Letters to the Editor, July 20, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 July, 2013, 3:17am

Historical accuracy and July 1 march

Nigel Kat's letter ("Analysis of July 1 march ignores crucial historical facts", July 16) commenting on Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee's article ("Another July 1, Another Hurdle", July 7) contains crucial inaccuracies which need correction.

On the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic, the World Health Organisation did not declare Hong Kong a non-Sars-affected city until June 23, 2003. Until that time, although the numbers of deaths and affected persons were tapering off, people refrained from frequenting public areas until the WHO's formal declaration.

The July 1 protest provided a convenient trigger point for a mass rally.

As for the fall in property values, according to the Centa-City Index compiled by Centaline Property, Hong Kong's property prices hit a low in the second half of 2003. Hong Kong homeowners had much to be bitter about in the run-up to July 1, 2003. Post-Sars, Hong Kong's economic recovery did not get under way until the individual visit scheme for tourists from the mainland started in late July 2003.

It is neither fair nor scientific to lay the blame for the outbreak of any mass protest on a single person or issue. Can the 1966 riots in Hong Kong be blamed solely on a 5-cent increase of the Star Ferry fare? More recently, is the redevelopment plan affecting Taksim Square's Gezi Park in Istanbul the sole cause for the prolonged, violent protests in Turkey, which shattered the EU ambition of this otherwise successful democratic country? Pinning the cause for any outbreak of mass discontent on any single person or issue is too simplistic to be plausible.

As for Mr Kat's unalloyed support for democracy, Turkey and Egypt offer many object lessons for Hong Kong.

If a democratically elected leader like former Egyptian president Mohammed Mursi could be so easily deposed by mass protests (or the military), despite his popular mandate, we have much to fear from such unsavoury manifestations of raw, unbridled people power when the conditions for a functioning democracy are not there.

Anne Lau, Quarry Bay


Is youthful defiance so shameful?

I refer to the article by Mak Kwok Wah ("Students' lack of respect is an abuse of their privilege", July 16).

Mr Mak said that at the graduation ceremony at the Academy for Performing Arts, some students "behaved like common louts, at a ceremony marking what should have been the proudest moment in their lives".

I suspect these young people will fondly remember the day they snubbed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, the academy's president.

For some, it may have been the only act of youthful defiance they have performed.

Mr Mak talks of the shame it brought on disappointed parents, but surely when he was young, Mr Mak must have done something which was in defiance of his parents' wishes?

Elle Yau, Wan Chai


Keep leisure facilities free of development

I refer to the letter by Richard Castka ("Fat cats must not be allowed to ruin course", July 16).

It seems to me that the reasons for preserving the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling, as articulated by Mr Castka, apply even more strongly to keeping Hong Kong's two racecourses - Mr Castka's own suggestion of "doing away with the two race tracks" notwithstanding.

Even though I am neither a golfer nor a racing fan, it is clear to me that the racecourses are not just enjoyed by the privileged few, but are an important part of Hong Kong's infrastructure for community recreation.

Both being easily accessible by public transport, they provide much-needed athletic facilities and park space to tens of thousands of people for free each year.

Indeed, the horse racing tracks take up only a small portion of the grounds.

When Mr Castka suggested that Happy Valley racecourse should be taken back by the government for housing developments, did he mean building high-rises on the green and open space of the Happy Valley Recreation Ground at the centre of the racecourse?

The recreation ground, managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, is one of the few facilities in Hong Kong where people can play soccer on grass and this also makes it ideal for playing rugby.

Similarly, Penfold Park, which is in the middle of Sha Tin racecourse, is also unique.

Being the only large public park in Hong Kong where dogs can run free, Penfold Park is a popular spot for many of my pet-loving friends.

A lot of local families also spend their leisure time there to enjoy the open green space.

Do we really want to turn this urban oasis into a residential estate?

There is no arguing that Hong Kong has a need for more housing supply.

However, it would be truly short-sighted to suggest sacrificing freely accessible recreational and leisure facilities for development.

Indeed, the entire community's quality of life would suffer as a result.

Bobby Lee, Happy Valley


Horse racing helps keep our taxes down

I believe some perspective is needed when considering Richard Castka's suggestion ("Fat cats must not be allowed to ruin course", July 16), that the two racecourses be recovered for residential development because of the negative social impact of gambling.

As a local racing fan, I can honestly say that the Hong Kong public should all be proud of the heritage and world-class standards of our horse racing.

As the city's most popular spectator sport, racing is followed by tens of thousands of people.

It is truly a part of the social fabric of Hong Kong.

For racing fans like me, it is a fun hobby that we enthusiastically share with many of our friends.

I personally do not know anyone whose life has been negatively affected because of their interest in racing.

Addictive gambling is mostly associated with illegal bookmaking and casino gambling where debts are common.

Anyone who borrows money to gamble is likely to end up in deep trouble.

What Mr Castka neglected to mention was that for decades, racing has generated many millions in charitable donations and tax revenue.

Without the two racecourses, the only alternative way for funding important community services would be to raise taxes.

I, for one, would not want to see my tax bill go up next year.

Anson Lai, Quarry Bay


Sexuality is irrelevant for blood donation

I refer to the report ("Let gay men donate blood: lawmaker", July 18).

Legislative councillor Raymond Chan Chi-chuen was turned away from giving blood because he ticked a box saying that he is a man who has sex with a man. If your readers were in a hospital needing a blood transfusion, would they be grateful for Mr Chan's blood?

This is currently not an issue anyone will face because according to Hong Kong's guidelines on blood donation, his blood is not good enough to be given to people.

Stopping all gay men in Hong Kong from giving blood is not supported by current medical evidence about the risk of HIV infection. It is a denial of the rights of responsible citizens to contribute to the health of their community and also reduces the blood supply available to save lives.

When the Aids epidemic began in the 1980s, countries began to think about how to protect the blood supply and correctly adopted rules to protect the public from HIV.

It remains the case that men who have sex with men are at higher risk of becoming infected by the HIV virus than other men.

However, the level of HIV risk depends on the behaviour of the individuals in question. This is why some countries have in recent years changed their rules on blood donation.

People who have unprotected casual sex are at higher risk of HIV and should not be allowed to donate blood, whatever their sexuality.

However, to say that all gay men cannot donate blood is based on outdated assumptions and bad science.

Aids Concern has written to Hong Kong Red Cross' Blood Transfusion Service to ask for a discussion about the current guidelines.

If I needed blood, I would be grateful for Mr Chan's.

Andrew Chidgey, chief executive, Aids Concern


Profit was the focus of Bruce Lee advert

For Bruce Lee's daughter Shannon to declare that using her late teetotaler father for a whisky advert is to bring his "message to a large audience" is plainly laughable ("It's a tribute, not an ad: Bruce Lee's daughter", July 12).

Wasn't his message one promoting athleticism, and perhaps also good health? Instead, there he is inviting people to indulge in alcohol.

Why didn't she just come out and say (after having stated that the advert is aimed particularly at China) that it's being done for the money?

After all, we weren't born yesterday and know that making lots of money by whatever means is what Hong Kong is all about, like it is in the People's Republic.

Renata Lopez, Wan Chai