Pre-handover Exco made a difference
Stephen Vines is mistaken when he says "Since their establishment, Excos have largely comprised of senior bureaucrats who run government departments" ("Opaque governance exposes Exco as a joke", October 26).
Prior to 1997 there were, in fact, only three official Exco members in addition to the governor, the chief secretary, the financial secretary and the attorney general. Other policy secretaries attended by invitation to submit their proposals and were allowed to be accompanied by a small number of more junior officers to answer specific technical points.
Vines also does a disservice to the quality of many former unofficial appointees. As I know from my own experience as a former civil servant, appearing before Exco could be a nerve-wracking experience. The questions from unofficial members were usually detailed and searching.
Woe betide the policy secretary who seemed not fully in command of his or her brief, or who couldn't answer questions to the collective satisfaction of the council. In such circumstances it wasn't at all unusual for the secretary to be told to go away and rethink aspects of the proposal and return at a later date with a revised paper.
As I left the civil service in 1996, I have no experience of how Exco has been working post-handover. My personal view is that it has become too large.
There also seems to be a dearth of unofficial members of the calibre of former senior members/conveners such as Lydia Dunn and Sir Sze-yuen Chung who, incidentally, were not appointed because they always toed the government line.
On the contrary, they never minced words and offered their counsel without fear or favour.
The current disillusion with the way Exco is functioning should not be a reason for losing faith altogether in an institution that has served Hong Kong well in past years.
Elizabeth Bosher, Discovery Bay
Avoid censors by using the internet
I refer to your editorial ("Making peace with censorship", October 29).
It seems to be assumed that the only way to access the Chinese readership is to compromise with the censorship regime of the mainland and offer a bowdlerised version of a book in line with the mainstream communist ideology. In my opinion, however, this is not the only option for foreign authors interested in reaching Chinese readers.
In the age of the internet, the old-fashioned ways of publishing die hard.
Instead of relying on a traditional publisher and going through the lengthy procedures of copyright trade, the foreign authors may simply publish their works online under the licence of Creative Commons which protects the moral rights of the author but frees the work from the constraint of copyright.
In this way, millions of Chinese netizens, including those who cannot afford a hard copy, will be able to access the works and engage themselves in an intellectual conversation with the author.
If the work is interesting enough to attract wide readership while being offered free of charge, the author will benefit commercially from his/her new celebrity status in the most populous nation in the world.
Simon Wang, Kowloon Tong
Time for US to end deadly drone attacks
I refer to the report ("Obama silent on call by Pakistan to stop drones", October 25) on the visit by Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the White House.
The drone attacks by the United States over Pakistan's territory have continued for some time.
They have killed more innocent citizens than terrorists.
There is already ample proof that they have fallen and detonated at social gatherings, such as weddings and funerals.
The people of Pakistan want these attacks to end now and they are not alone.
The consensus view within the international community is that these attacks are illegal.
Amnesty International, and other reputable human rights organisations, have backed calls for the US to stop using drones in Pakistan.
It is clear that Washington must give in to this pressure.
M. Ishaque, Chai Wan
Curb these dangerous illegal drivers
As a road user, I strongly support the need for more patrols and surveillance of illegal road racers ("Police on watch for drift drivers", October 21).
As the report suggests, drift driving is dangerous for the drivers, other road users, and onlookers. This leads to a higher chance of accidents.
The number of accidents in Hong Kong has gone down over the last 10 years, and we want to keep it that way.
Drift drivers are dangerous and should be punished so that our roads remain safe for everyone.
Red Wertheimer, Shek O
Mainstream school places for minorities
The government has not implemented sufficient policies to ensure equal rights for ethnic minorities.
Many face discrimination and I think the fundamental cause for this is the language difference and deeply ingrained stereotypes of ethnic minorities in the minds of Hongkongers. Most students from ethnic minorities are in schools where they are taught in English.
If they do not get Chinese-language lessons then they cannot improve their level of proficiency. This creates a language barrier which can make it difficult for them to find work when they leave school and they may feel isolated in society.
The stereotyping I referred to means that some Hongkongers think most ethnic minority citizens are from the grass-roots class in society. It is therefore not difficult to see how there are misunderstandings and discrimination.
Many of these citizens have been here for generations. They are used to the frenetic pace of life and could not adapt to their countries their ancestors came from. The government must come up with better policies which improve the situation for ethnic minorities.
It must find a way to integrate these students into mainstream schools. This would enable them and Chinese youngsters to get an understanding of each other's cultures. It would help to reduce discrimination.
This is a problem which needs prompt action by officials as citizens from ethnic minorities are an integral part of our society.
Sharon Tam, Tseung Kwan O
Cannot get China's signal in Hong Kong
I refer to the letter by H. Y. Mok, of the Hong Kong Observatory ("Time service widely used by the public", October 29), in response to my letter ("Time signal missing from HK airwaves", October 17).
He went into some detail about the various time services the Observatory provides. All of them are excellent, but it appears I didn't express myself clearly in my letter.
My point is simple; a huge number of devices have as their only method of updating their time and date a chip that is built-in to receive the six major automatic time signals broadcast in the world. China's is one of those signals and is broadcast on 68.5 kHz.
I note from Mr Mok's letter that the Observatory checked on the internet and read that China's signal should theoretically be able to be received in Hong Kong. If it actually checks in the field, it will find almost nowhere in Hong Kong can the signal be received reliably.
The global trend is for six signal chip automatic time signal receiving devices and ultra-precise time is critical to our modern technological era.
I would guess that today there are over two million such devices in Hong Kong and there is no signal for them to receive.
This is unacceptable for a world city.
I hope the Observatory re-examines the issue and installs a strong repeater in Hong Kong that allows the Chinese 68.5 kHz signal to be reliably received and, in turn, for the literally millions of devices already in our city dependent on the signal to begin functioning properly.
Tobias Brown, Central
Spoiled child misbehaving a common sight
There are many Hong Kong parents, especially those who are better off, who are so busy they have little time to take care of their children.
They end up hiring a foreign domestic helper and, in effect, she is delegated with the responsibility of bringing up the son or daughter.
This results in there being many pampered Hong Kong kids.
The maids want to keep their jobs and if spoiling the child makes things easier then they will do it, but it can result in bad behaviour. I am sure I am not the only person to have witnessed a child shouting at the family's amah on the street.
Because of the way they are being brought up these children do not learn to show respect for others. They are not taught that such bad behaviour is unacceptable.
Without learning the right sets of values I wonder how they will turn out as adults.
It is important to earn a living, but I urge parents to try and spend more time with their sons and daughters.
Carmen Fung, Tseung Kwan O