric cars.

M. Chan, Tung Chung