Letters to the Editor, July 30, 2013
Mainland's top official very reasonable
I was happy when I learned that Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, had met lawmakers in the Legco building.
It is only through discussions that people can understand one another. A few members did not attend, in some cases apparently because they did not want to hear views other than their own. I have met Mr Zhang, and am greatly impressed by his reasonable attitude.
I am in favour of full democracy, but one of the obstacles we face is the fact that Hong Kong politicians cannot unite, either with Chinese representatives, or even with other Hong Kong democratic parties. One thing seems clear, namely, that they all want to be the "top dogs" in their parties. If they don't succeed in that, they just start another party. Surely that is one reason why China cannot rush into full democracy: the local parties are too disunited.
I have lived through two generations in Hong Kong, one from the 1950s to the 1980s and one from the 1980s to now. It took years of hard work to get the colonials to recognise Chinese as senior government servants.
Consequently gaining high positions in the early days required paying corruption for promotion and leaving Hong Kong with many corrupt senior civil servants. Many of the corrupt were British, and when the Independent Commission Against Corruption reached the upper ranks in its investigations, these senior people threatened mutiny, with the help of triads. Consequently the governor had to compromise with those senior corrupt officials, to prevent mutiny. Many remained in the government at senior level.
In those early days, the people blamed the British - quite rightly.
Some British were making themselves wealthy by corrupt means. The ICAC certainly did great work, as far as it could.
Eventually the governor Murray MacLehose had to declare an amnesty, thus freeing many corrupt senior civil servants. Do we want the same thing to happen today? Is it not essential that care should be taken to ensure that selection of the future Legislative Council will be honest and capable?
Hoping to win a point by breaking the law would be a bad beginning to electoral progress. It would split the electorate and confuse voters.
Elsie Tu, Kwun Tong
Housing more important than Chan saga
Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po is the centre of attention in Hong Kong - being under pressure by some radical lawmakers to resign for failure to declare a piece of land owned by his family.
Now that the case has been brought to the attention of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, it would be a waste of time and resources for the media and lawmakers to harass him on the subject any more.
There are more important issues - in particular, the never-ending housing problem in Hong Kong.
The best solution would be for Mr Chan to allow the government to requisition the land and pay a reasonable price. This would be in the public interest and if the development minister is dedicated to his mission, as he claims he is, he should raise no objection to such a move.
Peter Wei, Kwun Tong
School work is not meant to be easy
Kendra Ip in her letter ("Plagiarism cases found in school are just tip of the iceberg", July 22), seems to imply that plagiarism is on the rise due to the difficulty of the tasks given to students.
I'm sorry, but schoolwork is not supposed to be a walk in the park; effort has to be put in by students in order to get results. I'm not sure what she is suggesting.
There should be a combination of assessment and exams - this is the usual case in most parts of the world.
From my personal observation and conversations with others, students seem to want so many hints about what is in exams and how to do assignments that you are practically doing the assignments for them.
Of course, students should be instructed how to carry out tasks and prepare for exams, but they need to think for themselves as well.
Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po
Government must preserve historic course
I found Ronald Wong's letter on Hong Kong Golf Club at Fanling interesting in criticising the government's ham-fisted handling of this issue.
The letter starts off wonderfully well telling us Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po sent the wrong messages to developers that the Fanling site might be up for grabs and housing development.
Your correspondent identifies the golf course as an historic monument with a lot of ancillary public benefits like ancient trees, although he does not mention that it is a resplendent oasis of excellently husbanded greenery.
But then going on to plead the public good on the basis of what's in it or not in it for the poor (or not so rich), and offering financial concessions, is in my view erroneous thinking.
If you start doing that you might as well make sweeping reforms that can seriously prejudice any minorities - and let's face it, the rich are a minority.
You could go to London and, say, look at Trafalgar Square or Leicester Square in the city's West End and say - think of the residential property development we could erect here to generate cash for the public good. In the meantime let's knock down Covent Garden opera house and too bad for lovers of grand opera, but they are only a minority privileged with money, or knock down the Tate Gallery for who is interested in abstract art, only a highbrow few with money.
You open the door to philistine bureaucrats when you try negotiations based on concessions to the "public good" using money as the sole criterion.
Hong Kong's only international-standard golf course plus all the trimmings of historical monuments and a beautifully maintained green oasis is under threat, and that should be all that is needed to tell the government's secretary for development "hands off". However, we shouldn't have to tell him this.
I have no vested interest in this issue, not being a Fanling member, and neither am I a golfer.
But I have a keen interest in the principles involved and in the government not making a fool of itself as with the destruction of the Repulse Bay Hotel and numerous other treasures of antiquity over the years through pressure and influence of developers and temptations to the government regarding the money that these projects generate.
When the Fanling course goes, it will be gone forever.
Mike Ashton, Sha Tin
World-class facilities are important
I can't quite believe ideas including the development of Fanling and Happy Valley which have been bandied about lately in our constant quest for more housing.
I don't play golf, nor do I play tennis or kick a ball, but that doesn't mean that I, or most other people of sense, can't see the value in having world-class facilities in Hong Kong.
Take away these facilities and you can take away the "world" in front of our current Hong Kong advertising campaign.
Instead of these new towns, which people are not, actually, too keen to live in, more needs to be done to maximise the potential in other, established areas including Ap Lei Chau and Kennedy Town, among others, which are about to be accessible by MTR.
Our borders are limited and nothing can be done to magically increase our available land.
We can only limit immigration and encourage our neighbours to take up their share of the burden.
It wouldn't hurt to reintroduce lower deposit mortgages for low-end properties either. Wanton destruction of green spaces is not the answer.
Karen Prochazka, Shouson Hill
Law needed to curb light pollution
Research has revealed that serious light pollution can affect brain functions and disrupt one's body clock, causing ill health.
Some people have argued that excessive lighting even late at night is needed, because even at midnight you can see tourists shopping.
However, we should not put economic development over people's health.
Lights in commercial buildings and shopping malls which are not needed should be phased out, especially if they create a nuisance to residents living nearby who might have trouble sleeping.
Legislation is going to be needed to combat Hong Kong's light pollution problem.
The government cannot bring in a draconian law forcing buildings to switch off lights, as this would adversely affect Hong Kong's economic development.
There are still commercial activities going on well after midnight.
However, some sort of law is needed rather than a voluntary guideline, as people will not abide by these guidelines.
The administration must go ahead with the drafting of legislation given that the health and well-being of Hong Kong people is being directly affected by this pollution problem.
First there must be an extensive and thorough consultation process involving all stake- holders to try and minimise disagreements within society.
Kristy Chan, Sha Tin