Letters to the editor, January 9, 2016

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 January, 2016, 11:31am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 January, 2016, 11:30am

Beijing’s notion of harmony doesn’t suit Hong Kong

On his recent duty visit to Beijing, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was told to work for “development, stability and harmony” in Hong Kong (“Hong Kong faces a bumpy 2016 under Beijing’s tough framework”, January 4). But is this harmony to be Beijing’s or ours?

We were pushed into white elephant projects like the bridge to Macau and Zhuhai (certainly not proposed by Hong Kong), and into the fast-train connection to Guangzhou (again, certainly not proposed by Hong Kong). But, unfortunately, we complied. They are costing us billions but will bring us nothing. We have four underused border crossings while it is clear that most of mainland China’s exports are shipped directly from the mainland.

Is this harmony?

Meanwhile, booksellers who sold books banned on the mainland appeared to have been kidnapped, a HKU council chairman was appointed against the opinion of alumni and students, a defective education system is not overhauled, and no decisions are made on using scarce land resources occupied by the People’s Liberation Army, and so on. There will never be harmony where there is no courage.

The year 2047 is approaching fast and it is about time Hong Kong considers its future. Taiwan’s situation is clear. It is, for now, independent and, despite all incentives offered, it is determined to stay that way.

In short, we do not need to show Beijing we will follow. Beijing needs to show us why we should follow.

A courageous Hong Kong government might help, but I am sure all of us will be disappointed.

Peter den Hartog, Tuen Mun

Banning hoverboards the right move

I agree with the government’s rules to limit the use of hoverboards in Hong Kong, and am glad the airlines are also taking steps to ban them from planes (“Hoverboards banned from planes as airlines take a stand on security”, December 27).

Although travelling by hoverboard is convenient and interesting, there have been a spate of fires associated with these devices. In most of these cases, the problems have been traced to substandard parts, such as the charger or the battery, leading to overheating that can cause fires.

Thus, it is reassuring that dozens of airlines, including local carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Hong Kong Airlines and HK Express, have banned them from flights.

In Hong Kong, riding the self-balancing electric vehicles on streets and pavements is illegal.

Hoverboards may be fun but safety comes first.

Nicole Tse, Tsueng Kwan O

Forward thinking can beat stress

I recently watched the Ted talk, “How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed”, by neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, suggesting a way to help us cope with pressure.

As a student, I am quite interested in this topic as exams are near, and we’re under great pressure to get good results. Some people think this kind of stress is uplifting and will help to reinforce character.

But it’s not true. According to Levitin, a brain under stress will release “cortisol that raises your heart rate, modulates adrenaline levels and clouds your thinking”.

So what can we do? Levitin suggests a “pre-mortem”, an idea he got from the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. A pre-mortem is when we look ahead and think through all the things that could go wrong, then try and figure out what we can do in response. It means thinking through in advance all the ramifications, and deciding what action to take to prevent things from getting worse.

This way of thinking can help to clear up our minds when we are under stress.

It helps when we need to make a decision.

Levitin gave a very interesting example. If we needed to make a medical decision, for example, there are many things to think through. Say we’re deciding whether or not to take a drug. There’s a statistic we should know yet mostly don’t. That’s known as the “number needed to treat”, that is, the number of people who need to take a drug before one person is helped by it. For many drugs, the number is high.

Levitin cited the “number needed to treat” for the most commonly prescribed statin (used to treat high cholesterol): 300. That means 300 people must take the drug before one person is helped by it.

Despite this statistic, many people are taking this drug. This is one example of us seeing only the positive side but not seeing the negative side. If we don’t see the whole picture, we may be making decisions that only harm ourselves.

I believe thinking through our problems in this way will help us when we’re under stress.

Roslin Law, Tseung Kwan O

Give children room to grow up properly

When I read about the plight of the 40,000 Hong Kong children living in cramped conditions (“Revealed: heartbreaking plight of 40,000 Hong Kong children stunted by life in tiny flats ... and it’s getting worse”, December 31), I was reminded of a TV programme I watched about a single mother living in a subdivided flat with her two children.

The mother earns HK$8,000 a month. Rent takes away HK$3,000 and she has to pay for her children’s school meals and utilities fees with the rest of the money. What’s left over is used for food.

The family live from hand to mouth, and the mother has to keep working for survival. On top of it, their living environment is very bad.

The government should help these families. It could distribute a “wealth card” to people below the poverty line that allows them to buy groceries and other necessities at a discount from selected shops.

It can also set up a centre that serves free meals to card carriers, and also offer space where the children can do their homework. The report on children living in subdivided flats found that many had nowhere to do their homework.

These poor families must be helped to get out of the poverty trap.

Emily Leung, Tseung Kwan O