Letters to the Editor, June 9, 2014

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 3:25am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 5:46am

Consult SMEs over working hours law

The Standard Working Hours Committee has initiated a large-scale survey of Hongkongers to find out about their working pattern and gauge their opinions on standard hours legislation.

It is important for the committee to also undertake a comprehensive survey of owners of small and medium-sized enterprises, because when it comes to a law stipulating maximum hours for employees, they are major stakeholders.

The impact on them of such legislation will be far-reaching and especially severe, far more than for large corporations, which have sufficient resources to adapt.

There are about 300,000 SMEs here covering businesses ranging from global trading, wedding planning, private detectives to pest control services.

Over the years, many SMEs have developed special survival techniques. But some may struggle to deal with this law and the job security of more than one million employees of SMEs could be under threat.

The way these SMEs operate is complex and the committee cannot fully appreciate that unless it consults them.

If it does not talk with owners of SMEs, the conclusions the committee reaches in its report will be incomplete. I hope committee chairman Dr Leong Che-hung ensures this does not happen.

C. K. Chan, Lai Chi Kok


Change will devalue Nobel Peace Prize

I refer to the report, "Nobel committee may become international" (May 30), and see this as a bad move.

Norway is a small unaligned country with a strong reputation and long tradition for respect for human rights, democracy, moderation and basic fairness. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee of five persons who are chosen by the Norwegian parliament in Oslo, and will obviously project the political values of the country.

In surveys that rate and compare countries, such as "the country with the best reputation", Norway invariably is in the top 10 and normally close to the top. Alfred Nobel chose Norway as the home for his peace prize because of this Scandinavian country's values and independence.

Widening the committee to include people such as Hillary Clinton and Kofi Annan will only increase the political dimension, be against the founder's wishes, and will devalue the award.

Naturally, as a one-party authoritarian state, China does not figure highly on those worldwide surveys, and abhors any "outside interference" that shines a light on its democratic or human rights shortcomings, as illustrated in the article by Jerome A. Cohen ("Arrested freedom", June 2).

China's ignoble response to punish Norway economically for the decision to award the prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo gives the impression of a bully.

Other powerful countries, such as the US and Germany, should have strongly supported Norway. However, China fully understands that when it comes to a choice between money or principles, Western democracies choose money.

J. F. Kay, Lai Chi Kok


Contractor ignoring permit rules

I have always understood the concept of "one county, two systems" to apply between the mainland and Hong Kong. But I now realise that it also has its own local meaning.

If I obtained a government permit for some reason, I would expect, quite rightly, to abide by its conditions. Failure to comply would likely result in fines or even a court appearance. However, this is obviously only one of the two systems.

The second system seems to apply to the more powerful or connected in our society. In Hung Shui Kiu there is a contractor who has been breaking the conditions of his permit for the last three months. This is despite the relevant departments being informed.

The two most common responses are that it is complicated and that "we urge them to comply". I would have thought permit conditions are far from complicated and surely a government department can do more than urge.

Also, you cannot deal directly with the departments but must go through an "efficiency unit", 1823, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Thought Police from Nineteen Eighty-Four. It acts as a protective buffer to the other departments, shielding them from direct criticism.

Is this really the way the Hong Kong SAR works these days, where there are so obviously two systems?

Chris Hancock, Hung Shui Kiu


Can domestic helper also be a driver?

In view of recent letters about non- enforcement of laws, I am particularly interested in those regarding Filipino drivers employed as domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

I am retired and move around with the help of a cane. I live in a village house in Tai Po and have a male domestic helper who only does domestic work as stipulated in the contract.

I will soon need a driver, if only to get me to regular hospital outpatient consultations and therapy sessions. I cannot afford hiring a local driver, at a monthly cost of HK$13,000. Many people I know have hired Filipinos with Hong Kong driving licences. They are employed as domestic helpers at HK$4,010 per month and get an extra HK$1,000 to be drivers.

I want to do the same but do not want to break the law.

Could I ask the director of immigration or commissioner of police to tell me if this would be against the law and would I be prosecuted?

Edward Lee, Tai Po


No need for business lunch food waste

I refer to the letter by Edwin Tong ("Diners can decide to order less food", June 2).

Hongkongers have had to become accustomed to a fast-paced lifestyle. When they are in a rush, they often go to one of the outlets of a fast-food chain.

I seldom see the meals wasted, unless the diner has had to leave quickly to make a phone call or is engrossed in reading and has not finished the meal.

I think the worst examples of wasted food can be found during business lunches and dinners.

Businessmen always order substantial portions. This is a traditional way of showing respect for the customer with whom you are dining. All parties at the dinner are reluctant to ask the waiter to put the leftover food in boxes which they can take home, because this would result in a loss of face.

This practice has to change, so that people either finish what is on their plate or take leftovers with them that could be eaten later.

Pang Chi-ming, Fanling


Save what is left of city's rich heritage

During the colonial era, a lot of buildings with European-style architecture were constructed.

Some of them were prominent, such as the HSBC headquarters and the Legislative Council building in Central. Most of them have gone and I wonder why so few are left standing.

With waste charging, electoral reform and development of the northeast New Territories dominating public debate, heritage conservation has been put on a backburner.

Now, a public consultation period has been launched.

Hong Kong can learn from Britain's heritage conservation policy where historic buildings are put to different uses.

The buildings we have left must be preserved as they are part of our collective memory. Hong Kong citizens should protest loudly when these structures are threatened.

I accept that development projects must also go ahead in the city and older buildings of no heritage value need not be spared the wrecker's ball.

It is important to strike the right balance. Sometimes there will be borderline cases when it is difficult to make a decision on the heritage value of a structure.

Cheung Nga-ying, Kowloon Tong


Referendum can decide fate of filibuster

I am so glad that the filibuster over the budget bill is now at an end. However, before it finally ended, it had cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayers' money.

We now have to ask how we can stop a repeat of such actions during future debates on the annual budget.

If the few diehard lawmakers are adamant and determined to adopt these same tactics as a kind of blackmail, then countermeasures are needed.

I would suggest a referendum to vote on stopping these tactics from being allowed in the Legco chamber. If the "carrot" has failed, the "stick" should not be ruled out.

Peter Wei, Kwun Tong


E-readers might result in eye strain

Some correspondents have commented on the benefits of e-reading. I agree with those who argue that it can revive people's interest in literature.

However, I think there are some disadvantages to intensive reading of books and other material on these devices.

You can spend too long reading books on these screens and suffer eye strain.

Also, people on low incomes cannot afford the e-reader, and find it cheaper to purchase a novel.

Andy Lai Chin-pang , Tai Wai