Letters to the Editor, February 25, 2013
An authentic headache over data safety
It was shocking to see the woeful ignorance of the basic principles of security betrayed by Ms Regina Ip in her letter ("Webb's stunt disregarded security risks", February 21).
For someone who was once secretary for security, not to have an understanding of identification and authentication, and the difference between them, is a very sad reflection of the calibre of politicians here.
It is clear to anyone with any understanding of this issue that a Hong Kong identity number is simply an identifier, just like a name, but with the benefit of being unique.
A quick Google search of my name, Paul Christensen, suggests that there is at least one other Hong Kong resident with the same name and one more person who visits regularly.
To identify which Paul Christensen I am, I offer my identity number: P893385(9). This is not secret information. But authenticating that I am who I am is a separate matter.
In the case of the identity cards, authentication is provided with a moderate level of security by the digital photo on it, with a somewhat higher level of security by the digitised thumbprint encoded on its chip.
In the case of access to bank accounts and similar facilities, relatively secure authentication is provided by using "multi-factor authentication", often involving a secret code (password), and a physical token (like HSBC's DigiPass token or, less securely, as used by Citibank, a registered cellphone).
I understand that several organisations do in fact use identity numbers as a completely flawed attempt at authentication (for example, Citibank's process includes them, which adds nothing except unnecessary complexity).
Politicians, regulators and bureaucrats should not (as Ms Ip and, more regrettably, the privacy commissioner have done) support such ignorant misuse of identity numbers as (worthless) authenticators. Their role should be to educate and guide the public and groups in these matters and, if necessary, provide regulation.
We need intelligent, educated leadership, but sadly what we seem to be getting is ignorant grandstanding.
Paul Christensen, Mid-Levels
US can stoke or stop North's nuclear plans
North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, compared to the United States' 1,054. It is continuing its nuclear weapons programme - even if it is denounced by the United Nations - which actually shows its desperation and fear.
The Working Group for Peace and Demilitarisation in Asia and the Pacific notes that since the Korean war, the US has prepared and threatened a nuclear attack on North Korea at least nine times; that the US maintains its "nuclear umbrella" over northeast Asia; and that its current contingency plans for war with the North include a first-strike nuclear attack.
It says the Obama administration's first-term policy of "strategic patience" - with crippling sanctions that led to malnutrition and mass starvation in the North - has been a great failure.
This, combined with the increasingly advanced missile programmes of North and South Korea, aggressive annual US-South Korean military exercises, and the Obama government's militarised Asia-Pacific "pivot", contributed to Pyongyang's decision to conduct a third nuclear test.
We support the working group's calls for proactive measures by the US. To stop the nuclear arms race in the region, we suggest the following:
(1) Direct US-North Korea negotiations;
(2) Suspend aggressive military exercises by all parties involved in the tensions in the Korean peninsula;
(3) An end to the UN-led sanctions against the North, which devastates the lives of its people;
(4) An end to the Korean war by replacing the 1953 Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty;
(5) Negotiations leading to the creation of a northeast Asia nuclear-weapons-free zone;
(6) End the US first-strike nuclear weapons doctrine and reverse US plans to spend an additional US$185 billion over the next decade to "modernise" America's nuclear arsenal and nuclear weapons delivery systems of missiles and bombers; and
(7) Start negotiations on a nuclear weapons abolition convention that requires the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons in a time-bound framework, with provisions for effective verification and enforcement.
Tony Henderson, chairman, Humanist Association of HK
Bureaucrats unfairly favour HK landlords
Regarding Philip Yeung's article ("John Tsang mustn't kill the middle class dream of upward social mobility", February 20), with respect to the persistent rates rebates given to property owners and nothing to renters, I can only find one reason for this injustice: conflict of interest.
One doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to realise that our bureaucrats who form such policies year after year are owners of multiple properties, and giving rebates to these wealthy property owners benefits our bureaucrats.
What other reason can there be to ignore the struggling renters? This is totally unethical and unconscionable behaviour!
Sanjiv Singh, Mid-Levels
Eco-problems prove hard to swallow
I am writing to share my ideas on the lax attitude of Hong Kong people towards global warming.
We all know that the issue has been a major concern of environmentalists and scientists for years. Changes in the North and South Pole - like the melting of polar ice caps - as well as the rise in sea levels, has heightened our awareness of the problem.
Yet it is so surprising that many people in Hong Kong think this problem is none of their business.
Once, I went to a fast-food chain to buy a takeaway lunch and saw that, instead of bringing their own lunch boxes, the diners kept on taking the disposable lunch boxes and cutlery provided by the restaurant.
Worse, I heard an elegantly dressed mother remind her son to take more disposable cutleries for future use as they were waiting for their food. It is hard to believe that parents, who should be role models for children, teach their children the wrong lessons.
I think it is ridiculous that we are living on this planet and are thus all culpable for the problem of global warming, but many Hongkongers still think it is none of our business.
Global warming can be fatal if we do not take action now. Even if we know that this problem won't affect us immediately, we should think of our next generation. I hope that the government can take more action to promote the importance of protecting our earth.
Kelly Chan, Prince Edward
Basic help for some 'nomad' families
I am writing in response to your article ("Activists seek relief for HK's 'nomadic' children", February 12).
Though I sympathise with the families, I do not think granting them permanent one-way permits is the best solution. I doubt if the measure is practical. If the government grants all of them permanent residency, there will be an excessive influx of mainlanders, leading to more social frictions.
It will also be a great burden on the public health system.
Instead, the government had better continue granting permits on a case-by-case basis. Of course, families with disabled children who require more care and a more secure life should be considered.
I suggest the government provide the affected families with child-care services and build facilities where parents can leave their children while they are travelling back to the mainland for another visa. This can ensure a more stable life for the children.
Alex Law, Tsuen Wan
Demanding an apology over public disgrace
The Legislative Council has suffered yet another disgrace in letting the expletive-laced words, "You are not even a f***ing Chinese", to be uttered at its meeting without formally and on the record throwing out the person from the chamber.
The utterer is a barrister - a qualification he bragged about in his rant. He was representing the Association of Hong Kong Professionals and a deputy spokesman for Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
What he said has dishonoured the association he represents, demeaned the DAB, disgraced Legco and insulted all the Chinese. He should publicly apologise to all.
C.K. Yeung, Sha Tin
Missing note in news of singer's death
I realise your newspaper has become a People magazine type of publication, so I shouldn't find it astonishing to see so much space given to a minor [country music] celebrity ("Star's death turns heat on TV doctor", February 21).
What I find stranger is that none of the US media have mentioned that Mindy McCready shot her pet dog before turning the gun on herself. This has only been mentioned in the British media.
I don't think this is because Britons love animals more than Americans do, but over some reason like her friends and handlers not wanting to publicise the fact that she was deranged.
L.M.S. Valerio, Tin Hau