Letters to the Editor, November 18, 2013
Doctors need council that is fit for purpose
I refer to the report ("Medical Council's lawyer departs", November 7).
The mission statement of the Medical Council of Hong Kong is enshrined in the three goals: ensuring justice, maintaining professionalism and protecting the public.
A significant part of the time of the Medical Council is devoted to investigating complaints and issuing appropriate disciplinary sanctions for deviations from the code of conduct expressed in the "red book".
To assist it in this arduous task, it has a legal adviser who works 2,500 hours a year, albeit on a part-time basis. The problem is that this lone legal warrior is up against banks of highly paid lawyers who act for the upper end of the private sector.
With this imbalance of resources, including funding, the Medical Council of Hong Kong is just not able to do its job.
Having just retired from over 30 years of clinical practice, I can certainly say that medicine is a wonderful profession.
I feel deeply honoured to have been able to change the lives of children who have been burned. There is such a rich tapestry of opportunity in the profession and all that I used to ask my students is that what they do, as a doctor, they do to the best of their ability, and above all, that they do it honestly and ethically. It is sad that not all our fellow practitioners can, want or do maintain the appropriate ethical standards of a professional.
This is why we need a properly funded body, with, yes, I am sorry to say, a 60:40 split of non-medical and medical professionals, that is fit for purpose and can address the aspirations of the mission statement of the Medical Council, and regulate the medical profession.
Andrew Burd, Tai Po
Do not relax safety rules for rural hostels
I refer to the report ("Call for flexibility on village hostels", November 4).
Hikers benefit from these hostels, as do the owners, but in the interests of safety and public security, they must be covered by the relevant government regulations.
If more buildings in rural areas can offer accommodation, then an increasing number of people living in urban areas will visit the countryside, tempted by the prospect of being able to stay overnight and sleep in a proper bed rather than in a tent.
However, if the hostels fail to satisfy, for example, fire safety regulations and there is a blaze resulting in casualties, who will be held legally responsible for allowing the building to be used for this purpose?
Also, if there is no government oversight some village hostels could be converted into illegal subdivided units to make more money. This would pose security problems for residents in the village and surrounding areas.
Therefore, regulations must be adhered to before owners of buildings are allowed to convert them and take in guests.
After licences have been issued, officers from the relevant department need to carry out checks to ensure the owners are complying with the various regulations and that they have not built any subdivided apartments.
Some hostel owners have complained they cannot afford to retrofit their properties to meet legal requirements.
The government could offer a lump-sum subsidy to owners who could prove they needed financial help.
Chan Tak-yung, Ma On Shan
Greener city with more solar power
I think one of the long-term solutions for our air pollution problem is extensive use of solar power.
At present, it would appear from some press articles that the government is just not doing enough to tackle Hong Kong's pollution problems. I think the days we have with smog illustrate that these problems are getting worse.
When looking at renewable energy options, I believe that solar power is probably the most efficient way to generate energy and at the same time reduce pollution levels.
I realise establishing solar power projects requires a significant investment. However, we need to have a long-term perspective. Our environmental problems are caused by only having a short-term view. What can matter more than clean air and protecting the health of our citizens?
Natalie Cheng, Tai Tam
Visitor victim of racist abuse in France
The British government has announced that it will make it easier for Chinese citizens to obtain visas. It may be relaxing these visa requirements, but are its citizens ready to welcome Chinese visitors?
I mention this because of my recent travel experiences in France. The first week was spent in Alsace-Lorraine and Dijon, which was fine. During the second week, I was in an area between Lyons and Marseilles and that was when things went sour. Every day I found myself the target of overt and rampant discrimination. In the streets, people made offensive remarks, even sometimes using a swear word and then "Chinese" in English.
Every day I had to deal with people being rude. A girl in a Lyons bakery shouted at me just because I didn't understand her French. A Marseilles shopkeeper swore at me just because I walked past and threw a glance at his display of soap.
Some of my friends tried to explain it by blaming it on Chinese mainlanders, who are widely believed to leave a bad impression when they go abroad. However, I also witnessed some Hong Kong tourists behaving badly.
Maybe we Chinese, Hongkongers or mainlanders, fall short of the French people's code of etiquette, but the French in general fall short of their code of etiquette and also their ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Oliver Wong, Tai Hang
We should all cherish our helpers
As a resident of Hong Kong where we have a large population of domestic helpers from the Philippines, I strongly believe that employers need to treat their maids better.
Last month, a Hong Kong man who brought his Filipino maid to Canada was jailed for 18 months for human trafficking. The maid was forced to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
Such treatment is intolerable. These women help us every day and they have left their homeland to support their families.
The least we can do while they are with us is treat them like family.
This will make it easier for them to got through the struggle they face in life.
Michelle Teh, Tai Tam
Help mothers to revive their careers
Many women stay at home after having a child even beyond maternity leave.
They are young and many are talented in their chosen field and could still make an important contribution in the workplace and society as a whole.
In certain sectors, there is a labour shortage and I would like to see companies implementing family-friendly policies to help encourage these young mothers to return to work.
Efficient use of manpower resources is good for Hong Kong's economy.
For example, firms could offer these mothers flexible working hours so they are in the office while their children are at school and can be back home when the school day ends.
There must also be flexibility so the employee can deal with an unforeseen emergency such as a child falling ill.
The government also needs to ensure that more reliable and affordable childcare services are available so children can be looked after during school holidays.
Such policies would help redress the present gender imbalance, as there are many more men than women in the workforce.
It would also help those areas where women are especially in demand, such as the cosmetics sector and nursing.
A low birth rate and people marrying later are creating problems in our society. And some women are concerned that having a child will spell the end of their careers.
Firms with family-friendly programmes can help allay those concerns.
Companies must realise that such policies will not hurt their profits.
They will have to make minor adjustments and make major gains.
Mandy Lee Man-shan, Sha Tin
Baby boom possible with cash handouts
I would support a proposed "baby bonus" in order to encourage more couples to start a family and so raise the birth rate in Hong Kong.
I accept that this would prove costly for the government, but we are faced with having to address the problems posed by our ageing population. As a consequence, Hong Kong could become less productive and this would hurt our economy.
Many young couples will look at their income and decide that they need to have enough to get a mortgage on a flat and after that pay all other expenses; they simply do not have enough to start a family.
If the government offered tax rebates or cash handouts, this would give them a greater incentive to have children. If, as a result of this initiative, more children were born, this could only be good for the economy.
Marco Chan Chun-wai, Tseung Kwan O