Letters to the Editor, October 16, 2015

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 October, 2015, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 October, 2015, 5:02pm

Academic freedom is not under threat

I fear that some of our politicians and academics have confused academic freedom with institutional autonomy in the saga over the appointment of a pro-vice-chancellor for the University of Hong Kong.

Academic freedom is preserved when an academic can pursue intellectual excellence to deliver a world-class education to his students. Have any academics or students been denied such freedom or felt it has been compromised at HKU since 1997?

The decision of the HKU council not to appoint Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun as pro-vice-chancellor is therefore not a case of infringement of academic freedom. Before his appointment could be confirmed, Professor Chan "was accused of mishandling a donation passed on from a colleague, Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting" ("University a study in politics of academia", September 30). The council had good reason to doubt if he was the right person for the post of pro-vice-chancellor.

How could the council's decision not to appoint him by a majority compromise the academic freedom of HKU? Students at the university keep saying that they want democracy, but do not accept the decision of a majority of council members which is surely the very essence of true democracy.

The president of the university's student union, Billy Fung Jing-en, has been praised for breaking the council's confidentiality ruling and revealing what was discussed. His decision to do this has been described as an "act of courage".

When mainstream media praises him for his breach of confidentiality, it is telling all our young people that as long as they think they are doing the right thing, the end justifies the means even if it is unethical and breaks accepted rules. Other council members will not break the confidentiality rule so we do not know how accurate Mr Fung's summary of the debate was.

Fung Yuet-shan, Central

Give students flexibility of home study

Correspondents have written to these columns describing advantages traditional schools have over homeschooling.

I believe that homeschooling can help with a child's personal growth in various areas, such as knowledge, health and moral values.

It is pity that students are forced in school to learn a lot of subjects, even those which they just cannot grasp. When they are forced to do something they are no good at and hate, it is a waste of precious time. Even if they could be helped with additional teaching, the teacher simply does not have the time. So they end up having to try and catch up by doing homework until late at night.

In a homeschooling environment, children do not have to stick to a strict school curriculum. They can concentrate on what they are good at and what interests them. They do not fall behind schedule and are less likely to become bored.

When it comes to students' health, it is acknowledged that obesity is on the increase in Hong Kong. This is connected to students' sedentary lifestyle in schools.

Homeschooled children can arrange their own study time, self-assign homework and strike the balance between their studies and getting enough exercise.

 

School students develop social skills by interacting with their peers. However, homeschooled children need not be isolated. They can interact with children in their neighbourhood.

Some children will be more suited to schools and others to homeschooling.

Lee Hiu-ching, Tseung Kwan O 

Border town not what it used to be

I refer to the letter by Stephen Potts ("Quality of life worse in Sheung Shui", October 13).

I agree with your correspondent that Sheung Shui was a pleasant and quiet town before 1997.

I remember going to cha chaan teng for yum cha and enjoying a quiet hour with a newspaper and no one would disturb me.

It was easy to find an on-street meter to park my car and I could have a relaxing stroll through the streets.

Now the situation is chaotic in restaurants, supermarkets and banks and even the train station. And everywhere you go, you smell cigarette smoke with so many mainland visitors smoking. Perhaps the only chance for peace to be restored in Sheung Shui is when a new shopping mall is completed next to the Lok Ma Chau border crossing.

Pang Chi-ming, Fanling

Loss of faith in system's accountability

Alex Lo says to improve governance and regain public trust, the chief executive should include his office in the anti-corruption law and change his role in the local universities to a nominal one ("Common sense changes CY must make", October 12).

Lo should also suggest to the government that it practises a real accountability system in the appointment of senior officials.

The public started to lose trust in the administration when it changed the system to political appointment with accountability. So far, people only see the appointments being political, but not accountable.

Wilkie Wong, Yuen Long

Market idea is fresh but how will it work?

I refer to Chan Pui-yiu's letter ("Food scheme eco-friendly and helps poor", October 12).

While I agree the scheme [to collect unsold vegetables from wet market vendors] reduces wastage of fresh produce, whether people on low incomes benefit substantially from it remains a doubt.

We do not know about the quality of vegetables collected by NGOs and environmental groups from the stall owners.

The fact that the stock is donated instead of kept for sale raises concerns regarding its freshness, especially when it is eventually delivered to its recipients. What is also not clear are the distribution principles, including the eligibility of the receivers as well as pricing of the produce.

Are there regulations on setting the prices and on the income that will go to the NGOs?

These issues need to be addressed before the scheme can claim to be effectively "helping the poor".

Leslie Brooke, Tai Kok Tsui

Consult us before cutting down banyans

I refer to the letter by Dr Wong Hong-yau ("If old tree poses a risk to public safety then it has to be cut down", October 7).

When I read about the four banyan wall trees cut down in August near Bonham Road, there was nothing that suggested to me that they posed a risk to the public. I could see no reason for them being cut down.

Also, residents were not informed beforehand. There have been fatalities and injuries when trees have fallen and perhaps officials felt people had lost confidence in the government when it comes to tree management. They therefore took this swift decision regarding the banyans.

In future, the government needs to ensure nearby residents have been consulted before a decision is made to cut trees down.

I appreciate the government sees public safety as a priority and that it felt the decision to cut the trees down was necessary. This is a busy part of Hong Kong Island with a lot of pedestrians.

However, ensuring the public consultation process is undertaken is important. Citizens are entitled to know what actions the government intends to take.

When it comes to trees like the ones near Bonham Road, it is important for officials and citizens to cooperate and for decisions to be made that are in the public interest.

I hope, in future, before trees are felled, all stakeholders are consulted.

Harmony Wong, Kwai Chung 

For musicians, timing is everything

The MTR Corporation has announced its plan to introduce a registration system that will allow musicians to carry larger instruments on its trains.

Some passengers have claimed that the current baggage restrictions are too strict. Earlier this month, they organised a protest over the restrictions at Tai Wai station.

I think the simplest way for the MTR to organise this registration system is to have an online form which passengers will fill in if they want to register. It is better than having to fill in a long paper form.

What was not clear when the MTR Corp announced the scheme on Tuesday was the times when the musicians will be allowed to travel.

The MTR has said it will initially run as a trial during non-peak hours, but it is not stated clearly what it means by that.

I think peak hours should not exceed five hours per day on weekdays and less on weekends and public holidays.

I believe the proposed scheme can meet the needs of all passengers, but the MTR Corp must specify what it means by peak and non-peak hours as soon as possible.

Ronnie Tse, Tseung Kwan O