Letters to the Editor, June 28, 2014

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 June, 2014, 5:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 June, 2014, 5:03am

Discrimination integral part of daily life

I am visiting Hong Kong on holiday and read the letter by Sarah Bridgit Collum ("Be tolerant to visitors from mainland", June 16).

Discrimination, in itself, is not immoral or unlawful.

We each discriminate in our daily lives in different ways. For example, in deciding which children to accept in schools and universities; which category of patient receives medication in the allocation of funding; in how and where we spend our finite monies.

Discrimination is integral to the way society functions with finite time and resources.

The decision taken to discriminate becomes a matter for ethical debate if, and only if, the basis for the decision was unjust by taking into account irrelevant considerations or failing to account for relevant ones.

I do not agree with your correspondent in relation to her plea against discriminating against mainlanders in the context of certain antisocial behaviour publicly witnessed recently.

Education is important but surely not as effective as explicit shows of approbation where someone behaves kindly and socially, or disapproval where someone doesn't, where those acts are unequivocally antisocial and present an obvious risk to public health.

I can't think of a more antisocial act than allowing your child to urinate in public view in a densely populated area like Mong Kok.

Jonathan Lewis, Bath, England


Address the tourist impact on locals

There has been a great deal of discussion about the numbers of individual visitors from north of the border.

The behaviour of some mainland tourists has provoked a strong reaction from local residents, and in some cases there have been confrontations.

The response of senior officials in the government is to urge Hong Kong people to be more patient towards these visitors.

I do not think that response can solve the problems that exist. The government is completely ignoring the difficulties local people sometimes experience, because of the influx of these tourists.

Prices of many products have risen and shopping malls and other venues are even more crowded than before.

The government does not appear to want to take responsibility for these problems. However, it has to admit that they exist.

If it does not try to deal with unreasonable price rises and congested malls then the conflicts between the two groups will continue.

One suggestion is to build more shopping malls near the border. Also, customs officers could explain what is acceptable behaviour in Hong Kong to mainland visitors and help to bridge the cultural gap.

Kwok Sze-ping, Cheung Sha Wan


Reopen schools to train more nurses

As an ordinary Hong Kong citizen, I am shocked to learn that, according to a survey by a nursing staff association, there is still a lack of nurses in public hospitals despite the constant supply of graduate nurses from universities ("Nurses stressed as staffing hits unhealthy level", June 25).

Assuming the survey's findings are correct, there is a way for the government and the Hospital Authority to deal with this problem. Government schools of nursing should be reopened to train student nurses and increase supply.

It is high time the authorities concerned gave serious consideration to this recommendation.

Lawrence Choi, Tuen Mun


Snowden's selfless actions deserve praise

I refer to the report ("Hero or traitor? What Hongkongers think of Edward Snowden", June 13).

I am very glad that selfless people like Edward Snowden still exist.

Some may say that what he did was stupid and that he violated laws because they did not suit his own interests.

He has certainly experienced extreme highs and lows since he exposed the mass surveillance carried out by agencies under the control of the US government. But what motivated him to reveal these secrets?

He certainly did not do it for personal gain.

Edward Snowden believed that his actions could better protect the public and their rights in the US and abroad.

As a consequence, he has lost his relationships with those dearest to him, including his girlfriend and his family.

For the greater good, he gave up his job and what was a stable life.

I think he should be praised for the actions that he has taken.

Natalie Yuen Choi-wah, Hung Hom


Immersion not key to learning languages

I am a serving native English teacher and refer to the letter by Professor Stephen Krashen, of the University of Southern California, on the native-speaking English teacher scheme ("Students need immersion, not NETs", June 19).

I would like to ask him two questions.

I would like to know what he really knows about teaching a class of surly teenagers who have no interest in education in a challenging Hong Kong school.

I would also like to ask him what it has to do with him anyway up there in his ivory tower in the University of Southern California.

I used to be a follower of his when I trained to be an English as-a-second-language (ESL) teacher and studied his book on second language acquisition. However, 25 years of experience have taught me that he is simply wrong.

Long periods of immersion in a language-learning environment do not automatically produce fluent foreign language speakers. In addition, we do not all possess an equal measure of the baby's magical language-learning talent right through to adulthood.

Some of my students in my Band 3 school are clearly less talented language learners than others.

Some of my foreign-educated colleagues are clearly more talented than others.

I have been learning Cantonese for 20 years in a good environment, but I am clearly less talented than the priests at my school who speak like natives while I am still struggling.

A bit of immersion in the real world might do Professor Krashen a lot of good.

Warren Russell, Tseung Kwan O


Imperfect NETs scheme still beneficial

I refer to the letter written by Professor Stephen Krashen ("Students need immersion, not NETs", June 19).

There is no doubt that our local teachers have skills that native-speaking English teachers (NETs) do not possess. However, that is no reason to end the NET scheme, as our local teachers also have shortcomings.

As a secondary student, I find that the local teachers have what I would call impure English.

There are areas of language, such as language patterns, where native speakers have a far greater level of proficiency than local teachers. Since NETs are less able (or unable) to communicate in Cantonese, they must communicate with their Hong Kong students in English. This effectively fosters an English immersion-learning environment.

Of course, the scheme is not perfect. Given that their first language is English, NETs cannot teach it as a second language in the way local teachers can.

I believe that native speakers possess a feel for their own language that enables them to teach in a unique way. A language can be beautiful and elegant. To genuinely understand it, you must be immersed in it. I have been taught by both NETs and local teachers and there are stark differences between the two groups.

There are aspects of language that local teachers cannot express. They are unable to make me feel that I am in an English-learning environment where I must use it as my only language. It is far better for a native English speaker to teach students than teachers who have English as their second language.

The problems with the NET scheme in Hong Kong are to do with our education system and local learning environment. It is this environment which drags students down so that they are below par.

Theodor H.T. Yu, Mong Kok


Give Chiellini antibiotics for Suarez bite

The biting of Italy's Giorgio Chiellini by Uruguay's Luis Suarez in the World Cup is reminiscent of a vicious barroom brawl, except that there is no excuse from alcohol-fuelled disinhibition ("Fifa bites back with sanctions on Suarez", June 27).

From a player safety perspective, I would be concerned about the high risk of bite-related bacterial infection from mouth and dental pathogens, and Chiellini should complete a course of preventative antibiotics.

Let us hope that this ugly episode does not set an example of permitted behaviour by children playing soccer all over the world.

Joseph Ting, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia