Kwai Tsing dock workers strike

Letters to the Editor, April 24, 2013

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 3:14am

We badly need anti-monopoly legislation

I write as a former member of the Legislative Council.

Throughout the history of Hong Kong, there has never been a level playing field.

Under colonial rule, businesses were dominated by British hongs. Since the handover, the SAR government has continued to promote policies which have enabled a few families to control the livelihood of the majority - from real estate and electricity to telecommunications and food supplies.

Hong Kong prides itself as a world city - prosperous, vibrant and successful.

However, in view of the widening wealth gap, rumblings under the surface are becoming louder.

An increasing number of demonstrations would seem to indicate a more unhappy and unstable society.

The ongoing dock strike could be the tip of an iceberg.

To be fair, the few families I mentioned merely took advantage of government policies to gain their dominant positions. We must not overlook the fact that they created employment opportunities for many people in Hong Kong.

The root of the problem rests more with a weak government and a fragmented legislature.

Demonstrations and strikes only serve to tarnish Hong Kong's international reputation and create a sense of instability.

Prolonged strikes making unrealistic demands affect long-term investments and drive businesses out of Hong Kong, resulting in unemployment.

The only realistic and effective way forward is for the current government to have the courage to work on more realistic and meaningful anti-monopoly legislation through Legco.

Lawmakers should minimise their debate so that these laws can be passed quickly.

The rule of law is the only effective way to address this situation and create a more equal, stable and harmonious society. This way, we can also help set a good example for the rest of China to follow.

Paul M. F. Cheng, Mid-Levels


Dispute puts spotlight on low-paid

The strike by dock workers at Kwai Tsing Container Terminals has attracted widespread public attention.

They failed to reach an agreement on a wage increase with a subcontractor.

These people have to work very hard to earn their living and are under tremendous pressure.

I hope their industrial action will put the spotlight on the plight of the many people in Hong Kong who put in long hours for low pay. Their situation deserves our full attention.

I hope the strike will enable more citizens to have a better understanding of the conditions these dockers face.

They are not robots, but human beings, and they should be treated humanely and be guaranteed the right to take proper rest periods.

I would like to think that the strike will eventually lead to this group of workers enjoying a better working environment.

At the end of the day, a balance must be struck between the needs of these workers and subcontractors in the dockyard sector.

Mandy Lee Man-shan, Sha Tin


Selfless acts of mercy after bombings

The carnage at the finishing line following the Boston Marathon bombings shocked the world.

What happened was terrible and left the city feeling vulnerable. However, what we witnessed in the immediate aftermath of this atrocity proved the level of compassion that still exists.

Sometimes, when there is a catastrophe, you see people acting selflessly to help complete strangers and this is what happened in Boston last week.

After the explosions, people flocked to the scene and tried to help and give comfort to those who were wounded. This illustrates that most people still hold to fundamental human values, no matter how much a society changes.

I hope that the families directly affected by this attack and who are mourning their losses will find the courage to be resilient in the weeks and months ahead.

I trust that eventually they will be able to move forward and get on with their lives.

I am sure we all feel deep sympathy for the people of Boston.

As US President Barack Obama said, everyone has been touched by this attack on the city.

Crystal Lam, Fo Tan


We must try to understand atrocities

Many reactionary circles spout only what is seen as an "acceptable" reply to the emotionally and politically charged topic of terrorism, that is, unconditional condemnation.

However, so-called civilised Western societies must find the courage to look beyond the atrocious acts of violent people and try to comprehend what motivates them.

However abhorrent these acts are, surely we need to acquire a deeper understanding in order to prevent future offences.

Learning more about them could even involve appropriate academic research.

Or is society's general mentality destined to react to the criminal acts themselves and to basically disregard possibly noteworthy motives for those acts?

Frank G. Sterle, Jnr, White Rock, British Columbia, Canada


Rote learning has impressive track record

I refer to Katherine Forestier's article ("Why Hong Kong could teach England a thing or two about education reform", April 15).

Britain has long abandoned anything resembling the rote-learning approach, and the General Certificate of Secondary Education was introduced 25 years ago. Since then, grades have improved dramatically, yet employers regularly report that many school leavers and even university graduates seem unfit for skilled work. Immigrants readily get jobs while locals do not, and this problem is what is driving the UK government's proposals. Rote learning, whatever its flaws, is a proven method for ensuring most children will learn a reasonable amount. What the UK has instead had over the past 25 years often results in many children learning very little.

Britain lacks the many tutorial centres that are an astonishing feature of Hong Kong (to a visitor from the UK). Parents can rely on them to provide rote learning if schools move to a less effective approach.

Daniel Hilton, Farnborough, Hampshire, England


Vets do very important research

I refer to the report ("Leave research to medical schools, says vet chief", April 15).

In the article, I am quoted as saying that research into viruses found in animals is done by medical schools.

I wish to clarify that what I said on this subject was in relation to research on the spread of H7N9 and other diseases originating in animals among humans.

Having been a researcher in biological sciences for decades, I know full well that research work is conducted by veterinarians in schools of veterinary science that is certainly of no less importance and no less deserving of respect than the medical research conducted at medical schools in relation to humans.

Wong Yuk-shan, professor of life science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology