Letters to the Editor, July 28, 2013

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 July, 2013, 5:19am

Self-financed tertiary option raises concern

I refer to your editorial ("A degree is not the only option", July 28).

You suggest that private courses and associate degrees can be considered as alternatives to a university degree after finishing the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, but I have reservations.

As Hong Kong is a knowledge-based economy, most employers prefer to hire students with a bachelor's degree. However, while the demand for subsidised bachelor's degree programmes is enormous, the supply is kept low.

This increases the pressure on secondary school graduates who want to go to a university. Therefore, some apply for self-financing programmes in the hope of securing better career prospects.

Unfortunately, the job prospects for the young people who complete these programmes are not promising because of a lack of recognition of their qualifications by employers. There are many such programmes in Hong Kong, but they are not supervised strictly by the government and so questions can be raised about their standards.

Even though these self-financing tertiary courses are very much a mixed bag, fees keep rising to unaffordable and unreasonable levels. A young person may have to spend up to HK$500,000 to complete a course. Often, therefore, they end up in debt and face a heavy financial burden for years.

The situation can improve if the government monitors these courses and checks that the tertiary institutions are ensuring they are of an acceptable academic standard.

It could consider developing programmes and assigning them to institutions with a good academic track record, and subsidies could also be provided as an incentive.

This could lead to the overall standards of education being raised at the tertiary level.

The government needs to address this issue to ensure that young Hongkongers who pay to do these courses graduate with recognised academic qualifications and better job prospects.

Wong Ho-tai, Kwun Tong


Target open storage areas for housing

Understandably emotions run high when people are inconvenienced or have their lives disrupted by proposals put forward that affect them.

However, Hong Kong would be a much poorer place if country parks, green areas, golf courses and other recreational clubs were used as solutions to the housing and waste problems, as they help make Hong Kong the place it is.

The government should instead take a look at the small- house policy and those areas in the New Territories blighted by the loss of control of the use of land for open storage.

This inequitable, inefficient policy still exists, despite promises to terminate it. Land use could be better planned if it was scrapped.

The belated attempt to stop or control the spread of container parks and car scrap yards under the town planning umbrella has left many areas still blighted, and while such uses of land do provide economic benefits, it is these areas that should be targeted for housing, not good agricultural land; the container and scrap yards can be moved to controlled industrial areas within the development areas to provide employment opportunities.

Affected villages could be resited within the development area to maintain those communities. Agricultural land could be maintained within the development area to provide green areas for organic farming or allotments.

More could be done in the urban areas. To encourage better use of old industrial areas, premiums charged for conversion could be assessed allowing for the existing building as opposed to cleared-site value.

Industrial areas could be resumed for housing if there is no demand for their faciilities.

The government must re-examine population forecasts and immigration policy.

As for waste disposal, the administration should try to eliminate at source and introduce charges for waste disposal. For incinerators, look at what is already spoiled, not what is untouched. If they generate electricity, use it to supply the local area at cheaper rates so more benefits can be realised.

Officials must work out solutions for the problems of refuse traffic for affected residents, such as using sea access to landfill sites.

They must not let politics get in the way.

Allan Hay, Tai Po


Future will be in HK's hands after 2017

Many questions have been raised about the central government's comments on a screening system for the chief executive election in 2017.

The purpose of this process is to weed out those potential candidates who are not loyal to the country. But some critics wonder if Beijing is genuine about universal suffrage in the election.

As expected, some lawmakers expressed strong opposition to this move, demanding genuine universal suffrage. They have threatened demonstrations and more filibusters.

I believe the communist government has taken a big leap forward concerning our city's democracy, and at least we will have the one-man, one-vote system.

Hongkongers can feel more secure that the city's fate would lie in nobody else's hands but our own.

Beijing has urged all parties concerned to work towards reaching a consensus to prevent any reversal in policies regarding the 2017 election.

I hope that in 2017 we will be able to choose a leader who works hard to draft policies that benefit all Hong Kong people and who helps to maintain our image as an international city.

James Au Kin-pong, Lai Chi Kok


No entitlement to car parking space in park

I refer to the letter by Geoff Carey ("Few parking options for residents", July 17).

His attitude to parking is a classic example in Hong Kong of having the wrong idea about something.

If there is no car park, then create your own, even if it breaches no-parking regulations.

Your correspondent knew there were no parking spaces in the area of a country park where he chose to live.

He could have chosen not to move there, or could take public transport.

Instead, he says, residents drive cars into the country park and park them on pavements, thereby contravening the no-parking regulations.

I urge the traffic police to go to the country parks and to enforce the regulations, something they do elsewhere in the Hong Kong.

Ken Chan, Tai Po


Single act of kindness can save a life

I was struck by the haunting photo of a desperate mainland woman about to attempt to commit suicide by jumping from a pier ("Camera captures moment before suicide bid", July 21).

A Russian tourist captured that look on her face but immediately turned away, worried that she had invaded the woman's privacy.

This kind tourist realised then what was happening and immediately called the police. In the end, she saved the woman's life.

It dawned on me how we so often ignore our intuition when we suspect a person is depressed or in a desperate state.

Instead of reaching out a helping hand, saying "Are you OK?", "Is there something wrong?", "Can I help?", we turn away, thinking it best not to get involved. Yet that kind gesture can sometimes pull a desperate person out of cataclysmic despair.

I encourage all Hong Kong's kind souls to reach out that helping hand. There are people in despair on piers, in our offices and often, in our homes.

Deborah Crouch, director, Samaritans Hong Kong Hotline