Letters to the Editor, May 27, 2013
Education can help to curb bad manners
The comments of Vice-Premier Wang Yang regarding Chinese on holiday abroad attracted a lot of attention in the press ("Vice-premier laments rude tourists", May 18).
Chinese tourists are leaving a bad impression when travelling outside the country and there must be an improvement in their behaviour. I understand why citizens in various countries and Hongkongers complain, because I have had similar experiences.
While I was on the MTR last week, a group of five mainland tourists in their 20s boarded. There were three available seats next to me, but they all sat down. It was so uncomfortable that other passengers like me stood up.
I would attribute the poor behaviour to lack of education. Many of the tourists are in their 40s and 50s.
Decades ago when they were young, few people got a proper education, which is why as adults they talk loudly, spit and discard litter.
The central government can change these habits among the younger generation through education. It can teach students what is acceptable behaviour in public places.
Parents also need to learn to become good role models for their children.
Rachel Yeung, Kowloon Bay
Strong lobby groups ignore plight of bees
Reports on dwindling bee populations and the subsequent debate on the use of certain kinds of pesticide highlight political considerations can override ecological concerns.
Because of the remarkable decline in the number of bees worldwide, the European Union has banned the use of certain pesticides with neonicotinoid [for two years], where studies indicate that they are leading to a decrease in the bee population.
But Britain opposed the ban, thanks to lobbying from the chemical industry. The government argues that studies are inconclusive.
There is also strong opposition to a ban in the US, again from chemical firms, where the number of beehives has declined by one third.
In this kind of power struggle lobby groups with the most clout tend to win, even if their arguments cannot be justified. Bee keepers are pitted against big companies making the pesticides.
It is a cause for concern that this becomes a political football and the bees are the ultimate losers in this fight. I suppose we have accept this is the world we live in.
Chan Chi-ho, Hung Hom
Poor hygiene in workplace not acceptable
Now that the dockers strike is over and the strikers have returned to work, it is time to step back and examine the issues brought to light. One matter that many believe has not been properly addressed is the revelation about the appalling hygiene conditions at Hongkong International Terminals' sites.
It came as a great shock to the community that workers are given no time for meal breaks and are required to eat and relieve themselves in a confined space with no access to soap and running water, both essential to basic personal hygiene and the prevention of the spread of germs.
That they have to relieve themselves without the proper facilities for the removal of human waste, in a city that has experienced the devastating effect of Sars and bird flu epidemics in recent years is quite frankly incomprehensible.
So why then when serious breaches of basic health requirements were revealed, were the facilities not immediately closed down for thorough cleansing and disinfection?
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man, and other senior officials taking part in the Fresh Hong Kong cleansing campaign last month made no reference to conditions at the port. Instead of heading straight there with their brooms and cloths, they pretended to clean some already presentable railings.
During and after the strike we had the usual proclamations that it had dealt a blow to Hong Kong's reputation as a (insert key word of the day, in this case logistics) hub. Hutchison Port Holdings group managing director John Meredith proclaimed the strike was jeopardising Hong Kong's entrepot status.
There is no doubt that Hong Kong's reputation has been adversely affected, not by the strikers' demand for a reasonable wage, but by the revelations regarding the third-world conditions allowed by the HIT management to optimise operational efficiency.
The administration has shown that hygiene problems on tycoon-controlled properties are not being followed up with the same diligence as that shown towards places such as wet markets.
That management and government officials have ignored the issue is far more likely to deter international trade than the legitimate demands of dock workers to humane working conditions.
Martin Brinkley, Ma Wan
Why Buddha's birthday is so important
I was amused by Abel Ng Yat-tung's letter ("End Buddha's birthday as public holiday", May 21).
He suggests striking Buddha's birthday from the gazetted list of public holidays in Hong Kong on the funny ground that it appears rare (to him) and that he, someone named after one of the sons of Adam and Eve and the first human being murdered according to the Bible, only managed to find its association with two other jurisdictions in the world.
Buddhism is one of the four largest religions in the world and is observed by close to two billion people, mainly in Asian countries, for example, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. The fact that Buddhism is not widely observed in the West does not make Buddha's birthday any less worthy of being a public holiday in Hong Kong.
Like many non-Christians, I am fine with celebrating Christmas and have never thought of suggesting its deletion from the list of public holidays to make way for Mother's Day. I support making [the Monday after] Mother's Day a public holiday but it does not mean I should pick on a public holiday that I am ignorant of.
We are now seeing regular dialogue among different religions through different channels, for example, the Colloquium of the Leaders of the Six Religions in Hong Kong. It includes the Hong Kong Taoist Association, the Hong Kong Buddhist Association, the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, the Confucian Academy, the Chinese Muslim Cultural and Fraternal Association and the Hong Kong Christian Council. Anyone who advocates against religious harmony should have the least support of Hong Kong people, local mothers included.
Jonathan Man, Tsing Yi
Philippines fair game for predators
It is easy to see why Marcus Shaw is surprised about the fact that Filipino authorities "tolerate" the plundering of their natural resources by their neighbours ("Philippines has faced provocation," May 21).
Indeed his view of Taiwanese fishing fleets "hoovering up everything in sight" near dive sites he's visited isn't much different from what the mainland Chinese did when caught pilfering rare turtles off the coast of Luzon, and what the Japanese have long done in helping themselves to tuna from the sea around Mindanao.
Rare aquatic specimens and coral have also been filched over the years by various neighbouring pirates.
It's really not a matter of tolerating all these thefts but one of helplessness on the part of an inept Philippine government which has been incapable of guarding the archipelago's thousands of miles of coastline.
Its limited number of vessels and lack of professional training for naval personnel have made the country fair game for all predators. And the fact that amateurish government officials tend to bungle their international relations gives an image of national weakness and incompetence.
While President Benigno Aquino engages in rhetoric in announcing a planned modernisation of the navy ("Manila boosts navy against 'bullies'" May 22), that only reflects a government of reaction, not a strong independent one which won't have to go crying to Uncle Sam to bail it out in times of trouble.
Isabel Escoda, Lantau
America's lax gun laws put lives at risk
I was disappointed that recent efforts to get tougher gun control legislation in the US failed to get approval from the Senate, partly due to the clout of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
This is a very controversial issue in America and I believe that there should be tighter gun control in the country.
It is so easy for people, including criminals, to get hold of firearms. President Barack Obama's proposals to expand background checks to gun buyers [not currently covered by the federal system] were reasonable.
The NRA is selfish and cares only about the interests of its members and gun manufacturers. Citizens' lives are far more important than making profits. The Republicans should not have sided with the NRA.
I think of the 20 innocent children killed in a shooting in a school in Connecticut in December.
Parents in America will continue to feel concerned about their children if gun control laws are not tightened.
Lax legislation poses a threat to the whole of society in the US.
Kennis So Cho-kwan, Kwai Chung