Letters to the Editor, June 1, 2013
Colonial-era institutions' lustre fades
I refer to the report ("Exco has lost its colonial glory, says Legco chief", May 27). I agree with Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing that the Executive Council's authority and status have diminished in the past decade, and many see it as little more than a rubber stamp.
However, Exco is not the only Hong Kong institution that has lost its mojo when compared to the colonial era. As Paul Zimmerman rightly points out in Lai See ("Sign up to save the government from another political blunder", May 28), government departments now routinely "battle" to avoid management responsibility.
This contrasts with former times when departments would vie to gain more decision-making power and authority.
Initiative and integrity have been replaced by inertia and insincerity, and this became pervasive throughout the civil service during Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's two terms as Hong Kong's chief executive.
This malaise has also spread to the private sector. As an example, HSBC is but a shadow of the prudent stalwart that stood behind Hong Kong 20 years ago.
I doubt that at that time Jake van der Kamp could have written the column ("Mr Gullible presents a distorted picture", May 28) which takes to task both HSBC's current chairman and chief executive for naivety in their assessment of China.
Who would ever have thought in the colonial days that Singapore's public and private sectors could develop more "oomph" than Hong Kong's?
K. Y. Leung, Shouson Hill
Philippine voter choices bring shame
There are times when I think about my country, the Philippines, or its people and can't help but feel proud of its natural beauty and resources. There are also times when I look at what is happening and can't help but feel sadness and shame.
That was my reaction to the results of the congressional and local elections earlier this month.
So many candidates won simply because they are known celebrities (such as former president Joseph Estrada becoming mayor of Manila) or relatives of powerful politicians with no record of serving others or leadership ability.
What has happened so that Filipino voters chose former leaders either convicted of plunder or being under house arrest, celebrities with a terrible history of abuse, relatives or children of known politicians with no skills?
While Hong Kong people have limited voting power, the Philippines takes this privilege for granted.
Bo Barreto, Yuen Long
Independent rail-crash probe essential
I refer to your report ("Derailed Yuen Long train speeding at 3 times the limit", May 23). This light-rail train accident is the most serious derailment in the more than two decades since the network began its operations.
There should be an independent investigation and whoever is chosen to conduct it should come from outside Hong Kong, in order to determine what actually caused the accident.
I think this is necessary even though the MTR Corporation confirmed that no problems had been found with the mainland-built carriages during a recent inspection.
The government is seeking greater co-operation with the mainland. It also approves all aspects of the corporation's finances, such as revision of fares and subsidies to passengers.
It is not too much to ask for a probe into the Yuen Long accident by a third party independent from the Hong Kong administration and from the mainland. This is important, as it comes down to public perception. The public must be assured any probe is impartial.
Leung Ka-kit, Yau Tsim Mong
Transsexual rights destroy marriage
I refer to Patrick Jiang's letter ("Transsexual ruling does not infringe upon rights of others, May 24). It has occurred to me that a marriage involving a transsexual destroys the concept of marriage.
Imagine, if a woman divorced, changed her gender through surgery, and married another woman. If she had a son in her first marriage, that son would, in effect, have lost a mother. Also, what would be the legal status of the husband "she" had divorced?
Leon Chan, Sai Wan Ho
Wage edict, not bosses, cause of job losses
Some correspondents expressed concerns about people losing their jobs when the minimum wage was introduced and then raised in May.
They argued that with the introduction of this law, it was inevitable that production costs would increase.
Some employers felt that to preserve their profits, they would have to deal with the minimum wage law by cutting out paid lunch breaks for employees. I think this was a reasonable thing to do.
If you look at the law of supply and demand, when the wage law came into force the supply of labour exceeded demand in Hong Kong. Although I feel sorry for those people who were made redundant we can't blame all employers. They were just having to face economic reality.
For owners of firms there are some costs over which they have no control, such as rent and the cost of imported goods. The landlord sets the rent and there is seldom room for negotiation. Company owners find they must lower costs as best they can when faced with rising inflation.
Inflation in Hong Kong is a problem for us all, but especially for restaurant owners. As I said, their aim is to make profits; they are not running charities.
Having said that, obviously, trying to ensure a harmonious atmosphere at a workplace is important, but it is not always easy to achieve.
There has to be some ceiling on workers' pay, and if the minimum wage ends up hurting a particular employer, then he may have no choice but to impose unpaid meal breaks.
I think the key to having a harmonious workplace is mutual trust. We all need to earn a living and employers and employees have to think about the needs of others, not just their own concerns.
We have to accept that inflation is a real problem in Hong Kong and a company boss should not be blamed if he tries to deal with it as best he can.
Michelle Yeung, Tsing Yi
Boorishness of tourists hurts all Chinese
I think Rachel Yeung is totally right in her letter ("Education can help to curb bad manners", May 27).
Yunmei Wang in her [self-published] book, Chinese Tour Groups: Pigs on the Loose, highlights this fact but also offers many other immediate solutions and initiatives that the Chinese authorities need to address to solve this growing problem.
From her observations of Chinese tour groups in more than 40 countries, Wang looks at the influence that tour group leaders have on the behaviour of the group and points out the fact that many of these tour leaders show the same bad manners that tour group members display. The starting point in taking action would be with these leaders, who themselves need to be trained and educated so that they can inform their mostly non-English-speaking tour group members of the behaviour that is expected in different countries.
I was heartened last weekend to see a young mainland worker in a Starbucks cafe ask a woman shouting into her phone to quieten down or go outside. Hopefully the younger generation of mainlanders will be more considerate than those who now make up the bulk of Chinese visitors abroad.
Yes, all nationalities have these types of individuals but the huge numbers of travelling Chinese are attracting a lot of attention: and the worst thing is that it creates negative feelings about Chinese people.
Hong Kong people need to be aware that most people in other countries cannot tell the difference between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese.
Thomas Beckett, Tai Po
Important to try and be positive
I look forward to reading more about your campaign to "celebrate the city's culture" as you mark your 110th anniversary ("Campaign launched to celebrate HK", May 31).
We need positives in Hong Kong as the infighting between politicians depresses me.
I also liked your editorial ("Celebrating our unique spirit", May 31) in contrast to an article in a Chinese-language paper predicting Hong Kong would go further downhill next year, following the lower rating it was given by the International Institute for Management Development.
We need to be more upbeat, which is why I liked the inflatable duck in Victoria Harbour with thousands of people gathering in Tsim Sha Tsui to see it. I will hate to see it leave on June 9. We all became children again. Our harbour is a good place for such displays.
Finally, I would like to wish Elsie Tu a very happy and healthy 100th birthday tomorrow. I find her occasional letters to these columns inspiring.
G. Chan, Mid-Levels