Letters to the Editor, March 9, 2013
Lost dementia patients must be reported
My father is a dementia patient who cannot recognise people or his surroundings.
He often gets away from his day care centre or from home. As we never let him hold any cash or an Octopus card, we have discovered a disturbing fact; Hong Kong's public transport system allows people without the ability to care for themselves to travel long distances without paying fares.
A year ago, he left our home in Tin Shui Wai and went missing for two days. He was found in Sheung Wan, a place he could have reached only by boarding a specific Citybus route from the terminal next to our apartment.
Just a month ago, he sneaked away from the day care centre in Tuen Mun at night, and was found the next morning in Sheung Shui, a common destination for minibuses and KMB routes near the centre. It's obvious that my father could not have travelled to these locations on foot.
One of the police officers who helped find him asked how it was possible for him to board a bus without the driver noticing. There are a few possible explanations. Maybe the driver's priority was to stick to his schedule and he didn't want any trouble that might interfere with being punctual. Perhaps he felt compassion for an elderly person or just failed to notice him get on.
I understand that drivers have guidelines to follow and timetables to adhere to, but they have to realise that people with this condition on their own in the city are at risk.
Nor is it a rare occurrence. I read one newspaper article in 2011 where a doctor was quoted as saying that almost 30 per cent of dementia patients in Hong Kong had got lost.
If a bus driver thinks that one of his passengers is such a patient he should not hesitate to report his concerns to the police or his superiors at the bus terminus.
Jeffrey Tiu, Tin Shui Wai
Feel free to reject accursed think tanks
I refer to the letter by Alastair Maxwell ("Private rent control can foil speculators", March 1).
I would like to congratulate him for so aptly summing up organisations like the overblown and pompous sounding Heritage Foundation with its ridiculous "freest market index". Your correspondent talks of "greed-fuelled, delusional right-wing US think tanks which took on laissez-faire with their mother's milk, and who looked on when the American financial crisis happened".
He asked who needed "the curse of their approval". Well, it seems that our leaders do.
At a recent talk, one of our ministers referred to a new policy that contravenes this "mother's milk" philosophy and sounded like a person apologising for a religious transgression in a confessional.
We really must stop this obeisance to these people and, when next year's award comes, we should wrap it up, send it back and tell them, in less than polite language, where to put it.
S. P. Li, Lantau
Lau an expert on tyranny of the minority
Lau Nai-keung criticises the Occupy Central campaign for standing up for universal suffrage ("Tyranny of the minority has no place in Hong Kong", March 1). As a member of the NPC Standing Committee, he will know all about the "tyranny of the minority".
The irony of his use of this phrase in relation to supporters of democracy will not be lost on readers.
Chris White, Sai Ying Pun
Old factories, not containers, for new homes
I refer to Huen Tsz-wing's letter ("Container homes worth considering", March 3). I do not think this suggestion of using shipping containers as accommodation is a good way to solve Hong Kong's housing problems.
It would simply create more problems. There would be environmental and road safety issues to consider.
Also, water and electricity would have to be supplied, and once people realised how unsuitable these containers were as homes, social workers would need to provide counselling. It would be better if people living in places like cage homes were moved into government-supervised subdivided units in disused industrial buildings. These former factories can be found in a number of older neighbourhoods such as Sham Shui Po, Cheung Sha Wan and Kowloon Bay.
Pang Chi-ming, Fanling
Students' cash better spent on teachers
It was announced in the budget that HK$480 million is to be spent to sponsor students to study abroad and return as teachers.
There must be better ways to enhance the quality of education here rather than blindly believe these top students, once they have returned, can have a significant influence on Hong Kong's education system.
In-service teachers have a better understanding of the curriculum.
When they look at the varied sources that would be suitable for teaching, they know how to trim and redesign them and turn them into teaching materials that will benefit their students.
It takes time to understand what students genuinely need and what materials they should be given to help with the learning process. Newly qualified teachers are inexperienced. They have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge at college and they are probably passionate about the job.
In-service teachers also have knowledge, but in addition they have experience, insight and skills garnered from their years in the classroom.
True, I deliberately miss out the word "passion" for in-service teachers. For most of them, the long working hours, including marking papers, especially for language teachers, hamper or even kill passion.
This money would have been better spent sending some of these teachers abroad, to study and learn something new.
A course would not have to be long and it would give them time to recharge their batteries and come up with new ideas that they can put into practice in the classroom. Many top universities overseas offer suitable courses.
Also, the policy address initiative requires these graduates to teach for only two years. But it will take that time for new teachers to find their feet and get used to school routines and student discipline.
I doubt if this measure will improve the quality of education in Hong Kong.
C. Chan, Wong Tai Sin
A happy occasion to reduce waste
I enjoy attending wedding banquets, especially the wide variety of dishes that you get to eat.
However, after reading about a Friends of the Earth survey on food waste, it dawned on me that an enormous amount of food remains uneaten and is discarded at these feasts. They actually create a serious waste problem.
The green group found [in 2011] that, on average, there is 76kg of leftover food for a 20- table banquet, enough food to serve three tables. This is a huge amount.
It suggested reducing the number of courses from 12 to 10.
Although this would appear to be a good idea, I can understand how some couples would resist such an idea as they would be afraid their guests would think them mean because they were serving less food.
One possible way to get round this and not look cheap would be to serve fewer courses, but have very high-quality food.
It would certainly be a good idea for couples to think about how they can make their special day more environmentally friendly. For example, they could hold the banquet outdoors during the day, thereby saving energy as there would be no need for air conditioning and lights.
They could also use natural materials for the decorations and natural fibres for the wedding gown.
Candice Kwong, Sau Mau Ping
Immigration staff were fast and efficient
I wish to share a pleasant experience I recently had while dealing with the Hong Kong Immigration Department.
I went to the department with my daughter (who is a permanent resident) on a Friday afternoon to get my identity card extended.
We saw a notice that the "walk-in quota" for the day was closed.
However, at our request, the lady at the inquiry counter gave us the application forms and advised us to return with them for processing the following Monday.
After filling in the forms, we asked if there was any way she could take them as we had come a long way and I am very old.
After consulting with another officer, she took the papers and 15 minutes later I was interviewed by an immigration officer. They told me all the necessary paperwork would be ready within half an hour after I had paid the fee.
The whole process from submitting my application to getting my passport back with the immigration stamp took less than one hour.
We were very impressed with the efficient work of this department.
B. K. Avasthi, Discovery Bay