Letters to the Editor, August 31, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 3:48am


Police force must stay out of politics

I wish to second the sentiments so eloquently expressed by Markus Shaw ("Police officers must return to 'light touch'", August 15).

Few cities in the world can boast the scale of demonstrations that we regularly host, public protests that occur with virtually no arrests, no violence and rarely even a broken window.

A belief that the police were honest brokers of the law has been a key part of this impressive record.

Certainly, from the time I moved here in 1992 until June 1997, the police largely appeared to be neutral arbiters.

However, many incidents since then have called that neutrality into question.

An early indication of that was the use of music to drown out protesters in order to protect the feelings of a visiting Jiang Zemin in 1997.

Heavy-handed treatment around the visits of other state leaders since then underscored the sense that the police are more interested in protecting those in power than in upholding the law.

Now the police seemingly are ignoring people who harass Falun Gong demonstrators who are exercising the civic rights that they enjoy in Hong Kong - and nowhere else in China.

Officers are similarly ignoring the thugs who roughed up anti-government protesters outside the community meeting which was subsequently attended by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Have the police consciously decided to protect pro-Beijing, pro-government forces even at the cost of ignoring their duty to protect all Hong Kong people in accordance with the law?

We are the only free city in China. We remain one of the world's most civilised cities, one in which there is a tolerance and acceptance of dissent.

The police must act to nurture this sense of tolerance, not to undermine it, even in the face of provocation.

This continued politicisation of the police force will do long-standing damage to Hong Kong, just as it did in the United States and many other Western countries in the 1960s and 1970s.

The idea of a Hong Kong police force that has lost the trust of the people, indeed one that is in a chronic state of conflict with mistrustful citizens, is chilling to contemplate.

Tensions are high enough already.

For the sake of the Hong Kong that we all cherish, our political leaders - starting with the chief executive and the secretary for security - must act immediately to depoliticise the police force and ensure that it maintains the trust and respect of the people of Hong Kong.

Mark L. Clifford, Mid-Levels


Egypt a tragic example of voting failure

Egypt, a country with such a long and illustrious history, is on the brink of civil war and with the violence and mounting death toll, its citizens are suffering a lot.

I have watched with horror and deep sadness as even one of its world-renowned museums, housing priceless historic national treasures, has not been spared amid the turmoil.

Hong Kong people should take note of what is happening and the tragedy that can unfold when something goes wrong with an electoral system - when you have one man, one vote with no threshold for the nomination of candidates.

It also illustrates why a head of state should not be the leader of a political party. We must adhere to our constitution, the Basic Law.

Peter Wu, Mid-Levels


Colonial-style government works best

In the report ("Lawmaker calls for coalition of parties to govern" August 26), James Tien Pei-chun's idea of a grand coalition of eight parties was rightly dispatched by Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.

She could have done the same with Frank Ching's almost identical idea in his column ("Party time", June 5).

Such a coalition, when it works, is just like a one-party system. When it doesn't, it is one big fragmented mess, achieving nothing.

So why bother, when party politics is not even intended and not provided for in the Basic Law? It is even more absurd to talk of Hong Kong being governable only if the party-politics system is thus contrived to work.

No system will ever work with such pig-headed politicians as we have, whose sole objective is to undo any government sanctioned by Beijing. Conversely, any system works fine if it has a reasonable, single-minded and supportive populace, such as Japan's, which has been practically a successful one-party system for the past 50-odd years.

As Ching acknowledged, the system that works best would be one like Hong Kong's old colonial government, a sort of benign-dictator system.

So why worry about the 2017 arrangement not getting a two-thirds majority's blessing? If that happens, we restart with a clean sheet - have a "governor", a majority of appointed members for the legislature and a cabinet, served by an obedient civil service. Democracy guarantees nothing.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan


Two-week gap in swimming pools switch

It has been announced that closure of the outdoor pool at Victoria Park will be effective from Monday. However, the new indoor pool will not open until September 16.

Obviously the Leisure and Cultural Services Department does not understand the meaning of seamless transition.

The new pool is filled with water, so what is to prevent it opening the day after the old one is closed? Why the two-week delay? We moved an airport overnight in 1998 from one side of Hong Kong to the other, but switching between adjacent swimming pools is too difficult in 2013?

In September we enter school swimming gala season, when the pool is closed to regular users most days. Surely, both pools could operate in tandem until the end of the outdoor season in November. Schools could get their galas and the rest of the community could still enjoy their morning or afternoon swims.

I still wonder why a popular outdoor pool has been replaced by an indoor pool, especially in a climate like Hong Kong where people enjoy swimming outdoors in the summer. But then I recognise that the indoor pool was a surreptitious way to gain an aquatic venue for Asian Games-type events without having to go through a Legco funding exercise.

The official excuse for building the new pool was that the old one leaked. Now that bureaucrats have their aquatic venue, can we have the old pool rebuilt for people to enjoy in the summer?

S. McKinney, Tin Hau


Conflict of interests in Cathay trip

Chitty Cheung, corporate affairs director of Cathay Pacific, takes umbrage ("Cathay trip nothing to do with licences", August 27) at your article about councillors being invited on its aircraft delivery trip to France ("Lawmakers face ire after Cathay junket to France", August 22).

I do not understand how she can object to your term junket, when family members accompanied the "business" travellers and side trips to other destinations were paid for.

I agree with your editorial ("No room for advantage", August 24) as collusion between officials and big business has touched a nerve with the public since the allegations against senior officials in the last administration. The community is now very sensitive to sleaze. I am therefore astounded that eight lawmakers and one executive councillor were unable to "connect the dots" when invited by Cathay on this trip to the Airbus factory near Toulouse. These councillors have lost their credibility.

Cheung states Cathay Pacific "will continue to promote aviation knowledge and engage the general public through such events as delivery trips, destination launches, and community programmes". This does not appear like an aviation-knowledge-gathering business trip.

Cathay would be better advised to take disadvantaged members of society rather than councillors. However, it should be noted that the third runway at Chep Lap Kok is a controversial project and the Executive Council and Legislative Council will be integrally involved in approvals and funding.

Cathay is a strong supporter and an interested party, as a major beneficiary of this infrastructure.

These nine councillors are expected to vet and scrutinise any airport proposals in the public interest. Will they now have the grace to abstain from voting on this matter?

K. Y. Leung, Shouson Hill


Philippines travel alert is vindictive

Alice Wu advocates keeping the black travel alert on the Philippines ("Black mark", August 26).

How sensible is it to lump that country with Syria and Egypt, trouble-torn countries which no right-thinking person would want to go to on holiday or business? Howard Winn's view in Lai See on keeping the ban in place is correct ("HK's travel alerts more a threat to common sense", August 21).

It is petty and vindictive to maintain the black alert, despite the geopolitics involved in the issue.

Meanwhile, it seems that Hongkongers keep going to the Philippines, with tourist and business figures remaining steady, and probably climbing.

M. S. Basquejo, Causeway Bay