Letters to the Editor, May 8, 2013
Officials must act to curb price hike
It is disappointing to see that, during the new school year, parents will once again face a ludicrous hike in textbook prices. It is equally frustrating to read the attempts by publishing companies to justify this increase, such as curriculum changes and rising costs.
They pledged to unbundle textbooks, but this has not happened with all publications. Parents will face a steeper bill for these books and this will be hard for low-income families living in subdivided apartments.
Underprivileged students will face higher costs for the learning materials they need and this will make it more difficult for them to get a place to study at a university.
We pride ourselves on our unbiased legal system and the bodies that exist through which the innocent can seek redress, such as the Equal Opportunities Commission. Yet there is no government department which exists to fight against the gap between rich and poor.
Instead of expressing disappointment at the price rises, officials should be trying to take concrete steps to lower them.
They should be taking a tougher stand with textbook publishers and try to open up the sector to greater competition with the offer of subsidies to firms that are willing to print books and actually reduce prices.
Also, they must push ahead with the introduction of electronic textbooks in schools.
All existing technical problems must be ironed out and the process of making e-books accessible to all pupils should be shortened by co-ordinating with e-publishers.
All schools could also be encouraged to establish a sub-department which would create more teaching material.
If more of this material was made available, families could avoid spending large sums on textbooks.
Our government should be responsive to the grievances expressed by parents over this issue.
The success of this city is dependent on ensuring the next generation is well educated.
James Au Kin-pong, Lai Chi Kok
Clarifying eye test process at department
I refer to the letter from Marion Brennan ("No passes for those who wear glasses?" April 28)
Coxswains who apply for the Pleasure Vessel Operator Certificate of Competency have to meet eyesight standards made under Section 16 of the Merchant Shipping (Local Vessels) Ordinance (Cap.548).
All applicants will be required to pass an eyesight test, with respect to distant vision and colour vision, conducted by the Marine Department.
In case an applicant requires visual aids (that is, wearing glasses), he/she will be tested with the visual aid and also be tested without it.
Alternatively, a certificate issued by a registered medical practitioner attesting to the applicant having attained the required standards within the 12 months preceding the application will be accepted.
For details, please go to the website ("Eyesight Standards for Coxswains" at http://www.mardep.gov.hk/en/pub_services/exam.html
It should be noted that the young Western woman referred to by your correspondent had produced an eyesight examination report to the department, which had been accepted for examination.
Ho Chi-ping, marine officer/examination (local master), Marine Department
Sculpture brings some joy to city
While the whole city is focusing on Florentijn Hofman's giant Rubber Duck, in Victoria Harbour, I was furious to find that a YouTube user had posted a video exploding the cute inflatable sculpture to express their dissatisfaction.
Some opponents of the sculpture have commented that the duck is not worth seeing and did not deserve so many posts on Facebook. But I do not think they have considered the positive effects the duck brings.
While I accept that a duck is nothing special, the impact of this 16.5-metre tall inflatable floating in the harbour at Tsim Sha Tsui is amazing.
When you are close to it you cannot help noticing the pleasant atmosphere that is created by seeing thousands of people taking photographs outside Harbour City.
Of late, there seems to have been growing discontent expressed by people in Hong Kong over various issues, such as the strike by dockers, rising prices and poor governance. So it is good to see something that brings some joy.
It would be good if busy working parents could spare some time to take their children and then go shopping as a family or go to a restaurant.
You often see young people glued to their smartphone apps or games.
I would like to see them tear themselves away from these apps and take some photos of the duck. It might even encourage communication between people.
I think the sculpture has managed to make Hong Kong more colourful.
Jacky Yuen, Tai Kok Tsui
Opponents of donation made valid points
Last month's earthquake in Sichuan damaged buildings and roads.
It raised questions about how much progress there had been on the mainland since the quake in 2008 and how the substantial sums donated to help with the relief work then had been spent. People have asked where all the money went.
I can understand the views of those who were opposed to legislators approving the HK$100 million that the government agreed to give towards the relief work.
They suspected that much of the money that was given by Hong Kong for the 2008 reconstruction did not reach the quake victims.
The final destination remains unknown, but it is widely believed that some mainland officials directly benefited and that the money helped to finance their lavish lifestyles.
Other people felt Hong Kong needed the HK$100 million more than the mainland. The chief executive has proposed a number of infrastructure projects to create jobs.
Hong Kong faces an uncertain financial future and the government has a limited budget.
Our priority should have been to deal with internal matters first, especially since Beijing has often rejected offers of help from other countries because it sees China as being a strong power.
The donation was not necessary, but I hope now that it has been approved, the Sichuan authorities will use it wisely.
Tony Chan, Kwun Tong
White-gilled mushrooms dangerous
I am surprised that the report on wild mushrooms ("The perils of mushroom hunting", April 27) did not mention a simple test my mother told me many decades ago - do not ever eat a mushroom which is white underneath (that is, has white gills).
Every one of the poisonous mushrooms mentioned in your article has white gills (if you look at Google). Avoiding them would have saved the awful experience suffered by Tony Wu Tung-ping and his wife.
The opposite may not necessarily be true: that non-white gills are safe.
One should know well the mushroom one is picking. But not eating white-gilled mushrooms will avoid a lot of grief.
Peter Forsythe, Discovery Bay