Letters to the Editor, July 29, 2013
Think before voicing your thoughts
While I generally agree with Can Chan Hoi-yin that teenagers should "make the effort to express their own views" ("Critical thinking skills are improving", July 24), it is very important that young people these days should recognise the need to be considerate before they voice their feelings.
In this age where freethinking is encouraged and where modes of communication have greatly improved, the ease with which information is transmitted has become, at best, distressing and, at worst, grievous. Information, right or wrong, travels faster than one intends.
Freedom of speech has practically deluded our society into thinking that saying what one wishes is more important than being considerate of the feelings of others.
It is this generation's tragedy that people talk before they think. We live in an era where self-importance goes unrestrained and inanity runs amok.
Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about their own.
Everyone appears to have equated fearlessness with outspokenness. Everyone is obsessed with expressing what they believe to be true, in whatever manner they believe would create the most hype. But does it matter whether it is true or not?
Just as something legal is not always right, saying what one believes to be true is more often than not a dire attempt to inflict indelible harm on others.
Who are we to judge when we know only part of the truth, which may not even be the truth in the first place?
I urge that parents and teachers, while "promoting self-learning and independent thinking", not forget to instil in youngsters the importance that pride in oneself must never compromise respect, compassion and integrity.
Iris Chan, Central
Slow progress on illegal structures
After all the media attention and government effort over the reporting scheme for unauthorised building works, it seems to have gone very quiet since the close of the reporting period on December 31.
There was a question asked of the secretary for development in the Legislative Council on June 19, and while the government is moving forward on this issue, as expected, it is slow going. It seems that by close of the reporting period on December 31, the Buildings Department had received under the reporting scheme about 18,000 report forms.
Given that there must be hundreds of thousands of these unauthorised works in the New Territories it seems that the reporting level of the scheme has been pretty low despite requests by the Heung Yee Kuk to extend the deadline.
What is expected, for those who did not report their illegal structures is that they have now been added by the government as a priority or as "first-line targets".
Finally, it seems that the department has selected 17 villages in the New Territories for inspection to identify first-round targets for enforcement action.
I cannot find any written information as to where the targeted villages are but I have reason to understand that these villages include Ho Chung New Village and Sha Kok Mei in Sai Kung.
Perhaps your readers know more?
No doubt it will be a long process for the government to analyse and then prioritise the unauthorised building works, especially since there is only a staff of 41 in the New Territories enforcement section of the department.
It looks like we can expect a slow, pragmatic and what looks like a piecemeal enforcement of the unauthorised works, mainly in the targeted villages.
Tim Hallworth, Sai Kung
Open public libraries 24 hours a day
In the report ("Tin Shui Wai's leisure centre opens to complaints", July 13), senior government librarian Shum Chui-sim said that the number of libraries in Yuen Long already met the requirement of one district library for every 200,000 residents.
However, what are the actual requirements of 200,000 residents from a part of Hong Kong with sub-divided flats, other kinds of inadequate housing or lack of proper provision for the elderly?
On one recent Saturday, I went to the Electric Road public library in North Point around noon.
There were senior citizens waiting for a vacant seat as all the seats were occupied with library users doing such things as reading newspapers.
Although it was crowded, everyone was following the library rules and ensuring a quiet atmosphere.
These elderly citizens have not asked our government for much but they worked hard in the past to make Hong Kong what it is today. For some of them, public libraries provide a better environment than their home.
I would suggest our public libraries should be open 24 hours a day, every day and more seats should be provided.
In terms of operating costs this would not be a substantial burden for the government and it would mean a lot to the poor and elderly.
S. Lau, North Point
Evangelical charter not gay-friendly
A group of evangelical Christians staged a publicity stunt on Sunday by signing a charter over ministering to gay Christians ("Christian groups sign 'gays are welcome' charter", July 22).
A closer read of the charter reveals nothing more than rehashing the mantra "hate the sin, but love the sinner". In a nutshell, these Christians are saying that if a gay man remains celibate, then he should be welcomed and accepted by the church. However, if the same gay man engages in same-sex sexual activities, then he commits a sin and the church has the responsibility to guide him towards celibacy.
This is nothing more than a ploy to deceive the public into believing that they are now genuinely gay-friendly.
This is the same kind of language used by the Christian right in North America in its fight against equal rights measures for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu argued in his book God is not a Christian: And Other Provocations that discrimination against lesbians or gays because of their sexual orientation is "totally unacceptable".
If these Christians were really gay-friendly, they should stop preaching these ideas and follow the lead of Archbishop Tutu and work with the LGBT community to combat discrimination.
In addition, they should support the community's call for legislation to ban sexuality-based discrimination.
Jerome Yau, Happy Valley
Bus firms need to rethink pram policy
I recently had a baby and now face the issue of public transport in Hong Kong.
As my 3½-month-old baby cannot be carried in a carry-on as she has back pain, I have to use a pram and take a bus. However, most bus firms require parents to collapse the pram before boarding and hold the child during the bus ride.
I understand this regulation probably comes from wanting to save space during the rush hour. However, with small babies, it is impossible to comply with it. They cannot hold their heads themselves, so a mother needs both hands if she has to hold her baby in the bus. That leaves no hands for collapsing the pram.
Also it is more dangerous having to sit or stand with such a tiny baby in a moving bus, instead of putting the pram in the wheelchair corner and putting all four brakes on.
This regulation is a nightmare for mothers, fathers and helpers. Imagine having to board with twins, or with a baby and a second young child to look after. All countries I have visited do not require prams with small babies to be collapsed. I thus strongly urge Hong Kong bus companies to reconsider their policies.
They could advise their drivers to help with the baby or with collapsing the pram. I recently had a very unpleasant experience as a KMB bus driver refused to do either (despite asking him in Cantonese and English).
If I wake up in the morning, knowing I need to take a bus somewhere together with my daughter, I already start fearing how the trip will be due to this regulation. Bus firms should not add to the worries new parents already have.
Elisabeth Bruening, Sai Ying Pun
Addiction to smartphones disturbing
I am concerned about people who are becoming addicted to their smartphones - adults and teenagers.
I looked at one study which found that on average people check their smartphones more than 30 times a day, even when they know there are no new messages.
There are definite advantages with these devices. They enable you to get real-time information wherever you are and at any time. Also, mobile internet tariffs have dropped so more people use them to surf the net. However, there is a risk that some people are going too far. You see them staring at their phones while waiting for a bus or even when at a pedestrian crossing. Some people take their phones to the toilet.
Traditional forms of communication appear to be in decline and too often people depend on the smartphones for their entertainment.
Patterns of behaviour are changing.
Macy Yung, Kwun Tong