ESF - English Schools Foundation

Letters to the Editor, March 12, 2013

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 3:49pm

Release was related to Spanish law

The Spanish Constitutional Court recently ordered the release of Gabriel Ricardo Dias-Azedo who is wanted in Hong Kong for offences relating to the embezzlement of funds entrusted to him by clients as a former partner of accountancy firm Grant Thornton.

Notwithstanding an apparent media report to the contrary, a reading of the judgment shows that the decision turns to a significant extent on the legal procedures under Spanish law adopted in evidencing the Central People's government's authorisation to the Hong Kong SAR to request the surrender of Mr Dias-Azedo under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, rather than any finding of a fundamental lack of capacity of the SAR to make requests for surrender, or any doubt on the independence of Hong Kong's legal system.

The administration, in conjunction with the central government, is exploring ways to ensure future requests for surrender made under multilateral conventions to which the PRC is a party and which have been applied to Hong Kong are successfully prosecuted.

At the same time, the Hong Kong SAR continues to actively pursue the negotiation of bilateral surrender agreements with key strategic partners.

Hong Kong's surrender arrangements have been working smoothly and the capacity of the SAR to rely on such agreements in making requests for surrender is accepted by its bilateral state partners under the "one country, two systems" arrangement.

It is to be hoped that the same result will be achieved under multilateral conventions providing for extradition, as Hong Kong increasingly begins to use such conventions to which the PRC is a state party as an additional means to bring criminals to justice.

The Department of Justice, with other relevant departments or bureaus of the administration, will endeavour to ensure that all appropriate efforts in the right directions are made.

Amelia Luk, law officer (international law), Department of Justice


Safety concern over life jackets for children

Even if the recommendation by the marine expert in the Lamma Ferry inquiry, that at least 10 per cent of life jackets on board should be for children, is adopted, this may still not be enough ("Ballast made Lamma IV 'sink like Titanic'", March 7).

For example, the mid-afternoon "school bus" ferries from Central to Yung Shue Wan on Lamma invariably carry more children than 10 per cent of the ferry's capacity.

Many of these children are unaccompanied by a responsible adult which, in the event of an accident, raises further safety concerns.

David Chappell, Lamma


Men at top of church hypocritical

The stench of hypocrisy, corruption and cowardice emanating from the Catholic Church is overwhelming.

First we have the man at the top demonstrating that he no longer has the stomach for the fight by throwing in the towel. Remember this is the same Joseph Ratzinger who urged his predecessor to stay on even though he was practically comatose.

Then we have Cardinal Keith O'Brien blithely preparing to participate in the conclave to choose the next pope. It was only when the victims of his alleged "misdemeanours" (later admitted), presumably nauseated by his hypocritical piety, went public, that he withdrew.

I won't patronise the millions of sincere believers by expressing sympathy, merely observe that they are being ill- served by the cabal at the top.

James Quinn, Lamma


Religious freedom suppressed

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez was a dictatorial leader whose heroes were Fidel Castro, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Robert Mugabe, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

One of his major goals was to integrate Cuba, Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador under a Marxist-socialist government umbrella.

Throughout his reign, Chavez sought to suppress religious freedom by destroying the influence of his main opponent the Catholic Church.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also accused Chavez of violations of human rights.

In addition to harassing political opponents, Chavez's government systematically undermined journalistic freedom of expression, and workers' freedom of association.

Paul Kokoski, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada


Make better use of subsidy given to ESF

Andrew Nunn's reply ("'Educational apartheid' hitting expats", March 1) to my letter ("ESF admission policy smacks of segregation", February 19) is premised on the allegation about local schools' reluctance to admit non-Cantonese-speaking children.

He claims that English Schools Foundation schools' preferential admission of non-Cantonese-speaking children is a remedy for native-English-speaking children sandwiched between extortionate international schools and unreceptive local schools.

However, according to the Education Bureau, it is "committed to assisting all non-Chinese-speaking students in adapting to the local education system and integrating into the community as early as possible".

In 2011/12, there were 30 "designated schools" each receiving a recurrent annual grant of HK$600,000 for the implementation of school-based measures for non-Chinese-speaking students.

If ESF schools' annual subsidy of HK$283 million is applied for this purpose, half of our local schools can be converted into "designated schools". This will be an equitable solution if the only alternative is to perpetuate Hong Kong's perverse tradition of educational apartheid.

In A Theory of Justice, the seminal work on fairness, the late Harvard philosopher John Rawls proposed that we should determine what is fair from the "original position". It's like a blindfold test where people who do not know their own ethnicities have to choose what is a fair social arrangement.

Given Hong Kong's demographic reality where there is a 98 per cent chance that one belongs to either the non-English-speaking minorities or local Cantonese-speaking populace, it will be a logical impossibility for anyone to consider preferential education for native English speakers as a fair arrangement.

Pierce Lam, Central


Wonderful engineering achievements

As a frequent visitor from the United States, I am always excited by the construction going on in Hong Kong, especially the new MTR lines.

I frequently walk to observe the various construction sites around Ap Lei Chau and Ocean Park. On a world level, Hong Kong construction has always been extraordinary.

What is amazing to me is the general indifference of residents to all the commotion. Besides complaining about the noise and traffic disruption, they couldn't be less interested in the genius behind what is taking place. The usual attitude is, "It's none of my business."

Even the media dismisses the whole business. On a recent Pearl TV broadcast about Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau, there was not one mention of the construction going on, even when the hosts were standing right in front of a construction site. It was as if censorship had been imposed.

There are not only many great feats here, but the public is missing out on some of the best construction stories taking place now. In the US, cable programmes such as Extreme Engineering (which once featured the building of Chek Lap Kok airport) and the new Strip the City, are always popular. Engineering and construction not only provide jobs, they are an intimate part of the city's story.

Hongkongers are extremely proud of their city. They should also be proud of the brilliant engineering and construction that goes into it.

William DuBay, Ap Lei Chau


Officials must act to clean up capital's air

Beijing's serious air pollution problems have shocked people from all over the world.

With more journalists reporting on this, many people who had planned to visit the city have cancelled their trips.

The city's residents are not so lucky. Many suffer a great deal from the appalling condition of the air they breathe.

There is clearly an urgent need for action to be taken to improve air quality as it poses a great risk to individuals who could end up suffering from serious respiratory problems.

The authorities in the nation's capital have to do something. They need to carry out systematic and detailed policies to deal with the problem. If concrete action is not taken, Beijing residents will continue to suffer.

If the bad air continues to be a serious problem, it will be a blow to Beijing's economy as investors will be reluctant to base themselves there. I am also concerned that the pollution could spread beyond the city limits and affect other centres of population.

It will take a concerted effort on the part of officials to ensure that the city enjoys a future with clean air.

Hilda Tsang Hiu-ki, Kwai Chung