Letters to the Editor, December 17, 2013
Democracy can have shortcomings
I was surprised to read a quote from Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor ("John Tsang egged on at political forum", December 8). She is reported as saying, "Making policies under such circumstances, according to my experience, requires the government to have strong legitimacy.
"The strongest legitimacy, of course, would come from electing the chief executive using 'one man, one vote'."
Her assertion that the chief executive's problems have been created because he was not elected by one man, one vote is just factually incorrect.
There are numerous examples of heads of government elected by "universal suffrage" facing difficulty in governing but I will mention just two. First, not only is the US president facing difficulty, but his government was shut down for two weeks recently and his Congress has an approval rating of about 19 per cent.
The second example is Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has had to call for new elections after days of public demonstrations, with some raiding government offices and many demanding her resignation.
Both countries have lost many millions of dollars in gross domestic product as a result of these actions.
The fact of the matter is that in today's world, if a minority does not like what a government has done, it takes to the streets whether or not its government has been elected by universal suffrage.
This gives weight to the argument that rather than blithely following the rowdy masses who want us to adopt a system of other failed states, Hong Kong should use this opportunity to devise a new system that results in a government that governs in the best interests of all the people.
Alan Johnson, Mid-Levels
Citizens forced to endure tiny apartments
It is ironic that the better the state of the economy in Hong Kong, the smaller become the flats that most citizens live in, because this is all they can afford for their families. With wealth, society should be advancing, but the opposite is the case in this city and it is a time bomb.
In recent years, we have seen 500-square-foot luxury flats selling at sky-high prices, even some that are located in remote areas. No matter how well decorated it is, I would never describe a 500-sq-ft flat as a luxury apartment.
This is a form of oppression for citizens, especially those from the middle class, who spend their whole lives paying to own their home. This state of affairs creates anger and unhappiness. Hong Kong people have a high level of tolerance, but the more they tolerate the worse things get.
Wilson Lee, Ho Man Tin
Still a lot of doubts about climate change
I was appalled to read the comments of Lee Sai-ming, a senior scientific officer of the Observatory, referring disparagingly to those who do not agree with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agenda on anthropogenic global warming, as "climate change deniers" ("Deniers hurt climate change awareness", December 7).
This is a term usually associated with people who do not wish to enter into a serious debate on the subject. Mr Lee must be aware that there is a large body of eminent science that disputes the IPCC assertions on climate change. No one denies climate change; the climate changes all the time, it is this nonsense about anthropogenic global warming and carbon dioxide emissions that some question, using facts.
Renowned Danish astrophysicist Henrik Svensmark recently said that the IPCC generally ignores the immense impact of solar activity on our climate. There is great concern that the present lack of sunspot activity could augur a new mini ice age. The extreme cold of recent northern hemisphere winters, more of which is now being experienced in the US, lends weight to these concerns.
Still, nothing much we can do about that ball of fire in the sky. Surely Mr Lee is aware that, notwithstanding events like Superstorm Sandy and Super Typhoon Haiyan, the planet is experiencing a relatively quiet period of extreme weather.
In its September report, even the IPCC acknowledges that its computer models have proved less than reliable, that it has no explanation for the last 15 years of no global warming and that there is much we do not understand about the mechanics that control and influence our weather, that is, the science is by no means settled.
Any comments Mr Lee?
G. Bailey, Ta Kwu Ling
Taxpayers will foot bill for sharia banking
Vikas Mohammed Khan ("Global financial centre can't afford to ignore Islamic banking", December 7), replying to my letter ("No place for 'sukuk' bonds in HK market", November 22) claims that my saying sharia banking is inefficient is "hardly credible, especially in the light of the 'efficiencies' of Wall-Street-type banking".
But whether or not Western banking is inefficient is irrelevant to the contention that sharia banking is inefficient. Many experts in sharia banking, including professors Timur Kuran and Mahmoud El-Gamal, attest to its inefficiencies.
None of this would matter if it did not affect those who don't wish to avail themselves of sharia banking, but it does. Hong Kong taxpayers will end up paying for that inefficiency. The government plans to give tax breaks to sharia banking, since it can't stand on its own without such exemptions. This affects all Hong Kong residents, as the foregone taxes are money that could be spent elsewhere.
Surely this deserves our attention. Or should we simply accept that tax exemptions are to be given to religiously mandated financing without examination? We should ask if it's right for our government to encourage inefficiencies by providing tax breaks at our cost.
Western banking has come under close scrutiny and regulation, especially since 2008. Sharia banking ought to be subject to similar scrutiny and debate, without it being characterised as "Western hype regarding Islam".
Mr Khan says I'm "fatuous" in connecting Islamic financing with a "global religious conspiracy". I did not say there was a "conspiracy". I said it was openly an "Islamist programme", not by my judgment, but by the clear statements of Islamic leaders including Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who calls it "jihad with money". If Mr Khan denies that, he ought to direct his remarks to such gentlemen, rather than to me, I am simply reporting them.
Peter Forsythe, Discovery Bay
More must be done to curb bullying
Students benefit from attending a good school with top-quality teachers. But even there, bullying can be a problem.
A school is a society in miniature and if a student is struggling with domineering peers in school, he may struggle as an adult in society.
Many of the victims of mental and physical bullying suffer academically.
They turn in on themselves and stop talking to fellow students and may even play truant.
Some have even ended up committing suicide.
The government should do more to curb this problem and ensure that bullies are identified and punished.
Families and schools must also play their part, because this is a serious social problem.
This is a major social issue and it should be a cause of concern for all citizens.
While I support stiff punishment for bullies who are identified, I think educating young people about this problem will be more effective.
Teenagers are the key to Hong Kong's future, so they need the right kind of guidance within their schools.
Rachel Li Wing-sum, Yau Yat Chuen
Many teens now addicted to gambling
It is becoming more common nowadays to see gambling activities in Hong Kong.
Some gambling is against the law, while other forms of gambling are allowed, such as the Mark Six and horse racing organised by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Some people opt for illegal gambling because they think they stand a chance of earning more money. They may end up spending all their time betting in this way.
In the past, people played mahjong for entertainment and didn't spend a lot; they simply saw it as having a flutter. It was a social activity enjoyed by family and friends and helped to improve relationships.
I think the growth of gambling now can have a negative effect on impressionable teenagers. They are tempted to play games online, so are being offered the chance to gamble through their smartphones.
If they have not been taught about the risks involved, they may start gambling large quantities of money and then decide to steal in order to pay off their debts.
Even with legal gambling, young people might lose control, by purchasing a lot of Mark Six tickets.
I saw someone who runs a centre for problem gamblers on RTHK's City Forum, who said the problem of gambling addicts who are teenagers is getting worse.
The government must act to deal with the problem before it is too late.
Anna Chan Ching-yee, Tsing Yi