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Letters to the Editor, April 22, 2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 1:58am

Court's right of abode ruling not unjust

I refer to John Shannon's letter ("Strange silence on right of abode ruling", April 16) in which he stated that the decision in the foreign domestic helpers' right of abode case was unjust.

I don't think the Court of Final Appeal's decision can be rightly criticised as unjust; the court only did what it is meant to do: apply the law to the facts in order to reach a decision.

In the ordinary course of matters, the Court of Final Appeal does not make or change the law; that is the responsibility of the Legislative Council.

If there is to be any criticism of unjustness in relation to the immigration status of foreign domestic helpers, it should be directed at Legco, not the court. That said, I still doubt that the exclusion of foreign domestic helpers from right of abode in Hong Kong can be considered unjust in any way.

Leaving aside the technical arguments about what "ordinarily resident" means, foreign domestic helpers are aware before arrival in Hong Kong that they are expected to return to their country of origin once their contract is completed.

This awareness comes from, among the other restrictions placed on them, their express undertaking to the Immigration Department that they have no intention not to return to their respective home countries and that they will depart Hong Kong upon completion of their contracts. There is nothing unjust in requiring them to keep their word.

Will Yip, Sheung Wan

 

Backing Hong Kong's public hospitals

I refer to Bernard Lee's letter ("HK trails Singapore by any measure of development", April 11).

I dispute his claim that Singapore has superior health care to Hong Kong.

As a Hong Kong resident who has had the privilege of working for many years here in the public and private sector, I also had the pleasure recently of working in KK Women's and Children's Hospital in Singapore for six months.

If you are a " public patient" in Singapore you get subsidised medical care and pay a percentage of the bill [a sliding scale depending on factors such as income level]. This status is only available to Singapore citizens and permanent residents, not foreign workers like me or say an Indonesian domestic helper. If you have a problem such as having a very premature baby or complicated cancer, even as a full Singaporean you may be paying a bill for years.

In Hong Kong I worked in the Prince of Wales and Queen Mary hospitals. My experience in the public hospitals here meant later (when I was in private practice) I had full confidence in referring a patient with a difficult and expensive condition to our government hospitals where they would be treated well.

Conversely in Singapore if, for example, a domestic helper has an ectopic pregnancy, and the employer doesn't have insurance for her, the employer can send her back to her own country rather than pay the medical bill. This is clearly an unsafe situation.

I could never comment about this in the public arena (through the press) while I was in Singapore. My colleagues said not to worry, eventually a bill could be written off, or there is a hospital fund that helps. Nevertheless I am happy and I feel safe with Hong Kong's public health-care system.

Dr Sally Ferguson, Sai Kung

 

GDP matters, but so does clean water

The recent case of efforts to cover up the problem of polluted water in Hebei province highlights the serious threat to the environment on the mainland.

A senior environment official proclaimed that just because water in wells in a village was red did not mean it was unfit to drink ("Official sacked after 'red water' claims", April 7).

He said that for example water would turn red if you cooked red beans. In fact tests showed that the water contained toxins.

How could such a highly educated man make such a claim? Did he not consider how wrong it was to say that such heavily polluted water was safe to drink? By lying to these villagers he was putting them at risk.

What if no one had questioned the veracity of his claims? The consequences would have been devastating.

I understand that the priority on the mainland is economic growth, that is, boosting gross domestic product.

Targets are created and have to be met. This can mean that sacrifices have to be made. But, surely that does not justify allowing tonnes of pollutants to be poured into rivers. It is not logical to put at risk the long-term health of citizens in order to make short-term gains in GDP.

Hebei officials must bring in experts to study water pollution levels and reduce those levels.

The central government must be serious about mainland pollution and make greater efforts to deal with it, because it is a problem which affects the whole nation.

Ma Wing-ching, Yuen Long

 

Unlikely to follow Brazil's fine example

I couldn't believe my ears when I heard a news item on the BBC World Service about the Brazilian government passing a bill mandating an eight-hour working day, 48-hour week for household servants.

It made me think that Hongkongers and Singaporeans (Singapore only legislated a weekly day off for foreign maids that took effect from the beginning of 2013) would laugh at the Brazilians for their folly.

Imagine treating your maids, nannies and cooks like human beings. What is the world coming to?

L. M. S. Valerio, Tin Hau

 

Fences can be mended with patience

Some correspondents have described Hong Kong as not being very tourist friendly.

I sympathise with what they are saying and do agree that Hong Kong people could be more polite.

The relationship between Hongkongers and mainlanders is not good. For example, there was conflict over the shortage of maternity beds in the city, because of the demand of pregnant mainland women. Issues like that are flashpoints and quarrels break out.

And some Hongkongers complain that not all mainlanders behave well when they visit the city. They discard rubbish wherever they want.

But these are not just quarrels that you see on the street. They have spread to the internet, with some Hong Kong bloggers using foul language to denigrate mainland citizens.

It is not right to react in this way. Hong Kong people should not discriminate against other groups. They should realise that it will take time and patience to get along with mainland visitors.

The two groups need to try to find mutual understanding. We should get rid of prejudiced feelings and aim for a fresh start. However, it is a two-way street and mainland citizens coming here, must appreciate that some behaviour is unacceptable.

Carman Cheung Cheuk-ping, Tseung Kwan O

 

Honesty the best policy for chief executive

Last month tycoon Li Ka-shing gave his view on patriotism, saying that a person who loved the country must tell the truth, be pragmatic and have contributed to the nation.

This followed remarks by Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the Law Committee of the National People's Congress. He said chief executive candidates must be people who loved the country and Hong Kong.

I agree with Li's view. Someone who speaks honestly is doing so for the good of the nation and it shows he is keen to deal with the problems the country faces.

I also agree with Qiao and think that the qualities they both described will be essential for the next leader in Hong Kong.

The chief executive cannot always defer to Beijing. He will have to tell the truth in the interests of Hong Kong and talk frankly about the problems the Special Administrative Region faces. Only in this way can we deal effectively with the challenges we face in the city.

Sara Fang, Tsuen Wan

 

Leung trying hard to make a difference

Some newspapers have been heavily critical of the administration of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. This may have given the impression that he is very unpopular.

There have been some strong attacks and they have sometimes become personal.

While I accept that our chief executive may not be an outstanding leader I think he is trying hard to make a constructive contribution.

Some of his measures, like curbing the influx of mainland women to give birth here, have been effective.

The media should be balanced and if it disagrees with the government, it should come up with practical solutions.

Joyce Hung, Tuen Mun

 

Why not target dangerous drivers?

On April 16, police concluded their week-long operation on pedestrian safety.

In that time, more than 1,000 pedestrians received summonses for not obeying road crossing laws.

However, what action was taken against drivers who ran through zebra crossings when pedestrians were already on them?

Instead of pedestrians having precedence, drivers put pedestrians in danger by failing to yield.

In the name of pedestrian safety, the police need to help us pedestrians take back our zebra crossings.

G. Marques, Lai Chi Kok

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C.A.Arneaud
Hong Kong is a vibrant international city that has a lot to teach the world. Many people in Mainland China and other countries in Asia see Hong Kong as representing an ideal to be strived for in terms of not only entrepreneurship but personal freedom and human rights.
However, there is a very big hole in the heart of Hong Kong. To put it plainly, the system under which foreign domestic helpers are employed in Hong Kong is akin to slavery. How else do you describe a situation where a domestic helper can be required to make her employer's congee at 7am, clean and do other chores throughout the day, serve dinner at 9pm, clean up and wash dishes after dinner and feed the infant under her care at 11pm? In case you are mathematically deficient that is a 16 hour day. She has to do this 6 days a week i.e. A 96 hour work week. But wait! On her day off she may be required to prepare breakfast before she leaves the house and can expect a kitchen full of dirty dishes when she returns by her 9pm curfew. To paraphrase Shakespeare "Slavery by any other name would smell as awful!".
If you employ a domestic helper then do something about this injustice:1) Limit your domestic helper's hours to 10 hours a day, for 6 days a week 2) Allow them to leave the house after the completion of their duties and require them to be back home by say an 11pm curfew 3) No duties whatsoever on their off days. Or you can go on behaving like a slave-owner while pretending that you are a moral person.
HK-Lover
In general i fully agree with Arneaud. But !
Why do you need a curfew at all ?
Does your boss tell you when you shall be at your home and go to bed ?
Isn't it anybodies own business what time he/she goes home and to sleep as long as he/she is fit for duty when the work starts ?

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