Letters to the Editor, July 25, 2013
HK could become Asia's arbitration hub
Our neighbours in Southeast Asia are developing economically and rising in the rankings of various regional and global surveys.
However, there is no need for Hong Kong to be pessimistic about its future.
Whatever these surveys might claim, Hong Kong's strength is its time-tested legal tradition based on the solid British system of common law.
What underpins our future success as a mature city should never be the transient flow of "hot money" or opportunistic escapades, but the unreserved faith of investors, local and global, in our commitment and ability to do fair deals in accordance with the law.
A legal system takes time to develop, and this is an edge that gives Hong Kong a significant upper hand in the region.
However, we have yet to tap this system's full potential.
It does face challenges, as Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary pointed out, warning that a "storm of unprecedented ferocity" was gathering over the rule of law in Hong Kong.
We face challenges which can be overcome and it is important to develop the legal services industry.
This would be similar to the way in which Hong Kong grew in the middle of the 20th century because it took advantage of its geographical location and the rise of Asia.
There will be increased demand for business arbitration and the city would be an ideal centre for arbitration and dispute resolution. Arbitration and adjudication services comprise a highly lucrative market and occupy a central position in European and American economies.
It is time for the government to go the extra mile. Just as London has this crucial position in Europe, Hong Kong could become Asia's arbitration and adjudication hub.
Albert Lee, Alpha Lee, Sha Tin
Many ways to help out local causes
I echo the sentiments in Kelvin Lam Kin-wang's letter ("Giving money only one way to aid charities", July 18).
With one in six people in our city living in poverty, almost one in 20 living with disability and many pressing environmental concerns, there are many ways in which Hongkongers can serve local causes by giving their time.
The examples of volunteering given by your correspondent focused on fund-raising activities. Hong Kong people wanting to give back directly to their community as volunteers can do so in many different ways, either one-off or regularly.
Even if you have just a couple of hours to spare, you can help out at playgroups or after-school tutorial projects, visit the elderly to brighten up their day, take part in a beach clean, help a food bank to redistribute leftover food or help prepare meals at a soup kitchen.
Many non-governmental organisations recruit directly through their websites, or you can go via an umbrella organisation, including the Agency for Volunteer Service and HandsOn Hong Kong.
Caroline Sprod, executive director, HandsOn Hong Kong
Subsidies needed for all our students
Hong Kong universities score top in world rankings in many fields.
Why does Hong Kong need to pay to attract the University of Chicago Booth School of Business versus promoting internationally the accolades received by our existing universities and support them to export their excellent programmes to other parts of the world ("HK$1,000 10-year rent deal for U.S. college", July 12)?
Hong Kong has received accolades via the Programme for International Student Assessment studies for its schools, with some Chinese-medium institutions ranked top in the world.
We have great schools already and the Education Bureau is doing a good job in this respect.
However, the government spends hundreds of millions of dollars to get the likes of Harrow and Booth to Hong Kong, giving them prime sites.
At the same time, it ignores the voices of expatriates and the business community trying to attract talent, when it comes to existing international schools in Hong Kong.
Chicago Booth will be located at a prime site on Mount Davis, a site that surely could be auctioned off and the money used for the existing educational institutions in Hong Kong. Our international schools enjoy a high reputation worldwide, but get no subsidies.
Parents of these schools and the business community pay for these schools.
I would like to see the government taking the initiative and subsidising all students educated in Hong Kong, whether they attend local, private or international schools.
All families with children here pay taxes and support the community by creating jobs and opportunities.
All these families should get something back for the education of their children as well.
Tobi Doeringer, Ap Lei Chau
Reforming rote learning a tough task
Some of your correspondents have commented on the spoon-fed culture in our education system, which hinders Hong Kong students' critical thinking skills.
The oppressive examination system makes Hong Kong students embrace rote learning.
I strongly agree with those correspondents who have said they would like to see lessons, which encourage youngsters to analyse and think for themselves, replacing classes where they just memorise material.
I appreciate that all students want to get the best possible result in their Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education so that they can get a place at a university with a good reputation. This is why schools opt for the spoon-feeding method of instruction, because of the old adage "practice makes perfect".
While of course there is some truth in this, I do not want to see students becoming like robots, with their thoughts limited by what they are told to memorise in textbooks.
Instead of teachers providing model answers, I would like to see students raising questions about what they read in the books. Too often they give superficial, one-sided answers. They must learn to be more analytical and when it comes to expressing their views, more articulate.
What makes it more difficult to change the status quo is the fact that this rote-learning system also persists in the tutorial classes that so many teenagers attend after school. They end up giving answers in exams which satisfy the examiners but which often lack creativity and logic.
Also, Hong Kong people use a mixture (or cocktail) of languages which results in a kind of jargon. This impedes language proficiency and it is difficult to achieve effective language teaching with large classes.
This is another area of the education system where there is room for improvement.
We need to get rid of rote learning and improve the language proficiency of students.
Sophia Lee, Tseung Kwan O
Workload can cause health problems
Some people disrupt their body clock because of their busy lives in Hong Kong.
There is not enough time in the day for those who face heavy workloads.
They will often stay up late when they should be catching up on their sleep to finish tasks for the office.
It is the same with students seeking to attain good academic results.
Often they will work late into the night, then get up early to finish off their homework.
They have less time to relax and get a proper night's sleep.
Our body clocks are also affected by external elements such as noise and light pollution.
Bright external lighting sometimes shines into the flats of residents living nearby and if it is also a noisy environment, then they may have difficulty sleeping. Again, it is difficult for them to maintain a healthy body clock.
When it comes to these forms of pollution, the government can take action to protect the well-being of affected residents.
It should impose restrictions on the brightness of some external lighting, with daily restrictions on the use of neon lights and spotlights and forcing some lights to be dimmed.
Car manufacturers could install better soundproofing devices on their vehicles in order to reduce noise pollution levels.
Schools and companies could also consider reducing the workloads of students and employees respectively.
Lee Lok-man, Sha Tin
Expenditure statistics revealing
I was interested to read about the debate over the administration's fiscal reserves and its expenditure track record between Ronnie Chan Chi-chung and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.
According to the Hong Kong SAR's financial statements drawn up under the accruals convention, which are the clearest source for analysis of operating expenditure categorised by type of activity, operating expenditure on education, social welfare and health totalled approximately HK$112 billion in the year to March 2007.
Five years later, in the year to March 2012, these headings totalled approximately HK$145 billion.
Adjusted for inflation, the real increase in this expenditure equates to approximately 1.3 per cent per annum; well below the rate of annual average growth in real gross domestic product over the same period.
In comparison, and after allowance for the civil service pension liability, the SAR's reserves had grown by approximately HK$237 billion.
Stephen Brown, director, Civic Exchange