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Letters to the Editor, May 18, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 4:10am

Quest to end alfresco dining hurts tourism

I first landed in Hong Kong in 1994 and found the dining scene quite vibrant and exciting. It was certainly very different from the US, where I hailed from.

In my travels around the city and speaking to the locals and to tourists, I quickly learned that Hong Kong dining was among the very best in Asia and considered by many travellers as world class and a real attraction to tourism.

One of the unique offerings and one of the elements that added to the mystique and allure of the dining culture was the so called dai pai dong and other "street offerings". In some areas by day there would just be normal shops and other businesses. At night they were transformed with a variety of quaint street vendors established. This added to the diversity of the Hong Kong dining scene.

Over the course of the next 10 years most of these venues and dining areas were closed down.

From what I read in the report ("Policy on alfresco dining 'has no bite'", May 10) this seems to be part of an overall government strategy. The Ombudsman claims the relevant departments do little in the way of enforcing the current licensing regulations. However, given what was in the story and taking into account what I see is now being offered in Hong Kong's dining scene, that would not appear to be the case.

You stated that of 104 requests for alfresco operations only 17 were granted, which would appear to indicate a great deal fewer operators need to be regulated. And overall complaints are down by more than 20 per cent, year on year.

In the end the Hong Kong diner and tourists lose in this zealous quest to end the alfresco dining scene in Hong Kong. When compared to other cities in Asia, such as Singapore and Shanghai, our policy of opposition at all costs places the SAR once again at a competitive disadvantage to other thriving cities.

It seems to me the Hong Kong Tourism Board should at some point take a stand and push for more, rather than less, alfresco dining, as this is without a doubt one of the cornerstones on which the city's tourism is based.

Eden Cowle, Western district

 

Lai's ignorant rape remarks are damaging

Like many women I am disappointed in the comments made by Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok regarding the increase in reports of rape ("Security chief blasted for rape remark", May 16).

With a few no doubt well-intentioned but poorly chosen and woefully ignorant words, he has managed to put the women's cause back several decades.

Rape is not about sex - it is about power and control; about using physical force; using the threat of, or actual violence to force another human being into submission.

This is why we hear such terrible stories of old ladies being raped.

Advising women to "drink less" is no better than advising mugging victims not to wear expensive jewellery or brand- name accessories.

In a free and modern society a woman should be able to drink what she wants, wear what she likes, and go where (and when) she pleases without fear of being raped and then being blamed for being raped.

Lai also asks victims to "step forward to report rape" ("Security chief stops short of apology for rape remark", May 17), something that is now less likely, as a result of his comments.

This is 21st-century Hong Kong. I expected better.

Gillian Kew, Tai Wai

 

Essential that schools convey sense of values

I recently saw a video in which a man from the mainland complained about the education system, saying it encouraged only the acquisition of knowledge, but did not teach students the right moral values.

He talked about all the immoral things that were happening in China with, for example, some businessmen selling tainted food and the unscrupulous reprocessing of "gutter oil" from restaurants.

Those who are responsible for these scandals must have some expertise and maybe even professional knowledge, but clearly they have no moral compass.

I see some similarities with Hong Kong, in that with our education system all the emphasis is placed on students getting good results. Schools seem to have forgotten the importance of nurturing good character.

The government's priority is to have people in the workforce who can help ensure economic growth and that is reflected in the education system.

The emphasis on schools should not just be on academic results.

Teachers must instil in young people the right kind of value system.

Lam Wen-sze, Tseung Kwan O

 

China should take a stand over N Korea

Given the belligerent stance North Korea has been taking with regard to threats to fire missiles, Beijing should be taking a tougher stand.

By showing that it can stand up to its ally, China would also improve its image in the international community. It will be seen as being a more important player in world affairs.

The crisis in the Korean peninsula has emphasised the need for countries to sort out any differences they have through peaceful negotiations rather than conflict.

Kwong Tsz-wai, Tsuen Wan

 

Time to relax this outdated one-child rule

I think the one-child policy on the mainland is outdated and not appropriate for a civilised society.

Although it has been effective when it comes to preventing a population explosion, it has brought tragedy to many people.

There are stories of women in some provinces being forced to have abortions and tubal ligations for sterilisation. Some of these abortions are at a very late stage of pregnancy and this effectively means a child's life has been taken away.

Also, tubal ligation can lead to serious complications. If not treated properly it can leave women in pain for the rest of their lives.

Those who break the family planning regulations must pay a social compensation fee, but there is no standard penalty and sums vary from a few thousand yuan to far higher amounts. Many people cannot afford this exorbitant fee.

The central government should modify the one-child policy and allow couples to have two children. Also, the social compensation fee should be cancelled.

Angela Ng, Tsuen Wan

 

Try making HSBC pay for ATM fiasco

I could not agree more with Rueben M. Tuck ("HSBC's ATM switch abroad proved costly", May 16).

I, too, was forced to accept a new ATM card which solely relied on UnionPay to access international ATM networks, and this has proved disastrous.

It simply doesn't work properly, even in countries where ATMs actually display the UnionPay symbol, and this is far from universal.

Instead we are forced to use a credit card, which still uses Cirrus, and pay a cash advance fee as Mr Tuck observed. I send a standard letter to HSBC whenever I return from overseas, asking for a refund of these fees; up until now this has been granted but it remains to be seen how long that will be the case. It is inconvenient, but I suggest other HSBC customers do the same and the bank might get the message.

It seems that HSBC has chosen to ally with an ineffective and incomplete network to appease certain factions on the mainland. It is a disgrace that loyal customers have been forced to accept a substandard situation when the alternatives, as used by other banks, are still perfectly serviceable.

This Premier customer is considering voting with his feet.

Andy Robinson, Wan Chai

 

Bosses' greed the real villain in strike fallout

I refer to Joyce Hung's letter ("'Success' for strikers has hurt society", May 10).

Ms Hung needs to ask why the dockers had to go on strike in the first place. What would she do if she was still earning wages at 1997 levels and had no other channels for negotiation?

Furthermore the competitiveness of Hong Kong's logistics industry has weakened in the last 20 years due to escalating terminal operating costs, the focal point of shippers' complaints. All these years the operators raised terminal charges and blamed high labour costs when in fact the labour force got nothing. So, Ms Hung, who has actually hurt the logistics industry?

I spent my career in this sector and now own a business. Yet I sympathise with the dockers because I see the injustice in this dispute (the low wages over the years) and the immoral business practices (subcontracting). I am disappointed by your correspondent's insensitive tone towards the working class who were victims of corporate greed.

Ms Hung also needs to think hard on what a "harmonious society" means. Harmonious to whom? Currently Hong Kong is the most stable society of all world cities, bar none.

If a government is doing its job serving its citizens, people would not have to go on strike or demonstrate. The real culprit in the disruption of a harmonious community is poverty.

Tony Yuen, Mid-Levels

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mschmidthk
Re HSBC ATM fiasco - the letters from Andy Robinson and Reuben M Tuck hit the nail on the head regarding the astonishing decision by HSBC to rely exclusively on the China UnionPay (CUP) network. Although I don't really subscribe to the kind of conspiracy theory put forward by Andy regarding appeasing "certain factions on the mainland" - I believe this is just another cost cutting measure by HSBC, one of many they have been conducting in recent years. Working in the payments industry I know that CUP offers a cheaper switching service than Plus or Cirrus. Indeed HSBC cards have had CUP branding for years and many ATMs in Thailand, for example, used to choose CUP routing over Plus or Cirrus when the choice was available, because it was cheaper for the acquiring bank. Unfortunately HSBC has now shot itself in the foot by removing the choice of networks, and by changing the card standard at the same time, such that those few CUP branded ATMs around the world will no longer accept the new cards!
 
 
 
 
 

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