Letters to the Editor, May 1, 2014
Only asking visitors to show respect
Some mainlanders have used the internet to call for fellow citizens not to visit Hong Kong after June 1, because of the bad attitude they face when they come to the city.
The comments followed a report about a picture showing a toddler being allowed to relieve himself on a busy street in Mong Kok. It also prompted a backlash from other mainland internet users urging parents to take their children to Hong Kong "and let them urinate in the streets" ("'Pee-in-HK' call over picture furore", April 25).
It appears that some parents from north of the border think it strange that residents here would use their smartphones and take this kind of photograph.
Some netizens have pointed out that through their shopping trips here mainland tourists have made the SAR into a major international financial centre. However, the money made from this area of retailing is only a tiny part of our gross domestic product.
What is needed is a change of attitude by mainland tourists coming here.
They have to understand that some behaviour is not considered acceptable. For example, they must realise that they cannot jump queues for public transport.
Like everyone else they must go to the end of the queue.
Hong Kong is an international city with international standards. Visitors from north of the border will be welcomed if they respect that. Conflicts and confrontation can be avoided if there is a change of mindset.
Yoanna Lo Miu-hin, Kwai Chung
Offering online can help the environment
I refer to the letter by Phoebe Lo ("Online tributes during festival disrespectful", April 25).
While it is regrettable that some family members, instead of taking the time to visit the graves of their ancestors during Ching Ming, made offerings online, it is perhaps time that the merits of online offerings be explored in order to cut down on waste.
The large amounts of food, flowers, paper and other materials wasted during the biannual cemetery rituals could be saved through migration to online offerings. Streets and buildings would be cleaner if the burning of incense went digital.
With the advent of electricity, Catholics [in some cases] gave up the dangerous practice of burning candles in front of statues of the Virgin Mary and saints.
Hongkongers should consider how the negative impact on the environment of some traditional rituals could be mitigated through the use of technology.
Ancestors would probably applaud the return of the clear blue skies they were accustomed to and a reduction in foul-smelling landfills.
Candy Tam, Wan Chai
Schools in Netherlands use dictation
Trista Wong is wrong in saying that dictation is not used in the Dutch education system ("Not a sensible use of resources", April 22).
Both word and sentence dictation are routinely used to check retention of practised spellings.
It's used as an assessment tool and in remedial teaching as well. Since 1990 we have even had an annual "Grand Dictation of the Dutch Language" on national television, which includes many tricky and uncommon words. Embarrassingly enough, it's usually a Flemish-speaking Belgian who wins the contest.
In addition, many towns and cities organise their own annual dictation challenge, both for adults and students.
Josephine Bersee, Happy Valley
Better chance now for ethnic minorities
Young people from ethnic minorities living here experience a lot of problems with their studies in Hong Kong's local schools, given that they are not native Chinese speakers.
Many of the youngsters can speak perfect Cantonese, but fall down with their written Chinese.
This creates problems with the Chinese-language subject that is part of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.
Getting good results in this exam is essential if you want to get a place at a university in Hong Kong and so these young people are at a disadvantage compared to native Chinese-speaking students.
In the past, many children from non-Chinese-speaking families were encouraged to join schools run by the English Schools Foundation.
However, the ESF has now become too expensive for many families with the higher fees it is now charging.
They are too expensive for those ethnic minority students whose family is on a low income.
They are therefore faced with limited options in education and have to join local schools where, as I said, they struggle with the Chinese language in class.
I think the government's decision to launch new courses teaching Chinese as a second language will be a big help to these ethnic minority students. This initiative will enable them to integrate into mainstream Chinese-language classes.
I certainly hope that over time the difficulties these young people have faced with their education and aspirations in Hong Kong will be solved.
The government has made a good start and is clearly aiming to provide equal opportunities to all young people in Hong Kong.
Dorothy Lo Pui-yan, Tsuen Wan
Encourage students to be creative
Over the past few years, there have been heated debates about Hong Kong's education system and what changes should, or should not, be made.
The present system has a tendency to turn our next generation into robots.
It comes down to how well you can score in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE). It controls the lives of students and they are taught when preparing for tests in some subjects that there is only one right answer to a question. This hampers their creativity and prevents them from developing analytical skills and thinking independently.
Take, for example, paper two of Chinese language in the HKDSE, on writing skills. When it comes to writing you should be encouraged to be creative and imaginative. Yet, pupils try to learn how to answer the question perfectly. I think the question is designed to make it easier to mark.
Schools should place greater emphasis on the arts and they should encourage their pupils to try and be more creative.
The government needs to improve the education system.
Millie Shum Tan-yu, Kwai Chung
Come clean over express rail-line delay
I am concerned over the delays to the express rail line which will link Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou and the explanations given by the MTR Corporation.
One reason given was heavy rainfall in March [that caused the breakdown of a tunnel-boring machine].
This is a totally unacceptable explanation, given that the completion date for the project is now delayed by two years.
I have read some press reports which have suggested that the real reason is that the MTR Corp did not have enough workers on the express rail construction site. This would be more likely than extreme weather conditions.
I think the company has to stand up and give the real reasons for the postponement and there must be full disclosure to avoid the perception that the public is being cheated.
It should also come clean because the news of the delay has damaged the company's reputation. It is a reputation which has already been tarnished by problems with the MTR system, which have caused delays for passengers on some lines. However, despite these problems it keeps raising fares. I think the government should review the fare adjustment mechanism.
It could consider increasing penalties for breakdowns to try and force MTR Corp executives to realise problems with the system are a serious issue. There must be closer monitoring of the network.
I hope the express rail link can be finished as soon as possible as delays can affect the competitiveness of Hong Kong.
Cannis Wong Ming-yan, Tsuen Wan
Ensure quieter vehicles on tourist island
Cheung Chau is promoted as a traffic-free and peaceful island. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Dining recently with friends at the harbourfront, our conversation was repeatedly interrupted by an almost constant stream of noisy and smoky polluting two-stroke cargo vehicles.
This nuisance was exacerbated by numerous battery-powered trolleys which, although silently powered, run on steel wheels generating a deafening rumble on the pavement. This is surely unacceptable for a tourist island and it must be awful for nearby residents having to put up with this day-long din.
I am not suggesting transporting of goods should stop on Cheung Chau to suit the comfort of diners or residents, but surely the government could insist that only battery-powered vehicles running on rubber tyres can be used. I noted such a vehicle is already in use by St John Hospital on the island.
Doug Miller, Tai Po