Letters to the Editor, April 5, 2014
Liberal studies broadens our horizons
As a student, I disagree with those who argue that liberal studies should no longer be a core subject in Hong Kong's schools.
I share the views of the Education Bureau that it is important, as it can help to develop students' critical thinking skills.
They are able to think in a more analytical way by discussing and debating current affairs. This is important because so often students do lack the ability to think independently.
In the past I have been indifferent to topical issues and sometimes failed to understand them. However, that changed when I started reading newspapers regularly. The subject is also important academically, as it gives young people a good foundation for tertiary education. If you look at the framework of liberal studies it covers a variety of disciplines and this helps to broaden students' horizons.
Young Hongkongers are often characterised as being lukewarm about what is happening in their society. Liberal studies can help to change these attitudes.
Critics point to ambiguities in the subject and inconsistencies in marking the exam paper.
Therefore the debate should be about dealing with problems related to the marking scheme rather than whether it should be an elective or a core subject.
Kenneth Yip Siu-hong, To Kwa Wan
Turn off lights, save precious resources
With Hong Kong being an international finance centre, many large companies have their offices here and some even their own buildings - their corporate headquarters.
Often they keep the lights on in these buildings and the external lighting illuminated even late at night.
Commercial lighting on the outside of buildings, such as billboards, causes serious light pollution. This is a waste of electricity and it can also affect nearby residents and make it difficult for them to get a good night's sleep.
The government has tried to get across the message about not wasting resources such as energy, but some companies think these lights can continue to attract tourists.
The annual global Earth Hour was held last Saturday. Organised by the WWF, it tries to raise public awareness about light pollution. Many citizens in Hong Kong responded by switching off their lights.
Critics of Earth Hour say that it has little effect as it lasts for such a short period.
However, I would argue that is better than doing nothing. Also, hopefully as more Hongkongers join it each year it will begin to get the message across about the importance of saving our precious resources.
Fion Sy, Yau Yat Chuen
We need more environmental awareness
People from all over the world were encouraged to switch off their lights for 60 minutes on the evening of last Saturday. Also, the lights went off at many famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building.
The Hong Kong government encouraged citizens to join in, but I am sure there were many who kept non-essential lights switched on. I think the main reason for this is that there was a lack of promotion. But many Hongkongers also lack awareness about the increasing importance of environmental protection.
They feel it is just too much trouble for them to switch off these lights for one hour and then turn them on again. And they feel it is not worth the effort, as it will have little effect on their electricity bills.
The government can help change this kind of attitude through education in schools. Then children can tell adults that environmental protection is vital to the next generation.
The government should also support more energy-saving projects.
Eleanor Lui Lok-ching, Lai Chi Kok
Penalty rule not in spirit of sevens rugby
I and many around me last weekend felt the spirit of sevens rugby at the Hong Kong Sevens was being trampled on by the high incidence of penalty kicking for touch - players grabbing the chance, with a simple kick from hand, to secure both territorial advantage and continued possession.
I heard that a Welsh TV commentator made the same complaint. This is one 15-a-side rule that is wholly inappropriate to sevens, where each game lasts only 14 minutes. Surely the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union must have seen how its great tournament was being blighted by this practice.
It should lobby the world body to amend this rule, so players either tap-kick from hand to keep possession, or kick for touch and sacrifice possession, as with any other kick to touch. The double reward currently in place is too big a disincentive to opt for flowing rugby. The two teams who embody the spirit of sevens - Fiji and New Zealand - almost never used this tactic. England, the birthplace of rugby, were the biggest offenders among the top teams.
The HKRFU could remind the world body that spectators will stop coming to sevens tournaments if it's mainly to witness referees relentlessly applying every rule in the book.
The high incidence of penalty kicking to touch was the result of so many penalties being awarded. If this was a frustrating and disheartening spectacle for the fans, I imagine it also was for the players. What then wasted even more time was the referees' constant lecturing of the players at each phase of the breakdown, whether a simple six-man scrum or the line-outs.
The thrills and spills of sevens rugby need rescuing from rupture by overzealous refereeing and by making a small and decisive change to the rule for taking penalties.
Nigel Bruce, North Point
Protect HK's domestic helpers
I am concerned about incidents of abuse and alleged abuse against foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong.
Their governments do not pay sufficient attention to this problem. And Indonesian helpers do not get properly briefed about their rights here.
Also, there has to be more attention paid to some agencies and the money they squeeze out of the maids.
The Hong Kong administration has to do more, because these allegations damage the city's reputation.
Leung Fung-yu, Kwai Chung
Rent hikes risk destroying social fabric
When Braemar Hill Mansions were constructed, part of the complex included a shopping centre.
In the 20 years I have known the area, the shopping centre has contained two restaurants, and at times a pub and a bar. Now there is a 7-Eleven, a pet supply company and many real estate agents. But sitting above the Tutor Time kindergarten is ParknShop, which has served the community for more than 20 years. Now it is closing.
Anecdotal evidence says that the rent has been hiked by a factor of three, and the shop will become an extension of Tutor Time. The last day of trading is tomorrow, but earlier in the week the shelves were already bare, resembling a supermarket in East Berlin in 1970.
And what of all the nearby residents and many hundreds of students in the halls of residence of Hong Kong Shue Yan University? Where are they to buy their provisions and what will become of the shopping centre? ParknShop gave it a focus, a justification for calling it a shopping centre and, yes, a meeting place.
Another piece of social fabric has been destroyed, all in the interests of a few more dollars. It seems that sometimes we have lost sight of the realities of community, of the fabric of society, and dare one even mention social or moral obligations.
The customer service manager Shirley, all her courteous staff and their shop will be long missed.
Graham Price, North Point
Leave MTR priority seats to the elderly
Currently I am on vacation in Hong Kong.
As a visitor, I would like to comment on the annual increase of MTR fares by 3.6 per cent in June.
While appreciating that the company needs to procure large financial resources for further development and expansion of the rail networks to new locations, it should also consider the other factors that affect commuters.
Maybe the management can consider a less painful adjustment since it made a net profit of HK$13 billion last year.
Overall, the services provided by the MTR are reasonable, although the management has to look into the overcrowding situation during peak hours.
I am a former president of the council of the Sabah senior citizens associations in Malaysia and I have noticed that very often students and other passengers occupy priority seats without offering them to elderly passengers and others who deserve them.
There should be regular announcements over the MTR's sound system to educate and remind these young people to do the right thing.
Robert Foo Vui Tsun, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia