Distorting insurance changes
The description in Jose Chan's letter ("Policyholders worse off with proposed insurance authority", March 28) distorts our proposals. One of the purposes of establishing the new authority is to enhance protection of policyholders.
Mr Chan alleged that "the independent insurance authority will only handle outstanding complaint cases not yet resolved by self-regulatory organisations before its establishment." This is an allegation made totally out of context.
At present, insurance intermediaries are supervised by three separate self-regulatory organisations (SROs). The SROs handle complaints against misconduct of insurance intermediaries. One of our proposals is to replace the existing self-regulatory regime by a statutory licensing regime for insurance intermediaries to enhance protection of policyholders.
To ensure that policyholders' right of seeking redress will not be disrupted during the transition from the current regime to the new regime, we propose to specify a range of transitional arrangements in the statute. One of these arrangements is that upon the inception of the new authority, it will handle outstanding complaint cases not yet completed by the SROs. There are similar transitional arrangements overseas.
Also, the Insurance Claims Complaints Bureau is set up by the insurance industry to handle complaints against insurance companies about insurance claims. It is an adjudicating panel and does not have any regulatory functions. We have not proposed abolishing the bureau as Mr Chan alleged. In fact, the government has been discussing with the insurance industry how to enhance the dispute settlement mechanism in the light of the recently-established Financial Disputes Resolution Centre.
Our proposals on the establishment of the new insurance regulator are available at the website of the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (www.fstb.gov.hk).
Paul Wong, principal assistant secretary, (financial services), Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau
Long wait and no response from PCCW
Have any of your readers ever tried to call PCCW's business customer hotline sales inquiries with English as the language option?
It rings and rings for about 10 minutes then cuts off automatically. I tried to contact them over a five-day period, each time spending about 30 to 40 minutes before giving up. I tried to contact my PCCW designated account manager on a direct line, but with the same result, no one ever picked up the call. So, I tried the email inquiry, and over a four-day period got no response.
PCCW once had one of the most efficient customer services, but now it is even falling behind the once-notorious Cable TV customer service.
Kelvin Chu, Siu Lam
Why officials should end ESF subsidy
Simon Osborn rightly recognises that the English Schools Foundation's "old policy" discriminates against native Cantonese-speaking children but wrongly claims its new policy will offer equal opportunity ("ESF's new policy offers equal chance", March 25).
As the new policy gives priority to siblings and children of alumni, it perpetuates non-Chinese speakers' preferential admission.
Non-Chinese children of non-permanent residents now account for 30 per cent of the ESF's student population, but constitute less than 2 per cent of the city's population.
According to ESF CEO Heather Du Quesnay, the new system would not "reduce the number of non-Chinese students at ESF schools" ("ESF ends priority for non-Chinese speakers", February 5). The ESF's selling of nomination rights and questionable test on "parental commitment" won't moderate the warped effects of its old policy.
Betty Bownath is right about the importance of non-Cantonese speakers' "integration into mainstream public schools" and "full immersion with extension or support classes for Chinese being the fairest and best option for ethnic minorities" ("Segregation still confronts ethnic students", March 22). But she misunderstands The New York Times article of March 10 and wrongly criticises Hong Kong's "designated schools".
Under Hong Kong's 12-year compulsory education, every school-aged child is guaranteed a school place. But, as the city is demographically 96 per cent Cantonese-speaking, the average public school isn't well prepared for the special needs of non-Cantonese speakers. Designated schools are mainstream schools which have joined a government scheme whereby they receive additional funding for the purpose of implementing school-based measures to help non Cantonese-speaking students.
Ms Bownath has overlooked the encouraging experience of Talwinder Singh, a designated school student who features in The New York Times article. He said he was glad to be in a designated school and would feel alone in a mainstream school. He said his teachers knew how to deal with minority students. He is thinking of universities after graduation this summer from a "designated school" where he studies alongside the school's Cantonese-speaking students.
The government should cut the ESF's subsidy because of that institution's practice of segregation based on linguistic discrimination, and divert such funding to help more mainstream schools develop the capability of designated schools and serve all ethnic minorities, native English speakers included, equally.
Pierce Lam, Central
Tycoons can park illegally with impunity
Your Lai See writer, Howard Winn, noted the stark contrast in the Hong Kong police's attitude towards enforcing seat belt rules on buses and illegal parking ("Tighten up on illegal parking", March 28). However, there is a simple explanation.
Illegally parked cars mostly belong to the wealthy, well connected (such as tycoons or their tai-tais on shopping expeditions). Incidentally, these cars also routinely violate idling engine rules while they are illegally parked.
Given tycoons' guanxi and access to good lawyers, it is not surprising that Hong Kong's finest prefer to turn a blind eye.
People using public transportation, however, are ordinary folks and are easy prey for the local police force.
By the way, I wonder whether Winn has ever noticed that local police never ask Caucasians to produce a Hong Kong identity card on the streets, unlike people with a dark complexion.
Kristiaan Helsen, Causeway Bay
Mainland students will help economy
I refer to the report ("Fears of overcrowding in border school classes," March 23). It is disappointing to note that some education experts and the education-sector legislator still believe that cross-border students will be a drain on Hong Kong's education resources.
Most of the students coming from north of the border were born in Hong Kong to mainland Chinese parents.
Because they were born here, they have the right of abode. When children of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong are carrying SAR citizenship and eligible to free compulsory education plus support services provided by the government, then why aren't the cross-border students who are Hong Kong people and have the right to a share of the city's resources?
According to figures issued by the Census and Statistics Department, the birth rate among local Hong Kong residents has been dropping since 1998. Sooner or later, our ageing population will present a major economic challenge. Cross-border students, acquiring their education here could offer a solution.
Enlarging class sizes, providing financial support to affected schools and re-structuring the school allocation system are short-sighted actions that only create more fear.
It is necessary for the government to formulate and implement education reforms, such as introducing private and public subsidised boarding schools to operate in North District, to cater to the education needs of cross-border students.
Amy Au Wing-man, Tuen Mun
Reply did not answer crucial questions
I refer to the letter from Janet Wan of TVB ("TVB explains snag in Sevens coverage", March 30), responding to the outrage over the station's broadcasting arrangements for the Hong Kong Sevens.
The public deserves better than a verbose explanation of the events that took place that evening.
We all know what happened Ms Wan, what we want to know is why it happened, who was responsible and what actions you will take to ensure that cutting away from the final moments of a major sporting event final will never happen again.
The public wants to know why the News at Seven Thirty broadcast was not delayed or reduced in length to accommodate the finish and most importantly that the decision makers involved have been made fully aware of their error.
I urge the Hong Kong Sevens organisers to get written guarantees in place from TVB prior to next year's tournament confirming the arrangements should a similar timing issue occur again. Perhaps Now TV would do a better job.
Gordon Pirie, Mid-Levels