Letters to the Editor, May 3, 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 3:41am

Let's all help keep unique street culture

I refer to your editorial ("Greed is killing best of old HK", April 23).

You talk of luxury mall operators, developers and landlords destroying what makes our city unique and interesting.

I agree that many luxury-brand outlets are replacing old-style Hong Kong type shops and that diminishes the unique character of the city. However, consumers must share some of the blame for this.

Things were different before Hong Kong became an international financial hub.

I think we led more ordinary lives, and hawker stalls, selling various goods and food, and small grocery stores were a common sight back then. You could get what you wanted at cheap prices. However, as the city's financial status rose, citizens became richer.

They stopped going to the small shops, because the products for sale did not have a guarantee, and they complained about the low quality of food at the hawker stalls and the lack of hygiene.

People started to buy their food from supermarket chains and to eat out at high-quality restaurants. Shops selling designer goods had large budgets, so landlords charged high rents. The Hong Kong-style stores and food stalls were forced to move or shut down.

It has reached a point at which this part of our culture faces extinction, because we are not frequenting the traditional businesses that remain.

On a recent trip to Tsim Sha Tsui, I could not see any food stalls in the area where I was walking.

What is happening saddens me. I remember, as a child, going to a grocer's to buy sweets and drinks. There was an old food stall where I could get a glass of ice cream with red beans. Now the grocer's and the stall are gone.

I hope the government will consider using some of its funds to help these types of traditional businesses survive.

Some tourists come here to visit these old shops.

They enjoy their unique character and like to eat food at stalls that is out of the ordinary, in an unusual setting. We should all be keen to preserve this unique culture of ours for future generations.

Amanda Au, Lam Tin


Put in the picture on art and politics

I refer to the report ("Artists worry government will curb cultural freedom", April 24) in which it was said that pro-Beijing lawmaker Chan Kam-lam warned that the M+ museum at West Kowloon arts hub "must not confuse art with politics".

Art and politics go hand in hand and always have done. Some of the greatest art is overtly political.

Picasso's Guernica, for example, is a masterpiece that combines both to perfection. Mr Chan needs a lesson in art history.

Norman de Brackinghe, Pok Fu Lam


Standing up to global gender abuse scourge

It is admirable of Meredith McBride to write about how women need to speak out against male harassment everywhere ("Break the silence", April 25).

The fact that she ran into a despicable man on the MTR shows that Hong Kong may fancy itself a "world city", but it nevertheless hasn't done much to educate that portion of its male population who disrespects women.

One can lose heart over this perennial problem, especially when violence against women and children continues around the world, even after the outcry over the New Delhi rape/murder, which has recently been followed by sex assaults on two young girls in the city.

Places like the Congo, where a never-ending war has resulted in the maiming and killing of countless women and children, and South Africa, where Cape Town has earned the title of "rape town", all show the ugliness produced by mentally sick male populations everywhere.

Perhaps one can feel some hope after reading about Tang Hui who has carried on for six years after her 11-year-old daughter was kidnapped, raped and put in a brothel in Lingling, and her dogged fight against the mainland authorities who do not think it important to properly punish criminals that prey on children. Strong women like her, as well as advocates like Ms McBride, can make a huge difference on this planet. May their tribe increase.

Vandana Marino, Discovery Bay


Enforcement of law would stop speeding

You have printed a few articles and letters on speeding cabbies and minibus drivers, including one by Pang Chi-ming ("'Auto-brake' device would curb speeding", April 27).

He said there was not much speeding on the route from Tolo Harbour to the Sheung Shui roundabout due to heavy traffic.

I drive that stretch regularly and there is a lot of speeding. Even large container trucks do more than 100km/h.

Your correspondents miss the fact that extra training, speed displays, and speed handicap devices don't deal with the real issue.

What is needed is enforcement of existing laws and dealing with the attitudes of drivers.

Ken Chan, Tai Po


Fundamental change needed in education

I agree with those correspondents who have argued that our spoon-fed education culture and oppressive exam system have led to students being better able to deal with rote learning than with critical thinking.

Because of the exam set-up, students in Hong Kong face a lot of homework, dictation and tests every day.

As a result they have limited time to rest and relax. Given the pressure that they face, the emphasis is often on the quantity of work they produce rather than the quality. Given that they have a lot of information to assimilate in a limited period of time, rote learning becomes the best option.

Hong Kong pupils' language proficiency in English and Chinese is also a concern. This is because, frequently, what I would call a "cocktail" language, a mix of Chinese and English words, is used in oral exams. The students become used to expressing themselves in this way. They should be proficient in the languages they need to use rather than adopting this inadequate mix-and-match approach. That is the only way we can have a genuinely bilingual society.

The government needs to change the education system. It needs to nurture students so they can learn to observe, analyse and reason, and be capable of problem solving. They need to learn these skills and bilingual language skills while they are still young.

Gigi Cheng, Tseung Kwan O


Employers in the right over dock strike

The striking dockworkers' initial wage demand was for [at least] 17 per cent. This was an over-ambitious figure to aim for in the existing economic environment.

I am also concerned about some of the tactics the strikers have adopted, which have sometimes bordered on the aggressive.

They tried to block trucks going into Kwai Tsing Container Terminals and staged a protest rally outside Cheung Kong Center, in Central.

They directed their criticism at tycoon Li Ka-shing, even though he has no direct role in the dispute.

They treated subcontractors as the enemy, rather than as people who should be on the other side of table in negotiations to resolve outstanding issues.

As a consequence, the relationship between the two parties has deteriorated.

Their employers have denied some of the strikers' claims about exploitation, such as not having time to take meals, or time to use a proper toilet. On the contrary, I think the employers have shown a positive attitude, offering pay rises of up to 8.5 per cent.

This compares well with increases being offered in similar businesses in Hong Kong. Moreover, the dockers already earn wages which are higher than the median monthly income of workers, so they should be satisfied with their current conditions.

If the employers capitulated, it would have an adverse impact on Hong Kong. We would see more industrial action, which could damage harmony in our society.

I hope a consensus will be reached and the strikers will realise that their bargaining power has weakened.

Michael Yu, Tsuen Wan


Vigilance can prevent spread of bird flu

We read about new cases of H7N9 [on the mainland] almost every day.

Although most of the infected areas are in the central provinces, Hong Kong people are still worried about the virus spreading.

We must all be vigilant and do our best to ensure this virus does not spread. Hongkongers must get back into the habit of washing their hands thoroughly, and, if we have a cold, wearing a surgical mask.

I was on a school trip to Nanjing over Easter and, since there have been cases there of H7N9 bird flu, we were all concerned. We wore masks and used alcohol-based hand gels whenever we got on or off the tour coach.

However, local people did not seem to care. Few wore masks and they continued to eat poultry.

I am confident that in Hong Kong we can deal with any outbreak of the flu.

Rachel Yeung, Kowloon Bay