Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Letters to the Editor, April 13, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 April, 2013, 3:25am

Unacceptable treatment on airport bus

I would like to ask the managers at Citybus if their staff have been given basic people-management skill training.

I boarded the A29 bus at 3.05pm at the airport on April 8 along with 15 local passengers and was the only expat.

What a nightmare it was to endure the rude driver after a tiring eight-hour flight.

I used my Octopus card while walking through the door at the entrance, put my bags on the racks and sat down, assuming all was good. Three minutes later, the driver walked up and rudely pointed his finger in my face, accusing me of not having paid the fare.

I explained to him that I had indeed paid. But he was not willing to listen and just kept raising his voice, arguing that I had to pay .

With the other passengers giving me dirty looks for delaying their journey, I relented and paid again just to keep the peace. I was too tired to argue my case.

Out of curiosity, I went to a card reading machine the next day to verify if I had made a mistake and skipped the payment. As I suspected, I had paid twice, first at 3.05pm and then three minutes later, after the row.

I have lived in Hong Kong for 10 years and take a little bit of rudeness in my stride, as that is a sad but true reality of this city.

Thankfully, I have had mostly good experiences with public services here, so this may well be an isolated incident.

But I would like to ask Citybus: what impression would this leave on a tourist making a first trip to Hong Kong? How much effort does it take to train staff in basic courtesy?

Are there any ways of checking who is right or wrong, in the form of CCTV cameras or onboard Octopus readers for passengers to avoid such scenes? The humiliation is worse than the wasted HK$42. The driver was blatantly wrong in his attitude, his way of speaking to me as a customer and the fact that I ended up paying twice.

Unfortunately, the Citybus website has no contact for customer complaints, so I wonder if they will care to respond through these columns. I will probably get a standard apology letter from Citybus with a refund offer, but it would be nice for someone to actually learn some lessons from this incident and treat visitors with a bit more compassion.

Vandana Anand, Clear Water Bay


Promenade not suitable for cycling

David Rabinowitz inquired why cycling activities are not allowed at the new Central waterfront promenade ("Bicycle ban on promenade is pointless", April 3).

The promenade is a temporary development to enable the public to enjoy the harbour up close, before completion of the comprehensive development of the entire new Central Harbourfront. It mainly serves as a pedestrian walkway from the Central ferry piers to Tamar Park and Admiralty.

The site's stepped topography and narrow footpaths are not suitable for cycling or skateboarding, which may cause a nuisance or even danger to other pedestrians, especially children and the elderly.

However, we do exercise flexibility and allow small children on tricycles to pass through the promenade, providing they pose no nuisance.

We will also explore the possibility of providing a designated cycling path in the future development of the new Central Harbourfront.

Richard Wong, Leisure and Cultural Services Department


Anti-Thatcher hate scenes shame British

It is both sad and appalling that British society today is so different from years past, when the world looked upon England as the epitome of civilisation.

The displays by some sections of the British population over the death of Margaret Thatcher shows the hateful side of a country that many long admired ("A hate figure to her dying day," April 10).

The merrymaking in the UK, reminiscent of the vengeful and jubilant scenes at Muammar Gaddafi's death in Libya, points to the ways in which a country's underclass forsakes its sensibility, and indeed its humanity, to make fools of themselves.

Thank heavens for the British Parliament, which remembered and honoured Thatcher as it demonstrated all the fine traits of the British - their intelligence, discernment, honour, sense of history and humour.

Vandana Marino, Discovery Bay


Iron Lady's endless litany of infamy

Margaret Thatcher was a formidable but despicable prime minister.

As Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr just revealed, she was racist, warning him about Australia being overtaken by Asians. She supported Botha against Mandela, whom she branded a terrorist.

She put in place the deregulation that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

She worked for British American Tobacco after ceasing to be prime minister.

She suggested there was no such thing as society and celebrated selfish and greedy individualism.

She started the process by which the 1 per cent got richer while the poor saw their wages stagnate.

She did this by putting three million out of work so she could break the unions.

She squandered North Sea oil revenues. She sold off the public housing stock and forbade councils from building new housing with the proceeds. There is now a terrible housing shortage for the poor in the UK, as bad as in Hong Kong.

Though she may have been right to privatise some publicly owned companies, the results of selling off monopolies like British Rail and utility companies have been disastrous.

She gave unstinting support to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Ironically, on the day she died, the dissident Pablo Neruda's body was being exhumed to show he was poisoned by Pinochet's regime.

She closed down university departments and built prisons. I could go on.

Andrew Goatly, Siu Lam


No change in view on road to democracy

You can tell the discussion on universal suffrage is heating up by noting the following:

1. More "love" talk as in "love China, love Hong Kong".

2. Pan-democrats are accused of being anti-democratic.

3. Certain influential people say the upcoming changes in the system will be only a "starting point", not the "finish line" of democratic development.

These all serve to dampen expectations about what is possible regarding Hong Kong's future universal suffrage.

Some things, it seems, never change.

Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po


Don't rewrite history of HK handover

I was bemused by your two commentaries on April 10, by Richard Harris ("Thatcher's spirit lives on, not least in self-reliant HK"), and Tom Holland ("Iron Lady quickly ditched her principles if politics demanded"), regarding the negotiations over the future of Hong Kong.

Harris said prime minister Margaret Thatcher's bullheadedness arguably cost the British the chance to extend the lease on Hong Kong when she said in 1982 that Hong Kong would not be handed over.

This, Harris said, was not the way to negotiate with Beijing.

Holland said the British lost its only bargaining chip when the British Nationality Act was passed in 1981, denying right of abode in the UK to Hongkongers. But these two views simply belittle the resolve of the Chinese to recover Hong Kong.

As Steve Tsang says in his book, A Modern History of Hong Kong, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping was "absolutely rigid over the question of sovereignty" during Sino-British negotiations. Britain would have had more success negotiating with a brick.

Tsang goes on to mention that, as early as 1946, the British government was advised in a paper by a Colonial Office mandarin that Chinese feelings towards Hong Kong were like the Isle of Wight being annexed and occupied by China.

"Even if they [the Chinese] had created a heaven on earth on that small island we should have only one feeling about it," the adviser wrote. "We should want it back."

With resolve like that, it is no wonder Mrs Thatcher decided the game was over for continued British sovereignty and administration after 1997 and the best thing to do was to negotiate a settlement with the best possible terms for Hong Kong.

British officials, such as governor David Trench, in a meeting with the secretary of state in 1968, believed that Hong Kong's future lay with China and, as such, it was vital to get the best terms on its return.

Deng and the Chinese government in the late '70s and early '80s were no fools. They clearly knew what a lease was. A lease would eventually expire and, with it, British control.

Danny Chung, Tai Po


Light touch illuminates the dark side

I truly enjoyed Angela Tsang's humour ("Light curfew will endanger people's lives", April 8).

Her combination of anachronisms and subtle wit must have lifted your readers' spirits at a time when our government seeks to make these dark economic times a little darker.

I hope to see more of Ms Tsang's carefully crafted irony in future as she tackles other important Hong Kong issues. Letters such as this justify your continued use of pulp and ink in this modern paperless age.

Margaret Silverstine, Lantau