Letters to the Editor, August 06, 2013
More citizens signing up as volunteers
A number of your correspondents have commented on donations to charities and volunteering in Hong Kong.
I would like to offer information on the Agency for Volunteer Service's role in promoting volunteering, as a charity organisation.
According to the survey we commissioned to the University of Hong Kong in 2009, a total of 35.9 per cent of the respondents had volunteering experience, compared with the 2001 survey when only 22.4 per cent volunteered.
Of those who volunteered, a substantial increase in service hours is recorded, rising from 34.8 in 2001 to 87.4 in 2009.
Volunteer experience was regarded as positive.
While shortage of time was given as the main reason for not volunteering, the majority of those volunteers who were surveyed said that they had benefited from volunteering (88.1 per cent).
The spectrum of volunteer service was broad, such as visiting, tutoring, mentoring, counselling, skill coaching, personal care services, clerical services, environmental services, professional services and management services.
While volunteering is a free service, it is not without cost. Charities need to invest resources in engaging volunteers.
In the case of Agency for Volunteer Service, our main areas of work include public education, volunteer recruitment, training and referral, recognition and service development, and finally not the least important, fundraising.
Volunteering is certainly an important way to make a difference to the lives of people and to build a caring and cohesive community.
Currently there are thousands of Hong Kong citizens registered with us as volunteers, and hundreds of service organisations making use of our referral service.
Flora Chung, chief executive officer, Agency for Volunteer Service
Vocational training may be the key
Last month in a speech to the Hong Kong Association of Banks, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying talked about the importation of foreign workers for certain jobs. It is frequently noted that some sectors, such as cleaning and catering, do, from time to time, complain about a shortage of labour, despite the fact that there are so many job seekers, including graduates, who complain about the hardship they have experienced when they are trying to find suitable employment.
This unusual phenomenon has been exacerbated with the expansion of higher education through the introduction of sub-degree level programmes by then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa.
As a result of getting more young Hongkongers into these various higher education courses, there is an excess supply of labour in certain industries.
This means that the problem of a mismatch in resources has escalated.
The government needs to review current practices and when it comes to labour shortages in certain sectors, look again at the role of vocational education before it starts talking about importing more labour.
Gravis Cheng, Yuen Long
Difficulty of talking with Chinese clients
I would like to add an observation to Cui Xia's article on Chinese being tongue-tied and having difficulty with small talk in Western society ("Tongue tied", July 30).
Like Ms Cui, I am a first generation migrant to Australia. Unlike Ms Cui, I have been lucky to be able to fit into the mainstream of Australian society.
I am still a rookie after travelling and conducting business on the mainland for the past two decades.
I have exactly the opposite problem that Ms Cui has experienced.
I have difficulty managing relationships with Chinese clients, despite the fact that I am ethnic Chinese and can communicate reasonably in Putonghua.
I find that the main reason for that awkwardness in relationships is due not as described by Ms Cui to the "circles of ripples" effect, but the more basic structure of the society.
Chinese society is based on Confucius teachings, with strictly prescribed protocols for interactions between the emperor and his subjects, and, for example, between father and son, and employer and employee.
Under this system, the society is strictly hierarchical. And the most interesting aspect is that there is no concept of a peer group within Confucian society.
You are either my elder friend and therefore my big brother or vice versa. In Australia and indeed countries with an Anglo heritage, the concept of peer group is very strong. So if you are a member of the Hong Kong Jockey Club or the Melbourne Club, you have the same peer status with all other members.
The club will demand that all members must observe the same club rules and these club rules are enforced.
This peer group concept does not appear in China: you may belong to a golf club, but there are always some other members who can transcend club rules and receive more favourable treatment because of perceived seniority - not of membership, but standing in the society.
Peers often communicate through small talk - chatting about areas of common interests, such as the weather, wine and food.
Because there is no peer group concept, the Chinese have difficulty with small talk in the workplace and at social gatherings.
They would prefer to be "addressed" by their seniors, or they would "enlighten" their juniors.
I find it difficult to deal with my Chinese clients because they don't accept that I could be one of their peers.
Chia Yen-on, Mid-Levels
Government's act was highly socialist
Isn't it delightfully ironic that the University of Chicago, the home of Milton Friedman, father of free-market economics and ultimately of the banking crisis, accepted a Hong Kong government gift, that is, a state subsidy of essentially free accommodation for the Booth School of Business to set up shop here? And that the government, so eager to cling to the city's "world's freest economy" badge, saw fit to distort the market in this highly socialist manner?
Mr Friedman must be spinning in his grave. Hong Kong's administrations seem obsessed with subsidising large corporate enterprises to come here and expatriate their profits back home.
Clearly market forces must be incentivised to get them to work properly to the benefit of others.
Is this perhaps another example of why economics is considered the dismal science?
Or is it merely misunderstanding by so many of today's national governments, in which case it's yet another disgrace of market failures? I really would like to know.
Richard Fielding, Pok Fu Lam
I will return to your wonderful city
I recently left Hong Kong after my third stint in this great city, this time around for two years and a bit.
I know I will return, if not to live, certainly on visits.
I have had the privilege of living in some of the world's greatest cities. Hong Kong, however, is unique and it is special.
The amenities and facilities are a wonderful blend of the East and the West.
As a single working woman I felt safe and secure - something of a rarity in today's world.
Most of all Hong Kong is what it is because of its people. So I want to say thank you to the people of the city.
My colleagues at work were always welcoming, helpful (and always happy to share their insider tips) and they were very smart.
Wherever I encountered or engaged with local people, on public transport, in shops and in restaurants, and at social gatherings or in government offices, I was overwhelmed with the courtesy and friendliness shown to me.
I had a couple of bouts with ill health, nothing serious, but needing attention.
Every health-care professional went beyond the call of duty.
I will miss you Hong Kong and left with a heart full of wonderful memories.
I am and will continue to be your biggest fan and advocate.
Neelima Chopra, New Delhi, India
Chan should not continue as bureau chief
That our development secretary, Paul Chan Mo-po, has been involved in another controversy is absolutely intolerable.
Equally frustrating is that he has once again shirked his responsibility saying the land in question was owned by his wife and her family.
I thus wonder if this is how high-ranking government officials handle their conflicts of interests - never confess their wrongdoings but act imprudently.
To be frank, Mr Chan has already lost most of his credibility and integrity battered by the subdivided flat controversy last year.
Despite heading the Development Bureau which aims to deal with residents' housing problems, he was associated with the kinds of flats which have acquired such a bad reputation.
The latest controversy has unveiled the ownership of land in Kwu Tung North. I believe the development chief must explain everything to the public as all of us deserve the right to know what he did and why he did it.
Given these two controversies I do not think he should continue to serve Hong Kong people in his present capacity at the bureau.
James Au Kin-pong, Lai Chi