Letters to the Editor, January 25, 2014

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 January, 2014, 4:07am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 January, 2014, 4:07am

Minority of employers are abusive

I refer to the report ("New victims emerge as maids march for justice", January 20).

There have been press reports claiming foreign domestic helpers are vulnerable and that many are treated poorly by employers.

Many organisations have called for the government to bring in new laws so the maids are given extra protection.

However, we should not forget stories over the years which have reported abuse by some helpers.

There have been cases where they have been accused of abusing elderly people and children in their care.

For example, in 2002, a domestic helper was jailed for shaking her employer's baby so that the boy had symptoms consistent with shaken-baby syndrome.

There is no doubt that some employers are guilty of misbehaviour. This is a cause for concern and foreign helpers should be protected. However, I think such employers are in the minority.

If officials feel new legislation is needed, such a law must ensure protection for employers and employees and there must be a period of public consultation.

I would also like to see an oversight body which can settle disputes between migrant workers and employers.

This can help to ensure more harmonious relationships all round.

Man Siu-man, Hung Hom


Mistreatment of maids like a form of slavery

My wife and I have been living in Hong Kong for more than 11 years.

We have many friends who work as domestic helpers and have heard about how some employers treat them.

Some put web cameras in the apartment so that they can watch them from work.

Also, some do not give their helpers enough food to eat, so my wife saves food that they can have.

I cannot understand how people, who could be our neighbours, can do these types of things to individuals who are part of the family and mostly responsible for taking care of the children. It is disgusting and amounts to a modern type of slavery.

Hong Kong is proud to be a world city of Asia but the citizens of Hong Kong obviously have to be educated and forced to stop having these kinds of attitudes towards people from poorer countries

We don't have a helper, but we will eventually need one since our daughter is growing older and my wife wants to go back to work.

However, the problem in Hong Kong is that the flats are too small so it is difficult to find space for a helper's bed.

There is a rule in Hong Kong that requires helpers to live with their employers.

This requirement needs to be changed. A helper who is abused should not be forced to live with the abuser.

These workers should be allowed to rent a room outside and just work during the day as a helper. That would be a great improvement for a lot of people in the city.

Jan Hokerberg, Tuen Mun


Slaughter of dolphins is Japan's shame

I refer to the report ("Dolphin village keeping up bloody tradition", January 20).

The number of dolphins captured [in the cove in Taiji, Japan] was not 25, as your story said, but in the region of 250. Of these, about 40 to 50 were indeed sold as chattels to marine parks and the same number again were brutally slaughtered, though most Japanese don't eat dolphin meat, which is laden with mercury.

More than 100 were driven back out to sea - not out of kindness, but because the price on their heads was not high enough. Many of these were juveniles, whose long-term survival without their mothers is unlikely.

Despite Japanese claims that this is a tradition (and therefore acceptable?), dolphin slaughters do not have a particularly long history and only continue today as a not-so- lucrative sideline to the theme park industry.

Everyone who visits a dolphin show is part of this brutality - it's a very simple question of supply and demand, and as long as there are people who think watching dolphins perform in a concrete tank is entertaining, there will be butchers waiting to corral dolphins. Each dolphin caught, sold and possibly air-freighted around the world is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The less cute or marketable ones are collateral damage and if their slow, agonising death is part of Japan's culture, then the whole country should be ashamed.

Janet Walker, spokesperson, Hong Kong Dolphinwatch


Rent controls at odds with free market

I refer to John Fleming's letter ("Rent controls are needed in Hong Kong", January 20).

As there is a long waiting list for public housing flats, I can understand why many would think rent controls in the private property sector would be a good idea. They would ensure that people on low incomes could find affordable and decent accommodation.

However, there is a downside as Hong Kong prides itself on its free-market economy and rent controls are not consistent with that philosophy. It could adversely affect investor confidence. This might make Hong Kong less competitive.

The government would have to think carefully before implementing such a policy.

Samuel Lai, Tseung Kwan O


Disruption not best way to get point across

Regarding Michelle Chan's letter about Occupy Central ("Group should aim to be far less radical", January 20), I think it is definitely the case that this movement will cause a great deal of inconvenience to people's daily lives and I back the reasons she gives for not supporting its intended tactics.

As a Hongkonger, I do appreciate their motives and principles. The Occupy Central supporters are passionate about their cause and their desire to see the implementation of universal suffrage for the 2017 election of the chief executive.

However, I think the protests they are planning will go too far. There will be adverse consequences to their actions, such as serious traffic congestion. Hong Kong is a very well-ordered society. That good order will be disrupted.

I urge them to adopt a far less drastic strategy to get their point across. They could organise petitions and their leaders could write to the government.

After all, the administration has made it clear it wants a dialogue with the public on this issue and it regards this consultation process as important.

Kenneth Chan Yu-hin, Sai Kung


City got much colder in the 19th century

Many Hongkongers, especially street sleepers, the aged and the infirm, do not take kindly to the cold spells that we endure every winter. But the low temperatures last usually only a few days and, bearing in mind our glorious winter sunshine, we have a great deal to be thankful for compared to most territories.

Records show that, overall, the 19th century was colder than the present, and if you look around at the few buildings left which were constructed before the second world war, several have chimney stacks and fireplaces which used to burn solid fuel.

The lowest temperature in urban Hong Kong was zero degrees Celsius, recorded on January 18, 1893, at 31 metres above sea level at the Hong Kong Observatory.

Colder temperatures have been recorded on Tai Mo Shan and high ground, and icicles between 15 and 30cm long were recorded in 1893 on The Peak which at the time was white with hoar frost.

It had drizzled the night before and the wet road had frozen. The following morning, two British members of the legal profession were spotted making a long ice-slide of the type that I enjoyed running towards and sliding along in my youth in England.

In my almost 60 years in Hong Kong, the lowest temperature I recall was about five degrees Celsius.

Dan Waters, Mid-Levels


Skin whitening OK if products properly tested

I refer to the letter by Anna Chan Ching-yee ("Appalled by cosmetic products", January 20).

She is against people using skin whitening cream and says people should stick with the skin colour they were born with. She describes the practice of a person trying to lighten their skin as a form of self-loathing.

Also, she highlights the health risks that might be associated with the use of some of these products if people are not sure about the ingredients.

I do not think there is anything wrong with someone improving their appearance, since no one is perfect. Using skin-whitening products is just the same as using cosmetics. There is nothing wrong with it.

If people feel unhappy with their skin colour and by changing become more self-confident and happier with themselves, what is wrong with that?

Some people might have a deep tan from sunbathing and want to lighten that tan.

The health issue is important and there may be some products with ingredients that have not been properly tested to ensure they are safe to use.

Officers from the relevant government department must carry out strict checks of all the products that are for sale in Hong Kong.

Cindy Yuen, Kwun Tong