Letters to the Editor, May 7, 2013

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 2:22am

We should not be happy with mere scraps

At the end of his analysis of why Martin Lee Chu-ming is supposedly behind the times, Alex Lo offers an analogy to Beijing being like Ebenezer Scrooge - if even he could offer a sum to charity then there is hope; just as China has offered conditional suffrage ("History has left Martin Lee behind", May 3).

However, there was nothing "conditional" about Scrooge's conversion to seeing the good in humanity; it was whole-heartedly embraced by the repentant miser.

Moreover, it came after he was willing to learn the lessons from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. It seems that Beijing is only interested in the latter spirit, but I suspect the true spirit of giving can only be forthcoming after genuine engagement with all three.

Lo wants us to be grateful for the crumbs of democracy from Beijing's table and stop "vilifying Beijing at every opportunity." But as the Ghost of Christmas Past said, "would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give?"

In the words of another Charles Dickens character, it should be a case of "Please, sir, I want some more."

Chris White, Sai Ying Pun


Let's not forget Thatcher's negative legacy

Whereas Thomas Deng's critique of China's economic mismanagement ("China's ailing economy needs a dose of Thatcherism with Chinese characteristics", April 29) is worthy of reflection, his comments on the so-called virtues of Thatcherism buy into the myth that she liberated business from the evils of central control and produced prosperity for all.

Perhaps he can be forgiven for repeating this myth, given the love fest on the life of Margaret Thatcher we have all recently had to endure. Historians may disagree, but as the world reels from the latest crisis of unregulated casino capitalism, her legacy is more than a little tarnished.

Far from making the British economy more competitive, Thatcher destroyed much of Britain's manufacturing and industrial base, which was beginning to recover before she took power.

She did this not to free the people, but to pursue a narrow and spiteful agenda of weakening the base of her political opposition. One had only to witness the glee expressed by rank and file Tories at the vicious suppression of the miners, to understand the mean-spiritedness and class bigotry of that era.

Furthermore, by systematically undermining the autonomy of local and regional authorities, Thatcher presided over the most centralising governments ever.

By starving the regions of resources and bringing power back to the centre, policies became the preserve of unelected quangos which sold off public assets at knock-down prices. Her biggest regret, remember, was her failure "to get rid of the National Health Service."

The "boom years" that Britain enjoyed were almost entirely due to the windfall revenues that began to flow from North Sea oil, just as she came into power. But instead of investing in infrastructure, modern industry and training like Germany, Thatcher's deregulation of the city led to asset stripping and the looting of pensions and savings of the middle classes.

This feeding frenzy set the tone for the obscene culture of "entitlement" which today seeks to justify the extremes of wealth and poverty, which blight the lives of so many.

Thatcher was a strong leader but divided Britain, destroyed communities and polarised society, by making a virtue out of greed and conspicuous consumption.

China already has too many narrow-minded, self-serving leaders prepared to sacrifice anything to hold on to power, just as she did. We need a dose of Thatcherism like we need bird flu.

Gordon James Kerr, Macau


Textbook monopolies unacceptable

I am concerned about the unacceptable rise in textbook prices for the next academic year.

The Education Bureau estimates that prices will go up by 3.3 per cent despite officials' efforts to suppress the rising trend of textbook prices.

This price increase will impose a heavy financial burden on parents on low incomes.

I do not think the bureau should give textbook publishers the power to raise prices as they see fit.

Also, textbook publisher monopolies should not be allowed. Textbooks are essential for all schoolchildren and further price rises should not be allowed.

It may get to the point where prices rise so much that books are seen as luxury items by some pupils. Acquiring knowledge is the only way to help youngsters escape from the cycle of poverty. Therefore, it is an important job for the government to control textbook prices.

The bureau had claimed that the use of electronic textbooks in primary and junior secondary classes would bring prices down.

However, I don't see e-books helping poor families in the short term as tablets are still quite expensive.

To make the use of e-textbooks popular in the city, our government should ensure there is a complete Wi-fi network in all primary and secondary schools. Otherwise, the introduction of these e-books will fail to meet the public's expectations.

I hope the next few years will see the prices of textbooks dropping in Hong Kong. That is what all parents in the SAR want to see happen.

Cannis Wong Ming-yan, Tsuen Wan


Money should have been given to NGOs

Hongkongers were touched by the earthquake which hit Sichuan in 2008 and the SAR government donated substantial sums of money to help with the relief work.

The money was aimed at helping with the rebuilding effort in the province.

However, many of the new buildings appeared to have been poorly constructed and were damaged in the latest quake last month.

Whenever there is an earthquake, death rates are higher on the mainland than, for example, Japan, because there is less awareness of safety and putting up buildings properly in an area which is prone to tremors.

I do believe we should be willing to help the victims of this disaster in Sichuan. But we should be aware of the corruption of some officials on the mainland.

It would have been better for the Hong Kong government to give money to non-governmental organisations.

These NGOs have greater transparency and so we would have known that the donation would be put to good use rather than going to corrupt officials.

Chan Hiu-yan, Ngau Chi Wan


Decision to make donation was wrong

I was dismayed by the decision of the Legislative Council's finance committee to approve the HK$100 million donation for victims of the Sichuan earthquake.

Everyone knows that Hong Kong people are generous. When there has been a natural disaster on the mainland they have dug deep in their pockets. So why would it appear that a majority of citizens here were unhappy about backing this HK$100 million donation? I don't think it comes down to the hostility that some people feel here about mainlanders, because we know that the quake victims are innocent.

The problem is that Hong Kong citizens fear that most of the money will go into the pockets of unscrupulous mainland officials. The government there is seen as lacking transparency and so it is felt that the money could be misused.

Also, the central government has enormous financial reserves, so the country does not really need our donation.

I do not think Legco should have approved giving money until the central government made an official request for it.

This sum of HK$100 million, which will be wasted, could have been used to help destitute people in Hong Kong.

It seems that the Hong Kong administration is just trying to curry favour with the leadership in Beijing. The decision of the financial committee to give this sum will lead to more public discontent.

It is never too late to amend a mistake, but I do not think we will see a change of heart from our obstinate government.

All I can hope is that against the odds the money is put to the use that was intended and helps the victims of this natural disaster.

Magnus Leung Hon-yeung,Shun Lee


Why HK needs school to train young vets

More and more people in Hong Kong are keeping pets at home and there is increasing demand for veterinary services.

Young people who are interested in the profession and would like to become vets cannot study here and have to go to a university outside Hong Kong. If some stay abroad and do not practise here, then, in effect, we are witnessing an exodus of talent.

If a university here established a school to train vets, more vets would stay here to work and people with sick pets would not have to endure a long wait to get an appointment.

Also, the expertise of locally trained vets could prove invaluable in Hong Kong, with the outbreaks of bird flu we have seen in the past and are seeing again. Veterinary research is invaluable in this area.

For these reasons, I think a vet school should be set up in Hong Kong.

Can Chan Hoi-yin, Tsing Yi