Letters to the Editor, April 11, 2014

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 April, 2014, 4:29am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 April, 2014, 4:29am

It's critical to learn to think for ourselves

I refer to Regina Ip's letter regarding liberal studies ("Flawed liberal studies should become an elective subject again", April 7). Rarely have I read such an incoherent jumble of arguments.

Doubtless there are some problems in the teaching and marking of liberal studies as it is a new core subject, but all innovations have such issues; if we were to abandon everything that is a little bit challenging, I can't imagine how Ms Ip thinks the great intellectual giants she purports to admire would have achieved anything.

Incidentally, surely her remark, "Book stores are now devoid of the works of Western and Chinese intellectual giants who contributed to making Hong Kong such a dynamic city", is a prime example of an unsubstantiated assertion, which any visit to a book store would quickly negate?

She talks about "objective theory" as opposed to "subjective views". I am not sure what she means in the context of social sciences and humanities. Of course, children should learn to find, evaluate and use evidence, rather than simply asserting an opinion, but that is what all historians do when they attempt to reconstruct the past, and what people - including politicians - should do when advancing their ideas about how a society ought to conduct itself. But these remain subjective. They are not absolute truths.

One of the main lessons students can learn from liberal studies is that, in the realm of human affairs, there is no single "correct answer" - rather, there are many contesting views and examples of contradictory evidence, which need critical thought and evaluation.

Students who have such intellectual experiences at school will be more valuable as university students and as employees, but - even more importantly - as citizens of a democratic society.

Sue Sparks, Sha Tin


Elect to ease the burdens of liberal studies

Regina Ip is right when she says that self and personal development is not an academic subject and should be taught outside the classroom ("Flawed liberal studies should become an elective subject again", April 7). Yet that is not the purpose of liberal studies - a subject that aims, primarily, to develop a student's critical mind.

As for the independent inquiry studies project [that is part of the liberal studies subject], I agree that it is a burden to both teachers and students.

If truth be told, I know many of my classmates are making up statistics, and I am sure the authority knows it as well. But, then, who can say they are really wrong? Is a secondary school student really capable of conducting academic research on his or her own?

Indeed, there are many problems in liberal studies. But I don't think we should turn it into an elective subject. In an oil painting, when there is a flaw, we won't create another one. No, we make use of the property of acrylic colour to refine it.

It would be a waste if we directly turn the subject into an elective. Instead, I think the authority should reduce the load of liberal studies by modifying the types of questions that students must answer.

Jacky So, Tuen Mun


Short-term shoppers spark lasting worries

After reading the report "Leung hints at curbs on tourism numbers" (April 5), I wonder if Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying appreciates the irony of him making these comments while inspecting progress on the artificial island that will house the checkpoints on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.

This massive project will give little economic benefit to Hong Kong (as the shipping business will divert to Shenzhen port) other than to channel ever more short-term tourists and their fleets of buses into our city's already overburdened system.

Leung acknowledges this when saying the "government would consider building hotels and shopping malls on a commercial site at the airport and the artificial island".

I suggest the government takes a further step by curtailing the journey of any mainland registered private cars and buses at this island. Ample underground parking could be constructed at both the airport and the island.

The Tung Chung MTR Line and the Airport Express could be extended to the artificial island. These mainland travellers can then switch to public rail transport, so that their congesting and polluting vehicles do not overload our road system and choke us.

Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing, who unsurprisingly thinks there is "no need to curb visitor numbers", is obviously way out of touch with the general public; Hongkongers are greatly concerned about our city's ability to cope with rapidly growing visitor numbers, fuelled mainly by short-term mainland shoppers.

K.Y. Leung, Shouson Hill


Singaporeans revel in a diet of competition

Richard Harris proposed some thoughtful ideas for the development of Hong Kong's financial sector ("Time to make Hong Kong a truly global capital markets hub", April 7). However, I am surprised he should say that "for too long, we have followed the Hong Kong diet - to let Singapore eat our lunch".

No Hongkonger I know enjoys being at the receiving end, let alone for the length of time that the investment manager has described.

The fact is that Hong Kong and Singapore compete very hard for investments; "healthy" rivalry is a good way of raising the bar for each other.

No city is predestined to be a global financial centre - not even New York with the world's largest economy behind its back, or London, which capitalised on its role as the economic pivot of a long-lost colonial empire. Vision and sharp execution are necessary.

As Frankfurt has shown vis-à-vis London, or Tokyo and Seoul vis-à-vis Singapore, the support of a bigger local economy is insufficient for creating a more competitive international financial and business hub.

It is also too early to tell if the Chinese economy is more vibrant than that of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or India, even though it is expected to be the world's largest in the foreseeable future.

Mr Harris may wish to know that many Singaporeans enjoy the occasional meal at Hong Kong's dai pai dongs, but much prefer eating their own lunch of chilli crab, laksa and so forth.

In our highly competitive world of business, success comes mostly from the humble desire to learn and relearn, as well as seizing the right opportunities with intelligence and fortitude. You can only depend so much on other people's "charity" or mistakes.

John Chan, Singapore


Use of filibuster not simply a lot of hot air

Most people think a filibuster is a waste of time, which slows down the legislative process. But, it is an essential tool to prevent evil laws from being passed.

In Hong Kong, functional constituency legislators are chosen only by professionals. They lack public recognition; many are pro-establishment, so the system is unfair.

Under the circumstances, many policies supported by the public cannot be passed, while bad laws are passed. So a filibuster is an effective way to fight poor legislation.

It can also enhance public awareness of major issues and improve political participation.

Filibusters do have a part to play in a democracy. However, I agree that aggressive behaviour in meetings is totally inappropriate.

Sin Huen-pok, Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College


Motorists must embrace safe cycling moves

I welcome the citywide safe cycling campaign that began on Wednesday, to ensure cyclists obey all traffic laws. But will the police also be stringent in enforcing rules against road users that endanger cyclists and other vulnerable groups, such as pedestrians and motorcyclists?

Some drivers of cars and larger vehicles often seem to lack awareness of smaller, slower road users and endanger them by passing too close, turning across their path and speeding. Is it any surprise some cyclists try to escape road dangers by riding on footpaths?

The campaign must be aimed at making cycling safe, if we are to reap the health - and environmental - benefits of human-powered transport.

Allan Dyer, Wong Chuk Hang


Don't gloss over weighty issue of waste paper

I put a copy of the South China Morning Post on our kitchen scale on Friday. It weighed 900grams - 640 grams of which was glossy paper, which is hard to recycle, and 260grams that can (in theory) be recycled. This is only one of many newspapers in Hong Kong, where statistics say we produce 1,270 grams of waste every day.

Shouldn't this make us stop and think? Should the fashion industry and the Post sit down and think? Fortunately, we live in a city with a press that is allowed to print comments like this. Thank you Hong Kong.

Sven Topp, Mui Wo


Editor's note: The Post strives to procure newsprint from manufacturers using raw materials that are recyclable, or have in place sustainable forestry practices. We also sell the circulation returns, including the glossy paper, to recyclers.