Letters to the Editor, March 7, 2013

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 2:32am


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Use fraction of budget to aid refugees

You have quite rightly drawn attention to the plight of recognised refugees who are awaiting resettlement to other countries ("UNHCR axes all aid for HK refugees in budget cuts", February 27).

The facts make pitiful reading. A comparatively small number of people are involved [132] and a comparatively small amount of money is needed. Recognised refugees receive just HK$500 month. The annual cost is low, yet for the refugees themselves this is a vital lifeline.

This subsistence sum is needed because of the government's refusal to allow this small group of people to work, pending their resettlement to a third country.

It is the administration's responsibility to deal with this issue, not the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The UNHCR unwillingly fills this gap because the government refuses to do so.

In last week's budget, the financial secretary announced spending of HK$440 billion, of which HK$291 billion is recurrent spending. In this city of overflowing surpluses, isn't it possible for the government to find just HK$1 million per year to provide a very minimal safeguard for these vulnerable people?

The various non-governmental organisations, charities, churches and human rights groups forming the Refugee Concern Network are already providing financial help and in-kind assistance to offset the government's shortfall in provisions to refugees, as well as the larger group of asylum seekers and torture claimants in Hong Kong.

Our budgets, too, are stretched to the limit and it is difficult to see where this money can come from within existing charitable sources.

Refugee Concern Network believes that the Hong Kong community is already taking its fair share of responsibility to care for this vulnerable minority group.

It is time for the government to step up and plug the gap to help these refugees maintain some form of dignity while awaiting resettlement.

Tony Read, chairman, Refugee Concern Network


Tsang's 'class' act is just skewed logic

Our financial secretary, John Tsang Chun-wah, claimed that he understood the middle class because he is middle class.

He further justified his argument by distorting the definition of the middle-income group by describing it as a matter of "lifestyle", adding that people who "drink coffee or watch French movies" belong to this group ("Price of entry to middle class…", March 1).

In my opinion, he was using skewed logic to divert people's attention from dire economic issues in Hong Kong.

Members of the sandwich class are struggling to have enough to own their own home. Many, faced with skyrocketing prices, have only a slim chance of achieving their goal.

Mr Tsang does not face these financial or housing problems. So how can he come up with a budget that can satisfy the needs of citizens, if he cannot understand the problems experienced by people earning around HK$20,000 a month?

He wants people to enjoy their lives, but having this kind of lifestyle is only possible if you are financially stable.

Mr Tsang should have considered these logical points before making such comments about the middle class.

James Au Kin-pong, Lai Chi Kok


Passengers can simply say thank you

I wholeheartedly agree with Pamela Chan ("Let's hear it for unsung heroes - bus drivers", February 23).

Bus drivers deserve the same recognition and esteem that we accord to those who fly us safely through the skies.

They both wear a uniform while on duty, both are called captain and both command expensive vehicles/aircraft, carrying many passengers.

While one has the freedom of the skies, the bus captain transports his clients along busy elevated highways and down congested streets while working 10-hour shifts.

These drivers have to avoid collisions throughout their shifts with other vehicles and have to be ever-watchful for jaywalking pedestrians.

More than half of Hong Kong citizens entrust their personal safety to these men and women on a daily basis. They usually go unnoticed, but then those who we take for granted often do. A quiet thank you on alighting may go a long way to improving their day too.

Lex Vlantis, Sha Tin


Decision on dog leaves children at risk

In December last year, our daughter (now aged 15 months) was bitten on the back of her head by a Siberian husky, outside our local supermarket at Mui Wo, Lantau.

Apart from the large loss of blood, our daughter was severely traumatised and in pain for several days.

Today, she has a scar and a bald patch. Shortly after the attack, we were advised by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department that because the dog was on a lead at the time, and another incident wasn't reported within the 12 months prior to the attack, it was unlikely the owners would be prosecuted.

More than two months later, we are still awaiting the department's decision regarding prosecution. However, we have now been informed it has decided not to class the dog as dangerous because the injury it caused wasn't severe enough ("Dog attack parents mad with system'", February 20). This cannot be right. Along with the people in our community who know this dog, we are under no illusions that it is dangerous.

As you reported, neighbours said that "the dog has attacked smaller dogs, and has killed at least one". Now it has attacked a child.

We are all certain that, given its history, and given the chance, this dog will attack again. Although the owners know the dog's nature, they have decided not to destroy it and they still allow it access to public places (currently it is muzzled).

The department knows all of this and its decision is worrying. Our daughter was lucky. After the dog bit, it was pulled away before it could bite again.

She was in a child seat at the back of a bicycle that protected her back and neck. Luckily, she wasn't standing on the ground or facing the dog at the time. The dog was not playing, it was attacking.

It is circumstance alone that stops this situation from being a lot worse.

The department's decision, in effect, says a dog can attack children and not be classed as dangerous.

This decision leaves children in our community exposed. Our daughter was lucky, the next child may not be.

Sharon Le Roux, Lantau


Education can curb anti-gay prejudice

I have supported the calls by outgoing Equal Opportunities Commission chairman and Executive Council convenor, Lam Woon-kwong, for Hong Kong to have legislation to protect sexual minorities, including gays, from discrimination.

Gays are part of our society and yet they are often victims of discrimination and, in some cases, bullying, including when they stand up and defend their rights. I wish those individuals who practise such discrimination would try to think how gay people feel.

Education can help to reduce levels of prejudice. In Canada, for example, students in secondary schools discuss issues relating to discrimination and learn to respect sexual minorities and their rights.

I would like to see something similar being done in our schools so that students can understand that homosexuals are ordinary citizens leading normal lives.

Tracy Yu Ming-chui, Yau Yat Chuen


Crash probe must look at pilot training

The Egyptian government must find out why the hot air balloon exploded in Luxor on February 26, killing 19 people, including nine from Hong Kong.

The investigation must be thorough, but it must also be completed as quickly as possible. Clearly, more rigorous checks are required once the balloons are allowed to take to the air again and maintenance checks must be more regular than before.

The inquiry should take a close look at the training programme of pilots and decide if standards need to be raised.

Tracy Ho Yin-ha, Tsing Yi


Cut number of non-local students

In recent years, more tourists have come to Hong Kong from the mainland.

They have become big spenders and this has been good for the local economy. But they have also helped to fuel inflation.

In addition, there has been a rapid increase in the number of non-local students at our universities who are mostly from the mainland.

There is insufficient housing to accommodate local residents, never mind those people who are coming to stay here from north of the border. With more mainlanders living here, it is becoming difficult for many Hongkongers to buy or even rent a small flat.

The government has to introduce measures to limit the number of non-local students who can come here to study.

Kiki Leung, Tsuen Wan