Letters to the Editor, June 10, 2014

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2014, 4:51am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2014, 4:51am

Provocative stand taken by Beijing

I refer to the report, "Manila, Hanoi 'using Asean to attack China'" (June 5). The Beijing-based think tank is obviously not thinking very clearly.

The Philippines and Vietnam are both members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and China is not. The 10 member states of Asean form a large arc encompassing the southern, eastern and western limits of the South China Sea.

A stated aim of this political and economic organisation is the protection of regional peace and stability, and the discussion of differences peacefully. When China, the (noisy) northern neighbour, is being aggressively assertive over 90 per cent of this massive area of sea, it is completely normal and expected that all Asean member states are seriously concerned by China's incursions and extravagant territorial claims.

It is fanciful when this government think tank states that Hanoi and Manila want to "exploit Asean and create division and uncertainty", when to any fair-minded neutral observer this appears to be China's goal.

Asean's motto is "One Vision, One Identity, One Community", so for Huang Guifang to say that "Asean nations will have to consider their national interests" seems provocative.

China is obviously concerned that these countries have a total population of over 600 million people and, when acting together, their economies are more advanced, more cost-effective, and now faster-growing than China's, which is exhibiting signs of stalling.

An original motivation for the birth of Asean in 1967 was the common fear of communism. Despite its protestations that it has benign intentions, China is still viewed with circumspection by its southern neighbours.

The 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown is a reminder to everyone that China is still a one-party authoritarian state, and as such does not share the same values as the founding Asean countries.

K. Y. Leung, Shouson Hill


Cathay's extra charge at airport cynical

Following the death of my brother, I booked a flight to Kuala Lumpur to attend his funeral using Cathay Pacific's online service.

My original return date was May 29. However, due to a change in family circumstances, I had to change it to June 4, for which I paid an extra HK$600. I received confirmation by phone and printed documentation of the change.

Before leaving Hong Kong on May 24, I checked my flight details at Central check-in in Hong Kong station. At the Cathay desk, staff confirmed the details of my return flight and the date. I was asked if during my phone call staff had told me of the HK$600 change-of-date charge and I said they had.

On June 4, at the check-in desk in Kuala Lumpur, I was shocked to be told that if I wanted to board the plane, I had to pay an extra HK$2,755. I explained the situation and provided documents. However, I was flatly told that if I didn't pay up, I would not be on the flight. I was left with no choice but to pay up.

I asked for a helpline number to call but was told Cathay could not be reached in that way.

My luggage was not included on that flight and was delivered to my home at 3am on June 5, causing great inconvenience to me and my family.

I have documents to confirm my unhappy experience, and Cathay will no doubt have a record of the messages I exchanged with its ground staff in Hong Kong prior to my trip.

They were aware, too, that this was a trip made at a time of bereavement and so I am stunned that an airline that considers itself to be world-class can blunder so badly - and mismanage the resulting situation so cynically.

I would be interested to read Cathay's response through these columns.

R. Lourdes, Pok Fu Lam


Development needs are very important

While I appreciate the importance of protecting heritage buildings, the government also has to keep implementing development projects in the city to enable it to deal with the population explosion and youth unemployment.

The continuing economic development of Hong Kong by the government is important. Land must be made available for homes and new businesses. It would be a pity if this was not made possible because of buildings being given heritage protection. The administration needs the money it derives from land sales.

Also, Hong Kong is a small city with a large population. Many people are waiting for housing. One way to solve the problem is to redevelop old buildings.

Conservation of historic buildings is important, but so is increasing the housing supply. I think more homes can be found in the western part of the New Territories.

People say we need to preserve historic buildings, but also call for more flats to be built.

We need to strike the right balance between preserving our past and collective memories and solving our social problems, such as providing more housing.

Suen Hoi-ken, Kowloon Tong


Courts must get tough with dog poisoners

Poisoning of dogs is a common occurrence in Hong Kong. Over the last decade, many dogs have been poisoned on Lamma. One resident is leaving Hong Kong because of it.

There should be stricter controls on the sale of toxic chemicals and tougher punishments in the courts for people who are found guilty of attempting to poison dogs.

I do not understand why people do this. After all, the dogs are well looked after by their owners and do not deserve this fate. Anyone with an ounce of compassion would never consider poisoning a dog.

Apart from the dog suffering a tragic death, it is also a cause of emotional trauma for the owners who love their dogs and consider them to be part of the family. Basically, they have to cope with the fact that they have lost a loyal companion.

They can suffer grief and may end up suffering from depression.

They may even feel misplaced guilt that they were not able to save their pet from this fate.

When you read about so many incidents of dogs being poisoned, you have to ask questions about society and whether it has developed and matured as much as some people claim.

Can it really be called a world-class city when some people continue to kill animals apparently with impunity in this barbaric fashion?

Also, this poison is laid out indiscriminately.

This means that humans, including children, could be at risk of ingesting the poison by accident.

That is why we need tougher punishments and strict enforcement of the law. This will offer dogs a greater degree of protection.

A ban on the sale of some poisons, such as rat poison, must be considered.

Certainly, something must be done to try to curb this heinous crime.

Milea Lee Daxon, Lantau


Beaches need well-trained lifeguards

There was another swimmer who went missing at Shek O, on June 2.

There have been numerous reports and articles about drownings and near-drownings at Shek O.

Open water swimming is considered to be the fastest growing sport in the world since its inclusion in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

My friend, who was a strong swimmer and had not been drinking, had a near-drowning there in November 2011. She is still in a hospital in a coma.

She was found near the shoreline and no one on the beach saw what happened to her.

It was a weekday morning and there were no lifeguards on the beach or in the lookouts. The incident happened within 15 minutes of her last conversation.

The following measures must be implemented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, as found in countries such as Australia:

  • Well-trained lifeguards patrolling popular beaches for extended hours and throughout the year at danger spots such as Shek O;
  • Signs indicating when no lifeguards are on duty;
  • Regularly adjusted proper signage on beaches about rips;
  • Adjusted flags indicating safe spots for swimming throughout the year; and
  • Signs indicating beaches are closed when too dangerous for swimming, such as during typhoons.

Surely the cost of implementing these measures is tiny compared to the heartbreak of all the grieving families and financial cost of caring for the injured, such as my friend, in hospitals.

S. Procter, Wan Chai


Teenagers should find time to relax

Students in Hong Kong face a heavy workload.

If some of them work too hard, they will be deprived of time to relax and may not even get enough sleep.

They may continue with their school work late into the night and this can be harmful to their health.

Their workload increases if they also have to go to tutorial classes in the evening and at weekends.

The stress they suffer from may actually get worse if they are put under intense pressure by parents who have unrealistic expectations about what they can achieve.

They may also suffer from the competitive nature of education where so many young Hongkongers are competing for a limited number of places at our universities.

There is nothing wrong with working hard, but young people must find the time to relax and try to enjoy their school years.

Ella Choi, Yau Yat Chuen