Letters to the Editor, August 30, 2013
Quality, not quantity, in 2017 election
I refer to your report ("Fanny Law opposes arbitrary screening for CE race in 2017", August 28) and would like to clarify two points. As the 90-minute interview was condensed into 430 words, understandably some points were omitted or the meaning lost.
First, I support a rational approach for the nomination process, based on a set of objective criteria, including the candidates' competence, public acceptance and the ability to work with the central authorities (not "ties", which may be misconstrued as institutional links).
These, I believe, are essential qualities for the chief executive, who will have to pledge allegiance to both the central people's government and people of Hong Kong. These criteria mirror those set down for the last chief executive election, namely, ability, public acceptance and patriotism, which is ill-defined.
Second, the former chief executive's report to the National People's Congress Standing Committee on "Public Consultation on Constitutional Development" in December 2007 summarised that more submissions favoured two to four candidates at most.
Based on the last chief executive election, I think having three candidates is manageable. With fewer candidates, the debate among the candidates would be more orderly, and would allow for more in-depth discussion, hence differentiation of each candidate's manifesto, and evaluation of their vision and abilities.
We look for quality, not quantity.
The post of chief executive is an important one; their leadership has a bearing on the future of Hong Kong.
We must avoid the trivial exchanges and smearing that we witnessed in some of the 2012 Legco election forums.
Fanny Law, executive councillor
Get tough on mainland food safety
I have been saddened and concerned by the tainted-food scandals on the mainland.
These episodes keep happening, whether it is fake eggs, gutter oil, adulterated pork, or mislabelled meat.
I recall all too well the scandal in 2008 where melamine was found in milk formula, leading to some babies dying and many more falling sick.
The problems have been made worse by the fact that some officials have colluded with bosses of companies to benefit financially. These scandals have affected the country and caused a great deal of concern, given that food safety is so important to citizens.
It is this fear that made so many mainland mothers come over the border to get milk formula in Hong Kong.
The central government needs to impose tougher laws that lead to the imposition of severe penalties for those firms found guilty of trying to sell food that is toxic.
Better protection in food production will ensure the quality of life of mainland citizens improves.
Kathleen Kong Hoi-hung, Tseung Kwan O
Platform gap danger at some MTR stations
There are persistent warnings broadcast throughout the MTR network for passengers to mind the gap between the station platform and the train.
But there is a deficiency in the present warning system.
After a while, you become conscious of the gap and allow for it when boarding or alighting from the train.
Probably more than 90 per cent of the time, the gap between train and platform is a uniform width which your brain has allowed for, but in some stations the gap widens for part of its length to allow for a curvature in the railway tracks, and that extra width can be critical.
At the end of Mong Kok East station - the New Territories end - the track takes a curve and widens the gap.
One day last week, while laden with luggage, I plunged through this gap and skinned my shin. I could easily have broken my leg.
I have been a resident here for decades but never had that kind of accident before.
The MTR Corporation could surely also improve matters by being more specific about the non-uniform gap at that particular station.
There are regulations about flights of steps at fire escape routes in tall buildings having the exact same numbers of steps, to prevent serious accidents as people are leaving when a building needs to be evacuated. This is required under building regulations.
However, there is no regulation governing the platform gap at Mong Kok East.
Mike Ashton, Sha Tin
Diploma too demanding of students
The Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) was introduced two years ago and needs to be reviewed.
It puts students under a great deal of pressure, because they need to do well in the examination if they want to gain a place at one of Hong Kong's universities.
There are a number of reasons why the exam causes problems for students. They are faced with a lot of school-based assessments and this adds substantially to their workload.
The assessments for Chinese, English and liberal studies are compulsory and some students also have to do one for a science subject.
With liberal studies, for example, extensive research is required, which means a lot of time-consuming preparatory work involving the collection of a lot of data. This is not something the students can avoid because the marks they get in the assessments affect their overall results in the HKDSE.
Another problem relates to the wide range of the syllabus, with not enough time to finish it within the school year.
Most schools have to arrange extra lessons during the holidays to catch up with the teaching schedule. So during the summer break, students still have to work, with extra lessons, revision and even tutorial-school classes.
The Education Bureau must reassess the syllabus of the HKDSE and make necessary changes.
For example, with chemistry, there are 14 topics to study and the bureau has to find ways to shrink the curriculum to lower the pressure that is being placed unfairly on teachers and students.
Education officials should also consider whether the school-based assessments need to make up part of the HKDSE result as some of the assessment subjects are too difficult for secondary school students.
Overall, the diploma offers a good way to measure how well students have grasped a subject, but clearly there is a need to review, look at the downsides and improve the system.
Yolanda Cheung, Ngau Tau Kok
Manila has not apologised to victims
I agree with Alice Wu's comments about the Manila hostage crisis in which eight Hong Kong people died ("Black mark", August 26).
I believe the black travel alert ("avoid all travel") for the Philippines should stay in force until the victims get the justice they deserve.
So far, the Philippine government has not even issued a formal apology to the victims and those in Hong Kong who were bereaved.
Clearly the way in which the authorities dealt with the crisis in August 2010 was fraught with problems.
The police lacked the specialist skills needed to cope effectively with a hostage crisis when they tried to tackle bus hijacker Rolando Mendoza, a disgruntled former senior police officer.
Although officials in Manila claim that money has been given to survivors and victims' relatives through a non-governmental organisation, this is meaningless.
If the Philippine government really wants to make reparation to survivors and victims' relatives, then why does it give money to them via an NGO? The fact is that the government does not want to admit it is at fault.
I fear that if a similar incident were to occur in the Philippines, we would see the same tragic outcome, with no compensation forthcoming from Manila.
Therefore, I believe it is still unsafe to visit the Philippines, which is why the travel alert should stay in place.
Renee Law Tsz-to, Sai Kung
Officials need to use more common sense
Hong Kong officials are increasingly showing little common sense in dealing with situations.
It is assumed that everything legal and within the rules is therefore justifiable. Everything potentially illegal, such as Occupy Central, is instantly deemed taboo.
Correspondingly, there seems to be an increasing disregard of ethics. Giving tenants a week to move out in the recent government evictions is a case in point - legal, yes, ethical, no, common sense, nil.
It is worth remembering, on this 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jnr's "I have a dream" speech that, in fact, many opposed to the widespread civil disobedience practised at the time branded King's Washington rally illegal with scant regard for good old common sense, ethics and public support for such a noble cause.
Ultimately, Dr King's higher moral stance won out.
Hong Kong is a city obsessed with blindly following rules and guidelines.
Many of our power brokers may want to read a little more history to rebalance their decision-making skills. Society deserves it.
Patrick Gilbert, Fo Tan