Letters to the editor, December 12, 2015

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 December, 2015, 5:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 December, 2015, 5:11pm

Stop use of judicial review as political tool

As someone who was born and raised in Hong Kong, and an eminent Court of Final Appeal judge who retired in July this year, Henry Litton is easily one of the few people who have the best grasp of the city’s judiciary system, and his condemnation last week of the abuse and misuse of judicial reviews is not only packed with wisdom, but also a wake-up call for many Hongkongers.

Here’s what’s appalling: despite their expertise in the legal system, Dennis Kwok, the Legislative Council member representing the legal functional constituency, and Alan Leong Kah-kit, former chairperson of the Hong Kong Bar Association and leader of the Civic Party, turn a blind eye to the abuse of judicial reviews. It certainly boggles the mind. Could there be vested interests or a political agenda for these solicitors and barristers from the Civic Party?

While the Legal Aid Department was founded on the good intention of giving low-income litigants the opportunity to present their cases, such aid has also contributed to the rise in the demand for, and use of, judicial review on the government’s decisions on controversial social and political issues.

To quote Litton, Hong Kong’s legal system is “drowning in irrelevance”, and he cited the cases of University of Hong Kong student union leader Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok’s failed legal challenge on the government’s political reform package, and the delay and cost overruns of the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge project, as a result of the court case brought on by a Tung Chung resident.

Noting that “judicial review is not available for challenges to government policy”, and that the courtroom is “not a debating hall or a classroom”, Litton duly expressed his exasperation over the misuse of court resources.

And he is right. There does seem to be an increase in court cases brought on by individuals and groups, often backed by certain political parties, against government policies. As Litton rightly pointed out: “The court is concerned with law, not policy.”

The question we need to ask is, are we going to allow these pro-democrat lawmakers to continue to fan flames and abuse our legal system, upholding their ill-defined sanctimonious ideals, and causing our legal system to sleepwalk its way to 2046?

Dr Chow Pak Chin, vice-chairman, Wisdom Hong Kong

Technology overdose is bad for health

I recently read about the “Walkcar”, a skateboard-like device designed to be used as personal transport. Powered by lithium batteries, it is small enough to fit into a backpack. The news blew my mind. Indeed, technology has improved our lives. With our smartphones, we can receive news from all around the world. With advanced medical equipment, patients can breathe without really using their lungs.

But there are downsides. It is not uncommon to see people around us who are so obsessed with their smartphones or other gadgets that they don’t recognise what is happening around them. It is cliched to say technology pulls people away from one another, but that is the reality.

And let’s not forget, too, how technology affects health. There is a picture on the internet comparing peoples’ lives now and in the past. Then, the television set was bulky and the person who sat in front of it was skinny. Now, the TV is slim but the person watching it is fat and unhealthy.

Technology brings so much convenience to us that we forget to enjoy it moderately, and at last this “convenience” harms our health.

Anson Sin, Tseung Kwan O

Fifa’s rotten core is clearer by the day

Fifa is a fallen and forlorn institution and I agree with I. M. Wright (“Football’s top officials need a reality check”, December 5) that Fifa has become “Alice in Blunderland”. Corruption has been shown to be rife in this organisation and its continental confederations since the 1970s, after Joao Havelange became Fifa president and applied a Latin American management style of favours and nepotism.

The recent FBI investigations have exposed comprehensive and ingrained corruption at the highest levels of Conmebol, the South American soccer federation, and Concacaf, its Central and North American counterpart. However, there is no good reason to expect that the CAF (Africa), AFC (Asia), Uefa (Europe) and OFC (Oceania) operate at a more ethical level.

It should be remembered that Sepp Blatter was Havelange’s right-hand man before succeeding him as president in 1998. The FBI is now probing Blatter’s role in the bribes scandal. It would be naive to think that Blatter could be at the head of this organisation for 17 years without knowledge of the wrongdoing.

For these football executives, Fifa has become a lifelong gravy train. It illustrates the degree of largesse when Fifa’s executive committee considered a proposition to expand the World Cup to 40 teams in 2026, which was purported to be an appeasement to African and Asian interests in order that they support the reform committee’s clean-up proposals. This was not for the good of the game. I was pleased to read that the European clubs strongly rejected this expansion and a Fifa decision was deferred.

A sensible proposal would be to trim the continental confederations to four by combining South America with North and Central America, and Oceania with Asia, and transferring the Arabian peninsula from Asia to Africa. This would achieve close parity of the country memberships.

Christian Rogers, Wan Chai

The dangers of ‘perfection’ on social media

A while ago, an Australian teenager with more than half a million followers on Instagram famously quit the platform, saying her life is nothing like what was portrayed on social media.

Social media platforms create an illusion. We tend to make ourselves look “perfect” on them. We create different impressions of ourselves, and I don’t think it’s good for us. It’s impossible for us to stay away from social media, but we can’t let them take over. We don’t have to be “perfect” like the celebrities we see in magazines.

Zannie Ho, Tseung Kwan O

Use restored landfill sites for sports

The government recently started accepting applications for the use of restored landfill sites. It has earmarked HK$1 billion for the scheme, to encourage innovative use of these restored sites.

I think this scheme can really benefit Hong Kong people.

First of all, after revitalisation, previously polluting landfill sites are now much cleaner.

Secondly, we can make use of these sites to promote sports. Not enough people in Hong Kong take part in sport activities and there aren’t enough accessible sports centres around. The government must encourage greater sport participation.

Tsang Cho-him, Kowloon Bay

Don’t let elderly people feel lonely

Hong Kong’s population is ageing, and meeting the needs of an increasing number of elderly people can be a challenge.

Many elderly people live alone and do not have enough money to support their daily life. But aside from the financial problems, they may feel lonely. Without anyone to care for them, elderly people may easily lose motivation. Some may become depressed. They do not see their value in society.

This situation can be changed. We must organise more activities for them. They need an age-friendly environment, and should be encouraged to share their knowledge and experiences that can benefit the next generation.

Kevinie Suen Hiu Yee, Lai Chi Kok

Give Modi time to fix problems in India

Dr Priya Virmani’s excessive criticism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unhelpful and brings to mind a nagging stepmother reprimanding a visionary and untiring stepson (“Unfulfilled promises take shine off Modi”, November 21).

For India, Modi is a beacon of hope, and I only wish all the leaders India has had since its independence had possessed his vision and creativity.

Visionary politicians first thought about constructing a tunnel between Britain and France through the English Channel about 130 years ago but, due to a lack of finance and technology, their dream translated into reality only about 28 years ago. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party inherited a government with many deficiencies and Modi will need trillions of dollars and new technology to fulfil promises.

Modi and his party are doing everything possible to develop India and some time is needed to see results. Undue criticism will only deter foreigners from investing in India.

Bhawnani Ranjit, Tsim Sha Tsui