Letters to the Editor, January 10, 2014
Senior officials look after their own prospects
I agree with Philip Yeung's proposition that, while Hong Kong's senior public servants remain in a separate world of privilege, they will fail in their policymaking to meet the needs of the majority in the community ("The heart of policymaking", January 5).
But there is something that his article does not touch on which, in my view, also has a bearing on the failure of government to develop policies to deal with the issues that affect the people at large and, equally importantly, to implement them in a robust way with the necessary determination to make them effective.
That is, the apparent reluctance of senior officials and administrators to do anything that may be seen as a risk to their position and chances of promotion, which reinforces the innate conservatism of the bureaucracy. Public servants dislike change. Change means risk, possible failure and loss of face - and also real work.
It is arguable that the plethora of government committees and public consultations in Hong Kong are designed, not to determine the best course or decision to be taken, but rather to spread the risk so that no one takes responsibility for the outcome, and in particular for any unintended consequences.
Better by far, it would seem, to delay a decision until after the official concerned has taken up a new post, thus requiring his or her successor to begin the process of "reading themselves in" and consulting all over again.
The link between the avoidance of risk and Philip Yeung's argument that senior public servants are divorced from the realities faced by the majority of Hong Kong people would seem very clear.
Having secured their privileged positions, it would appear that their energies and time are directed more to ensuring that they do not lose their elite status than improving that of the rest of us. And doing nothing that might carry risk and threaten their privileges, it seems, is the best strategy to achieve that objective.
Don Brech, Causeway Bay
Compromise is the key to a better future
The chief executive election in 2017 and its related consultation exercise, which began last month, will be the curtain raiser to head-on collisions among politicians from all quarters.
After all the scuffles and noisy demonstrations, a chief executive will be anointed by the central government. However, this will not be the end of the story.
The new chief executive will face the familiar problem of legitimacy and that legitimacy being questioned by Hong Kong people. It seems that we are cursed in this regard, but things can change.
A leader who shows some patience and wisdom can lead us to greener political pastures. The guiding principle comes from ancient China and Chinese characters which are translated as "Smooth administration and harmonious community".
To achieve these goals, we will need people in the administration who are willing to make concessions to narrow the differences.
Conflicts between political parties will continue and Hong Kong will remain in turmoil beyond 2017 if the official door is tightly closed and there is no room for compromise.
Some people ask: "Is Hong Kong ungovernable?"
However, politics is about practising the art of compromise. Narrowing the gap between the official stand and the positions taken by the different political parties should be handled meticulously and painstakingly. If we can break the ice regarding the legitimacy of the administration, then all the other issues can be ironed out smoothly.
We face a choice in Hong Kong. Do we want smooth administration and a harmonious community or a noisy, disruptive community with egg-throwing crowds?
Which would your readers prefer?
Lo Wai-kong, Yau Ma Tei
Hong Kong has a very serious air-pollution problem.
It is one of the traditions of Hong Kong society to have fireworks displays for people's amusement. However, we have to face facts.
The government should not add to the extremely high levels of air pollution by discharging hazardous pollutants.
The same also goes for the daily fireworks at Disneyland on Lantau. For these fireworks displays, a non-polluting substitute can be found. A specially designed laser show could be a possible solution.
Our health must come first.
With the air-pollution index at its highest level for long periods in a year, I think Hong Kong people will understand and will agree it is time to put a stop to this kind of entertainment until pollution reaches an acceptable World Health Organisation level.
Thomas Gebauer, Lantau
Remembering the kindness of Sir Run Run
I would like, through these columns, to pay tribute to the life and work of Sir Run Run Shaw.
Sir Run Run was a good friend to Hong Kong.
His business acumen and philanthropy knew no bounds.
During the late 1970s, he was generous enough to entertain certain requests I made for law students at the University of Hong Kong.
We met, and thereafter his kindnesses to them and to me personally much moved me.
In no small measure, a great deal of Hong Kong's current prosperity is directly attributable to him.
Rodney Griffith, Western district
North Districtschools would ease shortage
In November it was announced that the Education Bureau was going to conduct a survey [of parents of Hong Kong children living in Shenzhen] to try to ascertain how many mainland parents would like to send their Hong Kong-born children to study here.
The intention is to be well prepared so that in future there are enough school places for local children and those coming from north of the border.
However, this survey will only give the government an approximate number of mainland children who may study here.
The results of the survey cannot be accurate, as the mainland parents could easily change their minds over time for any number of reasons.
Therefore, the government should take a further step to solve this problem of shortage of and competition for school and preschool places.
It should encourage organisations such as charities to establish schools in North District, specifically for cross-border children.
This would mean local parents facing less competition when seeking a school place for their child, and a shortage of places in that part of Hong Kong would no longer be a problem.
Chan Tak-yung, Ma On Shan
Sitting-out area will be incorporated
I refer to the letter by Frank Lee ("Pleasant sitting-out area gone", January 7) and would like to clarify some misunderstandings.
First, there has been close co-ordination between the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) and the government departments concerned when drawing up the development brief and plan for the Lee Tung Street (H15) project in Wan Chai.
As far as the Amoy Street sitting-out area is concerned, it will be reprovisioned and incorporated into the larger public open space of the H15 project.
This was duly considered by the Town Planning Board when it approved the planning brief and the master layout plan for the project.
Upon completion, the newly reprovisioned part in the larger public open space of the new development will be handed back to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department for management.
Secondly, the Amoy Street sitting-out area has never been included in the calculation of the site area of the H15 project.
It was discounted from the project when its development intensity was calculated, as is required by the board.
Lawrence Yau, director, corporate communications, Urban Renewal Authority
Move towards e-learning not suitable for all
There has been some debate about the benefits of e-learning, with those in favour of it saying it can save time and money.
Parents would no longer have to buy expensive textbooks and students would not have to carry these books, making their schoolbags a lot lighter.
Also, if, while you are studying, you come across a difficult word or phrase you can do an immediate online search.
However, while I accept it has advantages, I still do not welcome the move towards e-learning.
I think it puts low-income families at a disadvantage, because they will not be able to afford the required software, which, if it is not pirated, will be relatively expensive.
Also, there are students like me who have poor IT skills and so a switch to e-learning in the classroom can seriously disrupt their studies.
I accept that officials who want to make the transition to e-learning in schools are well-intentioned.
However, overall, I believe that such a switch will do more harm than good.
However, if the government is determined to move in this direction, it must have a more widespread public consultation process, before any implementation of e-learning schemes in all local schools. If it does not do this, there could be a great deal of opposition.
Rachel Lai Wai-sze, Sau Mau Ping