Letters to the Editor, May 10, 2015

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 May, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 May, 2015, 12:01am

Shelve this ineffective election plan

Passing the 2017 election plan is not a step forward to resolve the political deadlock we face, but will only tear our society further apart.

Ever since the handover, without a popular mandate, chief executives have been constantly under siege as the public and legislators question their legitimacy. The 2017 election plan is supposed to be a remedy by enfranchising citizens to elect a chief executive who can deal with opposition.

Unfortunately, the election plan is too flawed to achieve this goal. The major defect is that the composition of the nominating committee does not give the electorate a genuine democratic choice.

According to Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the election plan has realised Beijing's promise of "one person, one vote" in the Basic Law. However, passing the 2017 election plan will not put the dispute over democratic reform to rest. First, the pan-democratic camp and its supporters will still deny that a chief executive elected in a "birdcage democracy" has a popular mandate.

Second, since Beijing will claim to have fulfilled its constitutional responsibility, we see little hope that further reforms will be initiated within the existing framework. The precariously divided Hong Kong we saw during the Occupy movement may become a "new normal".

I do not know which sources your editorial ("For HK's sake, let reforms pass", April 23) refers to when claiming that "more than 50 per cent of the public accepts Beijing's framework". Data and polling methods from credible institutes indicate neither side can claim to have a majority.

When an election plan designed to end our political confrontations has produced more hostilities, it may be wiser to shelve this unsolvable dispute until the time is ripe.

Patrick Cheng, Tai Po 

Do rich know value of food they waste?

I am concerned about the uneven distribution of food among the underprivileged and the wealthy.

A lot of food waste is dumped in Hong Kong's landfills by wealthy citizens. We have many impoverished people such as the elderly and new mainland migrants who cannot be sure of eating three meals a day. They cannot find jobs that pay even a low income, so struggle to make ends meet. They have to rely on food handouts to feed their families.

The wealthy do not treasure their food because they have enough money to pay for it. Buffets are a good example. Hotels prepare a lot of food for customers every day, but the leftovers amounts to much more than the eaten food. Also, some people may think the more food they order, the richer they are. So, they order much more than they can eat.

The government must deal with the two sides of the problem. A food bank is just a quick fix, not a cure. What's needed are sound policies to tackle poverty to curb the shortage of food of the grass-roots people.

It is important that the wealthy understand the value of every single grain to the less fortunate so that they will produce less food waste. That will help solve the problem.

Wendy Wong Wai-ting, Sham Shui Po

Demand beats once-a-week visit policy

I am a secondary school student living in Sheung Shui, and I believe that the one-visit-per-week policy for mainland residents will not solve the issue of parallel trading between Hong Kong and the mainland.

First of all, the cost of ferrying the goods is high. Mainlanders and Hongkongers will agree to carry the goods cheaply, and earn more than they can by doing other work.

The new policy can stop mainland traders ferrying the goods, but there are many traders who are Hongkongers. Retirees, for example, will do it because they want to earn more money in their free time. The policy doesn't provide other job opportunities for them that pay as much, so it has failed.

Moreover, when the supply of goods drops in the short term, it cannot meet the high demand on the mainland. The prices of those goods will increase sharply, and that means parallel traders will pay people even more to carry the goods across the border. Therefore, I think it shows that the new policy has solved nothing.

Amy Lai, Sheung Shui

Mainland schools teach 'robot' English

I have noticed that more and more mainlanders have received excellent results on their international English exams. But does it mean they have received a proper education in the language?

I participated in an exchange programme in Shanghai during the Easter holiday. In the English textbooks we used, I saw numerous errors in grammar and vocabulary exercises. When I told my host student we seldom use textbooks, he was shocked. He also had a difficult time talking with me in English.

On the mainland, English teachers focus on grammar and translation more than real usage. Students must memorise grammar rules and vocabulary, but they don't know how to really use them.

They read textbooks, but they spell the words like robots. Students study English not to learn the language, but just to pass the exam.

By contrast, Hong Kong English-medium of instruction students are seldom forced to do boring grammar and vocabulary exercises. We write compositions to express creative ideas. We listen to English radio programmes and talk in class because it improves our English in real-life situations.

What I learnt from all of this is that even if mainland students get high scores in English exams, they might have difficulty using it in real life.

English is not just a stairway to climb to get into university, but also a language to communicate with foreigners. Hong Kong students may not score 100 per cent on a grammar test, but we know how to use the language in real life. Mainland schools that want to improve their students' level of English need to adopt more active teaching methods.

Henry Wong Hei-yip, Kennedy Town

Annual road test has turned into a con job

In March, I went to take my annual car roadworthiness test, and was told the first available appointment was in 10 weeks. I got the exact same message from another garage.

Every other year, it took no more than a few days. I was told it could be done sooner if I paid HK$2,000.

How did this lawfully required service become a con, like paying extra for an iPhone because you can't get one in the shop? Are car owners supposed to wait for 10 weeks? That's ridiculous.

Scott Purkiss, Wan Chai

Expansion of plastic bag levy confusing

The 50 cents plastic bag levy that was introduced in 2009 has now been expanded, and I think the change in the attitude of Hong Kong residents towards the scheme is a very positive development.

Many of them now bring their own bags when they go shopping in supermarkets and other stores.

However, the expanded policy is quite complicated. If you buy loose oranges, you can have a free flat-top bag, but if they are wrapped in packaging, you must pay for the bag.

The government needs to keep promoting the policy so residents are clear about all aspects of it.

Despite some teething problems, I think the expanded levy is effective and will lead to reduced use of plastic bags.

Dani Hui Chui-shan, Kowloon Tong