Letters to the Editor, September 9, 2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 September, 2013, 2:47am

Creating false impressions about HIV

Peter Shek ("Critics of gays should be free to speak out", September 4) is right that we need honesty and openness about the health problems facing people in Hong Kong.

However, some of his comments on HIV could create false impressions.

It is correct that new HIV infections in homosexual men are the biggest issue on HIV infection right now. However, until 2005, heterosexual infection for HIV was the biggest problem here and right now people of all sexualities are still being infected. Since the first case of HIV in Hong Kong, 2,446 cases of HIV have come about through heterosexual contact, compared with 1,836 due to homosexual contact.

If heterosexuals falsely think this is only a problem facing gay people, this will be very dangerous and we will see the infection spread even faster.

This is why Aids Concern currently has television advertising targeting heterosexual men, encouraging them to get tested if they are concerned about their HIV risk.

It is also ignorant to say that HIV is about sexuality as it wrongly assumes that there are single groups of people who all behave the same.

Many homosexual men who adopt safer sex and avoid risky sexual behaviour are at no more real risk of contracting HIV than heterosexuals.

Let's put a stop to all sexually transmitted infections for all people.

Andrew Chidgey, chief executive, Aids Concern


Modern-day slaves catch fish we eat

I refer to the report ("Migrant workers lured by lies to hard life aboard Thai fishing boats", September 4).

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) report, "Employment Practices and Working Conditions in Thailand's Fishing Sector", reveals evidence of forced labour, debt bondage and violence. Featuring interviews with 596 fishermen, the majority of migrants from Myanmar and Cambodia, it exposes abuse onboard fishing boats, with 17.3 per cent of the fishers questioned testifying that they had been threatened by their employer, the captain, a supervisor or a co-worker, and 101 of the respondents (approximately 17 per cent) recounting that they had worked against their will, unable to leave for a variety of reasons.

Our Environmental Justice Foundation report, "Sold to the Sea", in May, documented severe human rights infringements, human trafficking, physical violence, forced detention and even murder in the Thai fishing industry, with testimonies from Burmese workers as young as 16 offering details of the systemic abuse.

The ILO report substantiates our conviction that human rights abuses are widespread in the fishing industry, both in Thailand and elsewhere.

The uncomfortable truth is that fish caught on such vessels has been tracked through international supply chains to the European and US seafood markets. Fish caught by these modern-day slaves is reaching our own plates.

Steve Trent, executive director, Environmental Justice Foundation, London


Students gain from tutorial colleges

It has become the norm for students in Hong Kong to attend private tutorial classes.

They are encouraged to do so by their parents. Some senior secondary students will go to these classes every day and others might start this routine as early as junior secondary level. These tutorial colleges are necessary and young people benefit from attending them.

Teachers are given very little time to complete the curriculum and cannot cater to individual students' needs.

They also have only a limited period of time to teach exam skills, mark assignments and prepare for school-based assessments.

The curriculum does not take into consideration the needs of teachers and students. There is too much in, for example, the physics and chemistry syllabuses, for teachers to cover in the allotted time.

And the problem of workload is exacerbated by the school-based assessments.

The tutorial colleges can fill the gap offering more exam-linked exercises. These colleges' tutors are well-informed about the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) and can familiarise their students with exam techniques.

Teachers do suffer from lack of resources when it comes to the HKDSE. It may be time for the government to review its examination system.

Donald Mak, Lam Tin


Primary pupils missing out on childhood

I find it depressing that in Hong Kong even primary school students in Hong Kong feel under pressure, faced with an avalanche of homework and tests.

Why do these little children have to be victims of an education system dominated by cramming?

Childhood should be about enjoying books, experiencing the beauty of nature and playing with friends. In Western countries, children enjoy this period of their lives.

But young Hongkongers need to concentrate on their studies. Some have no time to relax and may not get enough sleep.

Their mental health is of paramount importance, but parents seem to ignore this and want their children to get outstanding academic results.

Because of this, most parents in Hong Kong are ignoring the needs of their young sons and daughters who long for the chance to be able to relax.

I am a student and hope we can see an improvement.

Only if the education system is reformed will these young pupils have a chance to regain their precious childhood. My childhood has already gone, but if the necessary changes are implemented, it will not be too late for future generations.

Chung Wing-yan, Kwun Tong


Impose seat belt rule for entire flight

I refer to the report on passengers being hurt on two flights affected by turbulence before landing at Hong Kong airport ("'The plane dropped and bounced'", August 31).

It is important when there is serious turbulence during a flight that passengers follow the instructions given by the captain and flight attendants.

I also think that airlines should instruct passengers to keep their seat belts fastened throughout the flight, which will decrease the risk of injury.

Vicky Li, Kwun Tong


Rainwater in tunnel will be contaminated

I refer to the letter by Frank Lee ("Departments appear to be wasting water", August 28).

The Hong Kong West Drainage Tunnel is designed to intercept and convey surface run-off from the catchment above the lower urban area of Hong Kong Island to reduce the flooding risk in Wan Chai, Central and Western district.

In taking forward this flood prevention project, we have examined various water reuse options in terms of the economic viability and the technical feasibility.

Since the tunnel is located at a level lower than that of the Aberdeen and Pok Fu Lam reservoirs, all the options for water harvesting required huge capital investments and land space for building additional tunnels, pipe works, pumping facilities and temporary storage facilities.

As an illustration, the tunnel will collect about 486,000 cubic metres of water in one hour when it operates at its maximum carrying capacity of 135 cubic metres per second during those periods when there is extreme rainfall.

This is equivalent to a volume of about 195 standard Olympic-size swimming pools. The land use constraints in the fully urbanised areas and the huge costs involved make the construction of large storage and pumping facilities practically not viable.

Moreover, rainwater running through developed areas would be contaminated by the filth on the surface of buildings and roads. The filth is the result of exhaust gases from vehicles travelling on roads, bird droppings or animal excreta on the ground.

To safeguard public health, the harvested rainwater must be treated before it can be recycled for safe potable use.

As such, the cost of treatment is another factor to be considered.

David H. W. Leung, technical secretary 2, Drainage Services Department


US hypocrisy over chemical weapons

The report "US and its allies agree Sarin used" (September 5) says that Britain claims there have been 14 chemical attacks in Syria since 2012 while the Americans count fewer attacks.

Are we to believe that Britain and the United States have only just become aware of these attacks?

If not, then why the sudden outrage?

Is it because the Syrian government is winning the battle against the rebels and that does not suit the US and its allies?

Is it not hypocritical for a country which sprayed Agent Orange over large areas of Vietnam and dropped napalm bombs on civilians to protest over the use of chemical weapons by others?

Colin Campbell, Mid-Levels