Letters to the Editor, August 29, 2013
Blinkered view of stand taken by America
Once again we witness a presumed thinker lose any sense of historical context, moral perspective, and political responsibility when dealing with the Edward Snowden saga.
This time it's Graeme Maxton, otherwise known as a critical economist promoting a sensible approach to growth ("Anti-Russia tirade deflects scrutiny of US misdeeds", August 15).
Wading dangerously far from critical thinking, he deploys a series of shoddy arguments, buttressed by a conspiracy theory, to inform us that the "real story" in today's world is that America "has been violating our rights".
According to Maxton, the English-speaking media has recently been unjustly demonising Russia and its president Vladimir Putin.
The examples he gives for this are:
Britain's Channel 4 calling Russia's relationship with America "frosty";
Various news outlets attacking Russia on its new "anti-gay laws" (Maxton's quotation marks); and
- A US senator accusing Russia of being hostile to the West, and another calling on Russia to be punished for its human rights abuses.
In other words, hardly "unjust" news reporting (isn't that relationship frosty? Hasn't Russia just enacted anti-gay legislation?), and fairly mild political posturing.
Certainly only a conspiratorial mind will see the sinister hand of a "US propaganda machine" at work here.
Maxton makes ambiguous references to the different takes the US and Russia have on Iran and Syria.
While he doesn't cite any examples of media demonisation on those issues - even for America bashers, appearing to side with Bashar al-Assad may be too much - he panders to local readers by warning that China risks being "dragged into the bad-news swamp" because it has taken similar positions on Snowden, Iran and Syria.
For Maxton, the conclusion is clear: it's all American propaganda intended to hide the real story - that America is "spying on us all", "assassinating people without judicial review" and "violating basic principles of justice".
If Mr Maxton bothered to remove the intellectual and moral visors from around his eyes he might acknowledge that the real story does include Russia's cynical support for violence-exporting Iran and the murderous Assad regime.
It also includes thousands of innocent people dying in terrorist attacks in Bali, New York, Madrid, London, Mumbai, Boston, and elsewhere. And yes, part of it is also unsavoury but necessary spying activities which responsible governments - not just the US, but also the UK, France, Germany, and certainly Russia and China - undertake in order to avert such attacks.
Just ask former spymaster Putin.
Oren Tatcher, Sheung Wan
Dropping bombs not the answer
It is imperative that the perpetrator of the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21 in Damascus be determined before any nation's government or coalition of nations places blame that results in the launch of any further attacks on Syria.
Dropping more missiles and bombs is not the answer and such actions can only result in more Syrians being killed and injured.
Killing in this way from a distance is considerably worse than conventional fighting where at least soldiers see the enemy and are duty-bound to engage each other.
There is the possibility that a sufficient grouping of the international community will muster itself to use force against Syria to commandeer the stocks of chemical weapons (no matter which side has them) to stop them falling into the hands of troops loyal to al-Qaeda.
The efforts towards normalisation which were implemented by the regime of Bashar al-Assad have been ignored by the West.
More than that, they have been labelled as insincere. And yet significant numbers of the Syrian population did want to give the government in Damascus the opportunity to start implementing reforms.
It is also important to remember that at the very beginning, the protests against the Assad regime were peaceful and what had been witnessed in Tunisia, for example, was a clear reference to Syria.
However, other violent influences came to bear and the way of peace was lost in the ensuing melee.
Those days of attempting to bring about change in a non-violent way have been undermined and the hysteria of civil war has engulfed the nation.
Tony Henderson, chairman, Humanist Association of Hong Kong
Leung should have tried to ease tensions
Earlier this month Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying defended the police over their handling of the protests in Mong Kok concerning teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze's verbal attack on officers in July.
Mr Leung had ordered the education chief to submit a report regarding Ms Lam's actions. Through this decision to ask for a probe, he put a great deal of pressure on the teacher and her school.
He was right to defend the police force; this helps to maintain effective governance. However, in calling for the probe, he exacerbated the problems for the teacher and the school. This will have undermined the morale of the school's staff.
In spite of Ms Lam's behaviour, it would have been better for the chief executive to call for calm instead of fussing over what she did.
He should have sought to bring an end to the dispute before the start of the new school year.
Venus Ng, Shun Lee
Better sex education in our schools
A few years ago many people regarded sex education as a taboo subject and teachers were reluctant to discuss it in the classroom.
Parents also steered clear of it, hoping their children would eventually find out about the facts of life.
There were students growing up who did not even know what a condom was. Without such knowledge, they would, of course, be unaware of how to protect themselves and this led to unwanted pregnancies.
Fortunately, the situation has improved within Hong Kong's education system, with people realising how important this subject is for young people.
We now see well-organised programmes in many schools, with social workers getting involved and helping pupils discuss this subject without feeling embarrassed.
I see this as a great step forward.
I hope we will continue to see greater progress in this field and that comprehensive sex education will keep this and future generations of youngsters properly informed.
Where funds are short for these courses, I believe the government should be willing to step in and provide the necessary subsidies.
Michelle Mui Suet-lam,Tseung Kwan O
MTR's fares confusing for passengers
I am concerned about the pricing strategy of the MTR Corporation and I think other passengers who use it every day will share my views.
There is no denying that this railway network dominates Hong Kong's public transport system and we are all becoming increasingly dependent on it. However, because of inflation, price adjustments are made every year.
When these adjustments are introduced, they often confuse the MTR Corp's customers.
After being in use for a number of years, the Octopus smart card has become essential for Hong Kong citizens. However, in the most recent price adjustment, the tariff plan on some routes means that Octopus users are paying more.
In the past there was a charge [for Octopus users} of 10 cents per trip to pay for the construction of platform screen doors.
Many passengers were unaware of this and they will be equally confused by the new tariff table.
The government should not allow the corporation to keep doing this, year after year.
I believe in a free market, but not an unregulated one.
S. Huang, Sham Tseng
Cattle problem makes roads dangerous
Driving near Sai Kung is very dangerous because of the cattle infestation.
One morning recently, while I was on the way to work, I saw four groups of cows, a total of 13 animals (including three calves), all walking on the main road from Sai Kung Country Park to Sha Tin.
I had to drive very slowly to avoid the cows and I was glad I was not in a hurry. I was also glad it was light.
At night, or if you are in a hurry, there is a great danger of collisions with cattle in the Sai Kung area.
When I wrote to these columns in August 2010 about the cow infestation problem, an official from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department replied to say that the problem of stray cattle was under control.
I seriously doubt that this is the case.
I can say, from first-hand experience, that the problem with the cattle in Sai Kung is out of control and the department has given up.
When you call in to report wandering cattle, no officers come to remove them.
I would like the department, through these columns, to inform readers of its current policy concerning cows in Sai Kung.
Sterilisation does not work. It is too slow and the fact that we see calves means it is not being done for all cattle. This means that motorists and these animals are at risk on Sai Kung's roads.
Alan Crawley, Sai Kung