Letters to the Editor, June 21, 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 1:44am

Self-centred Snowden no kind of hero

It's small wonder that young Edward Snowden has turned out to be a self-made "hero" while using the media to proclaim himself as a saviour of democracy in the US and the rest of the world.

That seems the natural progression for a high school dropout who's been living with his mother, spent his youth playing with the usual techno geek gadgets and anime games, and drifted about trying to get a foothold in society.

If one compares his life's trajectory to that of another young American, Mark Zuckerberg, who "made" his own media by using his brains and working hard, and producing something to benefit the world, it's easy to conclude which person is the better human being.

There must be many sensible folks in Hong Kong and elsewhere who find Snowden an unlikely "hero" and will see through him and his threats to take on the mighty US spying machine.

The need for measures against terrorism is very real, and though it's unfortunate that the Americans tend to choose as employees simple-minded, half-baked individuals to handle important work, most folks will see through Snowden as the self-seeking publicity hound that he is.

M.C. Basquejo, Causeway Bay


US policy the real culprit in spy scandal

It is Oren Tatcher, not Hong Kong's shocked activists and pundits, who confuses "the aggressive and often overreaching promotion of democracy and human rights by US governments with a perfectly legitimate programme of self-defence" ("Prudent self-defence moves miscast as US lying and snooping", June 17)

"Overreaching" is putting it charitably, and the underlying attitude is sickening: of course we've been spying on you, gosh darn it, that's what spies do.

It's like saying, how can you blame a burglar for stealing; that's his job.

For months, the US and China have escalated a war of words, the US accusing China of hacking everything from US government and military data, banks' computers, to the power grid; China making counter claims and complaining of "groundless accusations".

While Snowden's revelations of some US targets make it clear the US has for years targeted the civilian infrastructure of the very nation it has vilified for doing just the same, it is telling that he has - so far - exposed no details of the data gathered, or any abuse thereof.

"Surely you would agree," insists Tatcher, "it is a nation's right to defend itself, and intelligence-driven pre-emptive measures are certainly preferable to bombs killing innocent people."

Thus, are we to choose between random acts of terror and secret, illegal US National Security Agency (NSA) attacks on our own private data, as well as our country's classified data?

Wholesale, illegal hacking of a university's confidential electronic files, or those of public officials, businesses or students of a sovereign nation is not a "perfectly legitimate programme of self-defence". To do so while claiming some moral high ground, squealing for your victim to stop doing the same, is beyond contempt. A private citizen exposed for such would be prosecuted and imprisoned.

Instead of the criminals who have instigated these crimes, it is the whistle-blower whose life and liberty are under threat.

If you're doing nothing wrong, goes the old adage so often invoked by police, you've got nothing to hide.

Why then, does the United States not simply declassify everything and share its wealth of intelligence with the world?

Reuben M. Tuck, Taipa, Macau


Religious faith and progress hand in hand

Will Lai, in criticism of a letter from Patsy Leung, boldly states, "It is an insult to people's intelligence for Ms Leung to suggest that 'praying fervently' and 'having Christian faith' offers the solution to our challenges in life" ("Prayer alone cannot solve our problems", June 14).

There can be no doubt this also is a statement of faith.

It would be a matter of considerable surprise to many people how many discoveries that have benefited today's world came from men of faith, who themselves would say they owed their success to prayer.

Who are we to deny it, since only they themselves knew of what they were capable.

George Washington Carver and his discoveries of 105 different uses of the peanut are an example. Having advised poor farmers in the American south to grow peanuts to replenish their soil (after years of cotton cropping) he was confronted with mountains of apparently unsaleable peanuts and the very people he wanted to help on the verge of bankruptcy.

His response was to lock himself away in the laboratory (if I remember, for more than 10 days) in prayer and experiment. The results are with us today, reputedly including the peanut butter enjoyed by almost every nation around the world.

Modern science had its roots in men of faith, who, reading the Bible for the first time in the days of the Reformation, saw that the world had been ordered by law, and set themselves to discover those laws "for the glory of God".

Of these were Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle and dozens of lesser-knowns.

The discovery of the importance of hygiene in modern hospitals has its origin in the observation that Jewish surgeons had an amazingly low rate of post-operative infections, simply because they obeyed a 3,500-year-old instruction in the book of Leviticus to bathe after touching a dead body or a wound. This view led the way for the work of Christian surgeon Sir Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery.

God gives us all the talents we have. We fail to acknowledge that to our great loss.

Phil Smith, Shek Wu Hui


Break taboo against organ donation

I read some news reports recently about scientists in the United States who have created a functioning rat kidney in the laboratory. The hope is that, some day, scientists may be able to create replacement organs for people with kidney disease who might otherwise wait in vain for a human donor.

Many people die while waiting for a kidney transplant; nearly 5,000 people in the US died while waiting in 2001.

Here, organ donations are not popular. Many people with traditional beliefs cannot accept that they should allow their organs to be harvested.

The government needs to get the message across to the next generation about the importance of registering as organ donors. There should be talks and exhibitions in schools on this subject. Once people are informed, they are likely to be more willing to register.

Joyce Lee Hoi-yi, Kwai Chung


Lantau deaths must prompt new resolve

The eight cows that died on South Lantau Road on June 5 had been sleeping. This is something they often do, as locals know and respect. To hit so many, the driver must have ploughed into them in a big vehicle at great speed.

For how many years have locals campaigned to get these beautiful, innocent, peace-loving creatures off the road, to designated areas where cows - and buffaloes - are fenced in? How often have we campaigned by letter, meeting, forum, protest, to get government to pay attention to the problem of speeding on this road?

There are many construction projects in South Lantau and it is developing at too fast a pace. Also, I think some of the building work is being done surreptitiously, given the strong opposition of many locals to the destruction of one of the few idyllic, unspoilt areas left in southern China.

It is well documented that our treatment of creatures and the natural environment is inextricably linked to how we treat one another. Locals have long said it would take a death for the relevant government departments to co-ordinate a coherent strategy on South Lantau's roads, its animals and its building projects. We recently had a human fatality on the road, and then the eight cows.

Let's hope that these two appalling accidents will finally motivate the government to take a first-hand look at what is going on in South Lantau.

Jane Houng, Lantau


Education needs to be more rounded

In an exam-oriented learning environment, there is intense competition among students. Hong Kong students are burying their heads into books, especially in this exam period.

Many stay behind at school for numerous hours to revise or even stay up at night so as to strive for academic excellence.

But should good marks be their only goal? The answer is a resounding "no". Education goes far beyond high marks. It is about well-rounded, holistic personal development. From this basis is imparted a correct set of values and the moral standards from which to best unleash an individual's potential.

The purpose of education is to form young people into compassionate and responsible citizens; to show concern to the suffering and to make a positive contribution to society.

Regrettably, Hongkongers nowadays place too much emphasis on academic performance. It seems that marks overwhelm all other considerations. This concept must be corrected, by government working with schools.

Only in this way can students truly understand the meaning of education, or can Hong Kong thrive as an education hub.

Camilla Chung, Kwun Tong