Letters to the Editor, April 28, 2013

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 April, 2013, 5:02am

Debate needed on meaning of freedom in HK

Your comment columns and editorials frequently hail the concepts of freedom and free trade.

Less frequently, fortunately, the very high rankings given to Hong Kong by various organisations for freedom, or similar, are reported with little or no analysis of the methodology used to produce their rankings.

It is surely time for your newspaper to open a public debate about what freedom means in Hong Kong.

I was moved to write this letter by your editorial ("Greed is killing best of old HK", April 23), in which you bemoan the loss of shops and restaurants which are being replaced by boutiques and luxury shops.

The question in my mind as I read the article was a simple one: if free trade is championed, how can we criticise its operation in the rental market?

The use of the word "free" is usually followed by a preposition, for example, free from, free to, free for. I suggest there is an urgent need to think deeply and clearly about what Hong Kong's free trade is for.

If it is totally free trade for those who have money and power to exercise such freedom then we must accept the consequences. If it is free trade to benefit all the people of Hong Kong, then clearly the necessary restrictions on totally free trade to ensure equitable distribution need to be considered and enacted.

I hope I have opened a much needed debate.

Patrick Wood, Quarry Bay


Combined effort to put food on table

Supermarket prices have risen over the past year and are now ahead of the rate of inflation. People can hardly support their lives with these high prices of daily goods.

There is no doubt that if we continue on this course the wages of low-income people will soon be unable to keep pace with inflation, leaving them unable to meet their basic needs.

In order to cope with the problem, I think large retail chains should co-operate with voluntary food banks in an agreement that supermarkets donate food that is close to its expiry date, while the voluntary groups bear responsibility for making sure no one receives donated food that is past its use-by date so poor people can get free food and receive protection from increasingly high prices.

I understand large retail chains are afraid of shouldering the responsibility if out-of-date food is delivered, potentially causing food poisoning. Such an incident would damage a brand's image.

However, we should put ourselves in the shoes of the poor. If a little help from the supermarkets can ease the effect of rising prices on people who are struggling to earn a living, why can't they do their utmost to help?

Moreover, I think selling perishable goods at discounts shortly before stores close each day could work together with a food donation scheme.

In this way, low-income families can get what they need at a relatively low price, while the supermarkets recoup some of their costs, and promote their products, instead of throwing the goods away.

Cherry Yau Wing-yan, Sha Tin


Sleepless in Lantau seeking explanation

I am writing to complain about noise nuisance caused by roadworks carried out by the Highways Department along Tat Tung Road in Tung Chung, from 11pm on April 20, to 6 the following morning.

I am a resident of Tung Chung Crescent. On April 20, at 11pm, I was disturbed by the noise caused by the roadworks on Tat Tung Road.

Initially, I thought that it would last for a short time. However, the noise persisted and I couldn't tolerate the nuisance any more. Since general construction, such as roadworks, is not allowed between 7pm and 7am, without a permit, under Hong Kong's Noise Control Ordinance, I called the police just before midnight.

Fifteen minutes later, I got a return phone call from the police. They said the roadworks could not be stopped because the Highways Department had granted the workers a permit.

The police also informed me that the roadworks would continue until morning and there was nothing they could do. After that, I was disturbed by the unreasonable noise nuisance continuously and I couldn't fall asleep at all.

There are a few questions I want to ask.

I found that the workers were paving Tat Tung Road. Since there was no emergency happening, was it necessary for the department to carry out the roadworks at night? The workers said it was more suitable to carry out the work at night because traffic was heavier in daytime. Had the department considered the interests of people living along Tat Tung Road?

Who had authorised this work? What entitled the department to break noise control regulations?

Do they think that they should apologise to residents for the noise nuisance?

Woo King-yan, Tung Chung


Toughen up on underage drinking

Hong Kong's drinking laws are fairly lenient by world standards. Its legal drinking age of 18 is shared by most countries, while there is no restriction on alcohol sales and private consumption.

The likes of Canada, meanwhile, have important restrictions on sales, and in the United States the official legal drinking age is 21.

Underage drinking is definitely a problem and it deserves our full attention. Alcohol is actually a drug that slows down or depresses the brain. Like many drugs, alcohol changes a person's ability to think, speak, and see things as they really are.

Students engaging in underage drinking risk negatively affecting their studies.

Furthermore, people who abuse alcohol can do serious damage to their bodies. The liver, which removes poisons from the blood, is especially at risk.

Therefore, early drinking has a profound influence on children's studies and health.

As regards a solution to the problem, I think it may be impossible to raise the legal drinking age to 21. It would take too long for the government and alcohol industry to agree.

I believe the answer lies in a dual strategy: increasing restrictions on alcohol sales to under-18s; and increasing education, warning of the dangers of alcohol consumption.

I am sure underage drinking in Hong Kong can be greatly reduced in this way.

Ho Chien-chang, Sha Tin


Education can prosper by specialising

Specialist education of students at younger ages could help improve the education system in Hong Kong, increasing motivation and expertise, while also helping reduce study pressure.

Firstly, earlier specialised education can guarantee a better subsequent quality of workforce in different fields. If students receive education which is related to occupations they are interested in, they would simply perform better because less time is wasted on learning unrelated things and they would try their utmost to learn. Correspondingly the quality of services in those fields will also be reinforced.

Secondly, it would alleviate the need for rote learning on a mass of different subjects with written, rather than often practical or field-based work or exams. This would reduce monotony and stress.

It could also help maximise the talents of specialist teachers, that are otherwise wasted teaching general subjects.

From the above, it can be seen that earlier specialised education may actually bring students as well as society some benefits.

Therefore, it may be a potential method to resolve the discontent of the public about the current education system.

Isaac Fong, Kwai Chung


No passes for those who wear glasses?

When I renewed my Pleasure Vessel Operator Licence at the Marine Department in Central the other day, a young Western woman wearing glasses was arranging to take the final part of the licence.

She booked and paid for her place. Then she was required to take an eye test.

She failed it because she was not allowed to wear her glasses for the test.

She told me she wears glasses all the time and drives in Hong Kong with no problem.

Is it department policy to exclude anyone wearing glasses from obtaining this licence?

Marion Brennan, Sai Kung


The day they caught dugong in the harbour

I am writing a book on the fauna of Hong Kong. I vaguely recall seeing a photograph published in the South China Morning Post or elsewhere in 1940 or 1941 of a dugong caught and brought to Hong Kong harbour, but cannot remember the exact date.

I would be grateful if any of your readers have more precise information as to the exact date of publication (richmuirhead@ntlworld.com).

Richard Muirhead, Macclesfield, England