Top billing for Estrada in talks saga
As a businessman who has dealt with the Filipino people for more than 20 years, I share the views of Renata Lopez ("Some things never change in the Philippines", November 21) on their penchant for drama. Top billing must go to Joseph Estrada, the mayor of Manila.
The chequered history of Estrada's protracted political life is one long series of high dramas that saw him reach the pinnacle of president, only to plunge headlong into abysmal depths as common crook; impeached, convicted of plunder, given a life sentence but pardoned against a broken promise of not seeking public office again.
The "audience" given to C.Y. Leung by Benigno Aquino about the Hong Kong hostage crisis gave Estrada, an opportunist and forever actor at heart, food for thought. He promptly offered himself as the president's vicarious apologist with a promise of compensation to the victims and their families payable out of "contributions" from Chinese businessmen in the Philippines.
Aquino, not a stranger to drama himself, would never allow a lowly city mayor to upstage the president of the country and, knowing Estrada's past, he could smell a big rat at the mention of money from Chinese businessmen.
Quietly, he dispatched Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras to meet with Hong Kong officials to reopen the talks, bringing along with him a donation of funds for victim Yik Siu-ling's medical costs as an "additional token of solidarity" - you've got to give it to the Filipinos for their dramatic use of the English language - as well as a hint of a possible U-turn on a presidential apology.
How the case of the hostage crisis aftermath will turn out is still too early to tell. But if it can be resolved to the satisfaction of the victims and that of their families, they have to thank, not C.Y. Leung, not Beijing's intercession, not their lawyers, but Estrada for having unwittingly spurred Aquino to act.
Without Estrada's dramatic entry, it can safely be assumed that the Philippine government would have continued its stalling tactics to see the case die a natural death. One thing, however, is certain. We shall see the last of Estrada in this case, with Aquino having stolen his thunder.
John Pang, Tai Hang
Rankings reveal HK energy conflict
I was interested to read that Greenpeace has ranked the efforts in energy saving of different major developers ("Huge disparity in energy use of malls and offices", November 27).
I applaud outperformer Swire Properties as they have been at the forefront of the incorporation of environmentally friendly strategies into their projects for a long time, and view environmental issues seriously. Swire's Pacific Place in Admiralty is an excellent example of a well-planned development.
It comes as no big surprise that Cheung Kong is ranked in last place; scoring a mere 10 on a scale of 120 points. Since electricity supplier Hong Kong Electric is part of the Cheung Kong Group there is little incentive for the developer to construct buildings with energy-saving measures.
The conflicts of interest created within conglomerates in a small market like Hong Kong are against the public interest.
The Buildings Department should speed up the mandatory use of energy-saving and green features in new construction projects, as discretionary action is not achieving required results.
Frank Lee, Mid-Levels
Gizmos are a social and health menace
I completely agree with Claudia Ng ("Take care when using smartphones", November 25) that addiction to electronic devices is becoming a real problem. People are losing the ability to observe the world around them, and are increasingly living in a small electronic bubble.
Besides being a social, or, to be more exact, an anti-social problem, there are also health and environmental risks.
In a recent Danish study, Wi-fi frequencies were shown to create serious genetic defects in plant seeds; and an Austrian health insurance study in 2009 linked Wi-fi to cancer, reduced fertility, decreased ability to concentrate and disturbed sleep. Radiation levels below the standard limits could impact the central nervous and immune systems.
Electrodermal screening indicates that radiation from devices such as cellphones causes toxicity within our cells. Alarmingly, metabolically active cells are most affected, meaning that our children are at a higher risk. The body uses electromagnetic signals to communicate between cells, organs and tissues and radiation from our many devices may interfere with this internal communication.
Our planet's complex ecology relies on similar messages from the heliosphere. Human intervention may affect the balances and timings within nature, and of course, ultimately, our own evolution.
Christian Rogers, Wan Chai
Rent support lags far behind market reality
I refer to the report ("Cubicle dweller to seek first judicial review of government rent support", November 28). Under the current rent support system, the HK$1,440 rent allowance barely covers the increase in rents.
It is unfathomable that the current adjustment could be thought to reflect only the general inflation rate but not housing market rents.
Mainlanders and investors continue purchasing and selling flats unabated despite increased stamp duty. There is no prospect of the price of private properties falling, ensuring a continuing increase in rents.
Public housing is in short supply and many locals fail to find an affordable flat to rent. As an international financial centre with a prosperous economy, people living here should have acceptable living conditions. Cubicles are not satisfactory.
The housing allowance should be raised according to the ever-changing property market and inflation rate. The allowance should be enough to cover rent payments, at least for cubicles.
However generous the adjustments are, property prices will still be out of reach for Hongkongers with limited capital, like the elderly. The government should increase efforts to construct more public housing.
Charmaine Li Wing-huen, Tsing Yi
Take racism out of our school system
Michael Chugani's Public Eye column ("Why different treatment for different children?", November 27) draws our attention to yet another obvious disparity in Hong Kong's education system; the race to accommodate children of mainland parents here, and over the border.
Though Hong Kong has an increasingly civil society that has grown in wealth, education and awareness, the city is Chinese and, at heart, for the Chinese.
We can try to justify having separate schools for ethnic minorities but, in truth, there are no educational arguments in favour of such a system. Separate schools smack of racism and separate development. All children in Hong Kong, irrespective of creed and culture, deserve access to equal educational standards, equal facilities and equal opportunities.
No other area makes more visible our values and attitudes than education. The Hong Kong government and Education Bureau must lead the way to fair and equal educational opportunities for all.
Betty Bownath, Hung Hom
Criticism of police reveals a mystery
I wholeheartedly concur with the observations of your correspondent Hans Wergin ("Low crime rate justifies 'stop and search'", November 29).
First and foremost, who exactly is querying these tactics? Those living elsewhere, where crime and criminals thrive? Or local criminals who are feeling deprived of opportunity?
Hong Kong is fortunately policed differently to London and New York, where police generally carry out "stop and search" or "stop and question" only in response to an incident. Here in Hong Kong, the police patrol proactively, with an emphasis on high visibility, with a view to deterring and preventing crime before it occurs.
I'm confident in saying that most people would prefer crime not to occur in the first place, rather than have police respond to the aftermath.
So, when an American academic, who has probably never even been to Hong Kong, let alone lived here, writes of the "long-term negative consequences in evaluations of police legitimacy", and the article fails to identify those so called "negative consequences" , we are left pondering what the police are apparently doing wrong that they could possibly put right. After all, most cities in the world are envious of Hong Kong's low crime rate, and efficient and professional police.
Finally, I would strongly suggest the figures reported are inaccurate. Common sense dictates police would question more often than stop and search, which is more time consuming, confrontational and dangerous.
David Grant, Discovery Bay