Letters to the Editor, January 13, 2014
Working long hours bad for families
In Hong Kong, many people work long hours. It is often seen as a show of loyalty to one's job and employer.
Also, some people spend such a long time in the office because they are afraid of losing their jobs.
There is a popular belief that people will sacrifice their health in return for career success when they are young and use that wealth to regain their health when they grow old. That is the reality in Hong Kong, where productivity and efficiency are regarded as very important.
But working long hours can lead to chronic illness and even sudden death.
Take, for example, the case last month of the young advertising writer in Indonesia who collapsed and died after a 30-hour shift.
Also, the longer you work, the less time you have to spend with your family. This may result in poor parent-child relationships. A tightly knit family is an important part of Chinese culture.
Local unionists have been calling for a standardisation of working hours.
Given the nature of some jobs, such as waiters and sales staff, there must be some flexibility, but I think a consensus has to be reached on how long an employee should work.
I hope the government can try and consult the business sector and employees to find such a consensus.
Helen Wong Pui-ling, Fanling
Elsie Leung's intransigence disappointing
The central government has said it wants a pragmatic "people first" stance on the electoral process for Hong Kong's chief executive in 2017 and has affirmed that it seeks change while maintaining stability.
If not just a platitude, this appears a sensible approach. However, change is a natural phenomenon which generally opposes stability.
Politics does not operate outside the laws of nature. If change is constantly restrained, then pressure builds until it explodes violently, similar to an earthquake.
The central positive idea backing a "people first" democracy is that it allows change in small doses before pressure can build. The wider the public participation, the more stable the society.
It is therefore disappointing that former secretary for justice and now Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman, Elsie Leung Oi-sie, appears to have become an official cold-water pourer concerning reform matters.
Any suggestion of increased public participation is stuffily rebuffed, even though most people acknowledge that a lack of mandate has made Hong Kong increasingly ungovernable.
The idea to include all publicly elected legislative and district councillors in the election committee was a good and valid one, as it would help dilute the usual business and professional vested interests.
Her view that our district councillors would not be up to the task is actually quite insulting.
It is obvious that in Hongkongers' quest for universal suffrage, we are going to get democracy with Chinese characteristics. But if change is just a sham, then Hong Kong stability may be undermined.
Political reform requires that matters of both candidacy and constituency are meaningfully addressed.
Therefore, it is also disappointing that Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is attempting to limit the scope and consideration of the public's views.
Both ladies, Leung and Lam, should approach the public consultation with a more open mind and realise that meaningful change is warranted and necessary.
I. M. Wright, Happy Valley
Why no action against courier company?
While the feeble and often perfunctory efforts of the traffic wardens in Queen's Road Central outside New World Tower are to be a matter for discussion at another time, I write to ask what kind of permit allows a certain courier company to use a plainly marked loading area in Wyndham Street outside Entertainment Building to sort its packages for delivery.
Every morning, I see employees sorting packets in the street, clearly an activity more suited to company premises than the roadside.
If I were to set up a desk in the middle of the pavement in Central, I would be moved on in quite short order, so could someone please tell me why police do nothing about these goings-on?
Lester Lim, Mid-Levels
Officials turn blind eye to shortage
There is a serious shortage of available places at schools in Hong Kong which are near the border with Shenzhen, because mainland parents are competing for available places.
This problem is not going to go away as thousands more children living on the mainland will come here for their education if they are entitled to do so.
This puts local parents under immense pressure. They may have to get time off work, which they cannot afford to do, to join queues with mainlanders seeking available places.
The government appears to have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, hoping that the problem will eventually be solved. However, it has to accept that there are not enough school places in areas near the border and it has to find ways to solve this problem and eradicate the shortage.
Terrance Ng, Sha Tin
Some older buildings are beyond help
I refer to the letter by Mark Peaker ("Use surplus to install smoke detectors", January 1). He mentioned the fire last month in the 24-storey Continental Mansion in North Point. This was clearly an older building which had maintenance problems.
In older buildings where a lot of money would be required to solve such problems, which may be structural, electrical or mechanical, installing smoke detectors may not be the solution.
About 15 years ago, I visited an old residential building in North Point.
It was in a dreadful state and the lift made a cranking sound. Electric cables were hanging from the ceiling.
The management company had a terrible reputation.
I was told the monthly management fee was not enough to pay for the maintenance work the building so desperately needed.
In buildings like this, I think the best thing the owners can do is try and strike a deal and get some cash by selling the site so that property developers can do something with it.
Pang Chi-ming, Fanling
MTR reaches out to young fans online
In the letter "Passengers prefer to use the MTR" (January 1), Sion Chan pointed out the relative advantages of the MTR over buses.
It is more convenient and, especially for students, offers attractive fare discounts.
It is interesting to take a look at these transport providers from the perspective of corporate communication. Social media is an increasingly important channel through which a company promotes its vision and values and does so in an interesting and interactive way. Image is important in order to accurately reflect your identity as a company and so social media does matter.
Netizens find it easy to grab the information they need about the MTR, such as operation updates, exclusive offers and travel tips. On the MTR's official fan page on Facebook, young passengers can offer positive and negative comments on transport services.
KMB's Facebook page is also interesting. Given the huge competition they face in the public transport service field, it is necessary for bus companies to try their best to provide the latest information online to passengers, especially secondary and tertiary students.
With the advancement of communications technology, these firms face opportunities as well as challenges.
Charlie W. Chan, Sha Tin
Language barrier must be overcome
Unemployment is a big problem for ethnic minorities. Many cannot secure a university place and often end up with low paying jobs, solely due to their poor Chinese-language proficiency.
Ethnic minorities in local schools take the Diploma of Secondary Education exam alongside their Chinese peers.
Some schools do not offer alternatives like the General Certificate of Education (GCE) or the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) Chinese and these students are forced into the local Chinese curriculum.
It is not suited to their needs and the government must find a solution.
There must be a separate "Chinese as a second language" curriculum for minority students who are not native Chinese-language speakers so they will be able to write, listen to and speak Chinese fluently.
This will provide schools with a solid curriculum goal, and they can then outline their teaching methods to suit it accordingly.
Moreover, the government could offer special training for teachers teaching local non-Chinese students.
The chief executive needs to address this issue and ensure that our young citizens from ethnic minorities are given the chance to learn the local language and find decent jobs.
Joy Pamnani, Tsim Sha Tsui