Letters to the Editor, June 19, 2013

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 1:26am

Snowden saga reveals true human nature

Edward Snowden has revealed what we all know, that governments spy.

Whilst we all happily watch 007 and Jason Bourne and marvel at their antics, we take affront when the faceless reach of any government invades our own privacy.

Of course, this is nothing new. The desire to know what someone else is thinking has always existed; a family member's diary or a partner's WhatsApp account may often reveal secrets; of course this is petty when compared to the international hacking of agencies from foreign governments reading a citizen's private communication, but the desire is the same.

Mr Snowden has revealed a human weakness that, in an age of a billion messages an hour, is too tempting to ignore. Morally and legally wrong? Yes; but human nature nonetheless.

Mark Peaker, The Peak


Blair's view of our religious faith is absurd

What a pity the late Christopher Hitchens isn't around to pooh-pooh Tony Blair, especially now that the former UK prime minister has piously declared that "the rich religious texture of Hong Kong reflects that of China as a whole" ("Harnessing the power of faith in a divided world," June 15).

To declare that Hong Kong people (and those in China) are a religious lot is downright laughable.

Whatever signs of superstitious prayer and chanting one finds in the territory can only be that of the Filipino migrant workers who fervently believe that God will provide for them in this life and the next. Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen might have been a devout Catholic and the Chinese populace may traditionally pay obeisance to their dead ancestors, but to think that this indicates Hongkongers and Chinese on the mainland are open to the kind of Christianity that Mr Blair espouses is absurd. His Faith Foundation tie-up with the University of Hong Kong doesn't mean there will be many converts to Christianity - students will mainly be curious about a foreign faith and culture.

Call me a cynic, but to think that such a project will change Chinese beliefs from the historically mercenary to the spiritual is a real stretch. Hong Kong and money are synonymous, and any religiosity that Mr Blair claims exists in the territory comes from those worshipping in the temples of the stock market, business and banking.

L.M.S. Valerio, Tin Hau


Link minimum wage to civil servants' pay

"There is enough on earth for everybody's need, but not for everybody's greed," said Mahatma Gandhi. A 3.92 per cent pay award sounds very modest, especially when you are a hard- working, punctual and loyal civil servant. Luckily, such people have a quite strong and well organised union.

But I can think of a good portion of our population who would be more than happy to be guaranteed an increase every year. This is why I suggest the minimum wages be linked with the civil service pay scheme - the same increase for both - every year.

This way, you might have 170,000 not-so-happy civil servants and a few hundred thousand happy men and women who are at the lowest end of the pay scale. This would also be a good base for democracy - more happy, rather than unhappy, people would certainly assure the re-election of the current chief executive.

Roland Guettler, Kowloon


Legco failing residents over recycling sites

Tseung Kwan O residents protesting at plans to extend the landfill there feel other districts should take more responsibility for the waste they generate.

There are responsible folk in other districts who, given the opportunity, would enthusiastically participate in waste reduction and recycling programmes. We already take other recyclables to the all-too-few bins provided. However, it is obvious that the administration has no intention of providing opportunities to play a more meaningful role.

Tsim Sha Tsui Kimberley Street Market was closed down in 2009 and has remained locked up despite suggestions as to alternative community uses. The most recent was a request that it be used as a glass recycling facility. TST, as a tourism and hospitality node, has hundreds of bars and restaurants generating large volumes of glass daily. The market would be an ideal location for a recycling depot.

When hoardings went up around the market recently we were very hopeful. However, we now find that the renovation is to accommodate the West Kowloon Immigration office, currently operating at the Yau Ma Tei Car Park Building.

This is yet another example of the community being deprived of facilities in order to serve the administration's fixation with reducing district facilities to make way for residential, commercial and government offices. There is no genuine commitment to waste reduction. When will Legco and responsible district council representatives stand up for their constituents?

Paul Kumar, member, Tsim Sha Tsui Residents' Group


Rent is killing small business, not welfare

I disagree with Felix Chan Hiu-lok's letter ("Welfare state model killing small business" June 14). The minimum wage is hardly the real-life factor that is killing small business. Rent is.

The minimum wage has helped unskilled labourers, mainly in the restaurant industry. A typical small restaurant would be a local tea house or noodle shop, employing between five and 20 waiting staff. The minimum wage means that they now earn around HK$7,500 a month, which is some HK$1,000 more than in the past, a financial improvement for them. While a roughly 15 per cent rise sounds staggering, it is not 15 per cent across the board to the business, as our pro-business camp would like us think. The fact is that a restaurant with 20 staff would face a hike of HK$20,000, a sum which hardly raises anxiety similar to that of a rent increase letter, which could end their business immediately.

My favourite noodle shop for 35 years, on Lockhart Road, closed recently due to exorbitant rent. My favourite wine shop moved upstairs because the rent rose by 300 per cent. This is happening everywhere in Hong Kong. Wages played no part in the employers' decisions.

We studied economics textbooks by Europeans and Americans, and their theories were backed by research in these countries where labour costs are the big threat to their economies. Hong Kong is different. If we replace the term "labour cost" with "rent" in these textbooks, then Hong Kong has become a "welfare state" to the few property tycoons.

Mr Chan makes welfare states sound evil. I use to think they were, too. But today, nations like Sweden and Canada are still sound. If a welfare state takes care of its people's livelihood with prudent economic management, perhaps Hong Kong should learn from them. Hong Kong is still a moon away from a being a welfare state.

Tony Yuen, Mid-Levels


Extend levy scheme on plastic bags

I think the plastic bag levy should be extended to cover all retailers, irrespective of size and type of business, and the shop owners should use the proceeds to set up a fund for environmental protection.

Based on "the polluter pays" principle, everyone using plastic bags would be responsible for the refuse produced by their use. Also, if the extension were to be determined on the basis of business scale or product type, it would avoid concerns about a level playing field. Plastic bags used for fresh food should be covered in the extended scheme to prevent indiscriminate use, as many people have used them to dodge the levy.

Nevertheless, there should be some exclusions, so that the public would not be discouraged from using plastic bags where hygiene was important, such as for carrying fish, meat, fruit or vegetables which are not packaged.

Lewis Yeung, Tseung Kwan O