Letters to the Editor, May 23, 2013
Promote beach resorts, but not tax haven
I refer to the report (“Tax haven picks HK for drive into Asia”, May 16).
I find it ironic that InvestHK, a government agency, is providing assistance to the British Virgin Islands to open an office in our city.
InvestHK trumpets Hong Kong as the best place in Asia to do business because of the low and simple tax regime, and the transparency and level playing field of our free-market policies, the rule of law and free flow of information. But, in effect, this government agency is helping the avoidance of our tax systems by Hong Kong firms which will be encouraged to establish opaque financial and legal entities in this Caribbean tax haven.
As a Hong Kong citizen and taxpayer, I welcome the establishment of the BVI representative office to promote its idyllic holiday resorts, but I strongly object to its local promotion and facilitation of its tax haven.
As a fundamental principle, if a company makes business by selling to Hong Kong people in Hong Kong, then it must pay its full Hong Kong dues on that income.
The days when an advantaged elite (which, in Hong Kong, means the property tycoons) can evade the taxes and duties borne by the middle classes should be over.
Overseas tax havens should have been assigned to the dustbin of history long ago.
I would like Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, through these columns, to tell readers of his stance and progress in closing such archaic financial and legal loopholes.
Of course the “elephant in the room” is that Hong Kong is also considered an overseas tax haven, and our financial secretary appears to be behind the curve in dealing with this situation.
Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels
No intention to put blame on rape victims
I refer to your editorial (“Think before you speak, sir”, May 21).
I would like to point out that the remark was made by Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok in response to a media question on the rise of rape cases in the first quarter of 2013.
The sole purpose was to highlight the modus operandi of these cases, in which the culprits took advantage of victims whose ability to protect themselves was reduced after drinking too much.
He has no intention, whatsoever, to put the blame on the victims of crime. Rape is a serious crime.
The police will treat every reported case seriously and will spare no efforts to bring the culprits to justice.
Peggy Chau, press secretary to secretary for security
HKU needs a well-equipped library
I refer to the report (“Petition to save renowned HKU library”, May 8).
I think that the library deserves more funding if the University of Hong Kong wants to maintain its status as a leading university in the city.
It is a very popular library for self-study and research.
When I did my final year project for my bachelor degree and my dissertation for my master’s, I was able to get all the books and other related material I needed at the HKU library.
This was very convenient, and it also gave me a sense of belonging to the university.
It is true that electronic collections, including online journals, can help cut a library’s costs, but I believe hard copies are also essential in a library. They cater to the needs of users who would rather not have to read from computer screens.
And if we go back to the basics, a university is where students equip themselves with knowledge and explore new ideas.
Books and audiovisual materials play a very important role in this respect.
I understand that universities are faced with funding issues and looking for ways to cut expenses in different ways. But, for me, cutting the funding of the library should be the last resort.
HKU has a long and distinguished history. As an alumnus, Iwould urge the relevant parties to rethink their priorities when it comes to the allocation of funding for Hong Kong’s leading university.
Alternatively, if funding is really an issue, the university could hold fund-raising programmes for the library and I am sure users and alumni would be eager to help. Hong Kong is not lacking in philanthropists and some of them, I am sure, would like to give the library a helping hand.
Andy Cheng Pak-fai, Quarry Bay
Church must realise its role is to advise
I refer to the report (“Church fears over same-sex marriage”, May 20).
When will the Catholic Church realise that its role is to advise, not to dictate how we act?
By taking a political position on areas like contraception in the Philippines or same-sex marriage in Hong Kong, it is denying believers the chance to obey and gain grace, or deny and sin.
These are basics in the church’s doctrine of Free Will.
Peter Mallen, Pok Fu Lam
Schools focus too much on exams
I have no doubt that Hong Kong is an international city, but sometimes wonder if we will be able to maintain that status.
This is because English standards are in decline, and I put this down to weaknesses in our education system. I therefore agree with Angus Chan Chung-sing’s letter that a more flexible approach to the teaching and learning of English has to be adopted in our schools (“How to make English more enjoyable”, May 16).
When it comes to English standards, Hong Kong is now lagging behind Asian countries like Singapore and Taiwan.
Schools here are geared to teach students to excel in the public exams. The whole learning process has that goal in mind. Teenagers have lesson after lesson on grammar and they are required to cram. The result is that they may have good reading and writing skills, but perform poorly when it comes to listening and speaking.
As a consequence, young Hongkongers lack confidence with English. They dare not speak to foreigners.
That not only has an adverse effect on their overall level of English comprehension, but means that with regard to English culture, their horizons are narrow.
The situation is not helped by the prevalent atmosphere in tutorial schools. Students are tempted by the schools’ advertising hype promoting their celebrity tutors. The tutors just focus on key words for exams and formulas.
Unless our education system is reformed, there will be far-reaching consequences for students and our city.
Clare Leung Tsz-kwan, Shun Lee
Big operators only winners in dining ban
The Humanist Association of Hong Kong fully agrees with Eden Cowle (“Quest to end alfresco dining hurts tourism”, May 18).
Local residents are also hurt by this policy.
Anyone wanting to start a small eatery is stymied by the diligence of government-paid inspectors who bring in the police to take small-time operators to court for having tables at the door. Popular small businesses with good intentions, which are supplying a service to locals and holidaymakers, are closed down.
It is clear that big business is backing those government efforts.
Medium-sized businesses go along with this and it is the small shops and street vendors that suffer.
Now we have entire streets devoid of variety and shade, with hot reflective concrete replacing the little awnings and shady spots which you used to find outside stalls and shops.
Instead of welcoming highquality competition, the larger establishments want to bring customers into their places, but they have to admit that the crowds are no longer passing their doors. Street life is being undermined, thus the attraction of “the mall”.
What is happening to the corner shop will also happen to those businesses outside the huge conglomeration of airconditioned, but expensive, high-end monoliths.
A far-sighted government could avoid all the pitfalls by relaxing or doing away with those regulations, which further drain all the money into the coffers of the big-time operators. This would also mean more people were self-employed and increase general employment. Also, it would offer cheaper food and entertainment options and decrease the tensions throughout society.
Tony Henderson, chairman, Humanist Association of Hong Kong
Objective and impartial process
The article by Ai Lau (“Situation critical”, April 23) said that the ADC Critic’s prize winner Jia Xuanning is a “Yazhou Zhoukan journalist” and that as I am the chief editor, this smacked of a “conflict of interest”.
The fact is that Jia is a fulltime senior editor of Wen Wei Po (“Wen Wei Daily”) and was never an employee of Yazhou Zhoukan(“Asia Weekly”). She is only a contributor to the magazine, writing pieces on an irregular basis. The review process is conducted in the form of a “blind assessment”.
None of the six judges knew the identity of the contestants. Also, it was the consensus of the judges that Jia got the highest marks in the contest, a result of an objective and impartial process.
Yau Lop-poon, chief editor, Yazhou Zhoukan