Letters to the Editor, May 28, 2013
Security chief should have apologised
I was extremely offended by Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok's suggestion that young girls drink less in order to prevent rape ("Security chief blasted for rape remark", May 16).
To place any responsibility on the victims instead of entirely on the perpetrator is a classic case of irrational victim blaming. Experts say only a fraction of rapes are reported: it is the same victim-blaming that leads to women being afraid to report such crimes. Mr Lai wrote on the Security Bureau website that Hong Kong prides itself on being a "free, open and secure society". A society where women are scared of reporting serious crimes does not fit any of those descriptors.
I expected a public apology but instead his office responded to my complaint via e-mail on May 15, saying that "the sole purpose [was] to highlight" how "the culprits took advantage of victims whose ability to protect themselves was reduced after drinking too much". His press secretary sent a modified version of this response to these columns ("No intention to put blame on rape victims", May 23). He issued another statement ("Security chief Lai Tung-kwok stops short of apology for rape remark", May 17) and managed to miss the point again by defending his intentions.
Neither statements address Mr Lai's word choice. The language we use has impact on society. Mr Lai needs to acknowledge this and publicly take responsibility for what he said. His words stung sexual assault victims and are a textbook example of what rape culture looks like - a culture where rape is excused, trivialised and perpetuated through what we say and do. For example, rape, like a robbery or a stabbing, does not happen "between" people as Mr Lai stated - it happens to people.
Every single one of the rape cases reported during the first three months of this year in Hong Kong involved someone that the victim knew. These rapists are our friends, our colleagues, our classmates, and our brothers, not random, deranged aggressors. We as a society, especially our leaders, should be teaching men not to rape, not teaching women how to avoid it.
There is already sexual assault training in place for the police force but it is clearly not enough. It should be improved and made mandatory for all Security Bureau staff - starting from the top.
Laurel Chor, Pok Fu Lam
Courts must always uphold human rights
It is refreshing to read a rational and learned article, such as the one by Cora Chan ("Court's ruling on transgender marriage rights raises hopes for other minorities", May 21).
Unfortunately some people in Hong Kong are negatively and racially motivated.
The cases involving mainland mothers and domestic helpers so obviously fell into a category of human rights which the courts so disappointingly neglected.
The development of our courts is of great concern for our future, particularly in light of the attacks by high-profile mainland-connected lawyers and "legislators".
The courts should help to ensure that human rights are upheld, maybe most importantly in contentious areas, and that individuals' lives, for example, marriage, divorce and pregnancy, are not constrained by the beliefs of others such as those advocated by some religious leaders.
Tom Mulvey, Wan Chai
Nation facing economic problems
China's 2009 stimulus package has not alleviated high debt levels.
This is largely because the stimulus was largely driven by credit expansion, which fuelled the formation of a property bubble.
As a result, authorities were forced to tighten controls on what had previously been a key growth driver.
Major structural reforms in the financial sector, including privatisation of inefficient state-owned enterprises and liberalising capital movements is crucial to sustain growth.
The fiscal system would also have to encourage consumption and domestic demand, as well as put financing of public investment on a more sustainable basis. Only with major structural reform in place, could China have sustained long-term growth.
Samantha Datwani, Fortress Hill
Levy has led to reduction of discarded bags
I supported the 50-cent levy for plastic bags in retail stores which was introduced by the government in 2009.
I think it was a good idea.
It had to be introduced because the widespread use of these bags was a serious problem in Hong Kong. Large quantities of these bags were ending up in our landfills. People had got into the habit of throwing away these bags, often after first use.
This showed a lack of care about the environment. Also, people would often throw these bags into a refuse bin rather than putting them into a recycling bin.
The plastic shopping bag tax can encourage people not to use plastic bags. Although the charge per bag is only 50 cents, it does encourage people to reuse their bags rather than throwing them away after a single use.
More people now bring their own bags when they are out shopping and, since 2009, the use of plastic bags has been in decline.
The law is not an unreasonable one as people can still get a plastic bag when they are buying fresh meat, fruit and fresh bread so the legislation has not created any hygiene problems. It clearly has a lot of public support.
People agree that it is putting less pressure on our landfills.
Some critics point out that it has not been effective, with only a slight reduction in the number of bags ending up in landfills.
They say people instead use paper bags and they do end up in landfills.
However, I do not agree with such criticism. Even if there is only a slight reduction, it is a good start. Also, as I said, the levy has helped to raise people's awareness of environmental issues and the need not to use plastic bags.
Also, research has found that more people are now purchasing eco-bags and taking them with them when they go shopping.
The tax is not the only way to raise our awareness of the need to protect the environment. Education by the government is also important, especially of the next generation.
The levy has meant that the problem of waste and pollution caused by discarded plastic bags is not as serious as it was and I believe that the legislation has overall public support. I am sure all of us want to see a cleaner and greener Hong Kong.
Himmy Lee Chun-him, Yau Tong
Cannot justify destroying environment
I'm sorry to be confused but could someone tell me why, if our birth rate has dramatically declined, we have prevented mainlanders giving birth in Hong Kong and we are not giving the right of abode to domestic helpers, we are going to need "a new Sha Tin every 10 years"?
At present we may have an ageing population but this will balance out in the future as fewer children are being born. The numbers in the city will fall.
The wanton destruction of our living environment cannot be justified.
No artificial islands are required in our seas.
No massive new roads to cope with the overload of vehicles are needed. The model of growth by which the entire planet has based its various economies cannot be sustained indefinitely.
Instead we should embrace sustainability and maintain a healthy status quo with enough resources and space for all.
The number of cars on Hong Kong's roads should be capped as in Singapore, where you have to take a car off the road to put one on.
Our property bank should be fully utilised, whether industrial, commercial or residential by changing land use if necessary before any further reclamation or demolition is undertaken.
Hong Kong is a small place, geographically speaking, but a large place in global terms.
Paradoxically, the more you ruin its environment by pursuing the path of growth, the smaller we become.
Karen Prochazka, Happy Valley
Reforms are needed in our schools
In a bid to equip themselves with sufficient knowledge to get a career, young people have to stay in school for over a decade. However, they are having to put up with an education system that is not well-developed.
One of the reasons for this state of affairs is that there is a rote-learning culture that pervades the classroom.
Rather than emphasising the importance of students developing their observational, analytical and reasoning skills and trying to be articulate, the local curriculum is pretty rigid, and the focus is primarily on fixed textbooks and model answers.
The method of teaching is instruction-based, and this fails to engage students.
Schools require pupils to follow the teachers' instructions, instead of thinking critically or challenging authority.
This deep-rooted mindset has created a rigid education system.
Officials should be aware of the existing problems in the education system and ensure that they are dealt with. Existing mistakes should not be repeated.
Luk Mei-yan, Tai Kok Tsui