Online Letters, May 23, 2017

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 12:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 12:57pm

Hong Kong needs opt-out scheme for organ donation

Organ donation has been in the news lately, especially with the case of the ailing Hong Kong mother who needed two transplants after a medical blunder left her with a failing liver.

With a rising number of patients requiring transplants and donation rates among the lowest in the world, the government is considering legislation on an opt-out scheme for donors, to replace the current opt-in system.

Though some have voiced concerns about the legal implications of an opt-out programme, I believe it is suitable for Hong Kong. That is because we simply do not have enough organ donors. Even if some people sign up, they may later cancel on second thoughts or pressure from family, who may think it is bad luck or goes against the tradition of keeping the body of the deceased intact.

We had just 5.8 donors per million people in 2015, according to government figures, a mere fraction compared with Spain (39.7 donors per million) and Croatia (39), which have some of the highest rates.

This is why the government should promote opt-out organ donation, which assumes all citizens are donors unless they specifically state otherwise. A formal public consultation on an opt-out scheme may be in the offing.

Also, many people wish to donate organs, but don’t know how to register to be a donor. The Centralised Organ Donation Register records about 20,000 new donors each year. This shows a lack of publicity about this important social duty, and this is one of the causes of the low donation rate.

There must be more public activities to promote organ donation in Hong Kong, such as holding talks in different district councils or schools to spread awareness.

Thomas Wong, Tseung Kwan O

City education system in urgent need of an overhaul

I am writing to respond to the article about the need to overhaul our outdated educational system and rigid university entry requirements (“Hong Kong’s ‘colonial’ school system needs overhaul, says ex-singer tipped to be next education chief”, May 8). I totally agree.

First of all, the education system in Hong Kong just stifles creativity and spontaneity. Preparing for exams means only memorising the content of books, with a keen eye on the marking scheme.

This kind of system is not real education, with no emphasis on wholehearted learning; it is just a memory test for students. So students try their best to learn by rote and have no interest in anything that is out of the syllabus. In addition, they will just write what they believe the teachers or markers want in order to get a good score, resulting in plots and topics for compositions that are all quite similar.

This system does not let students think outside the box and be brave to be different or stand out.

Secondly, our education system is too competitive and leaves students exhausted. With its excessive emphasis on academic results, most parents and students think that good grades are an entry ticket to university, and that is the only way to becoming successful in Hong Kong.

Because of this perception, students always have to go to many tutorial classes for additional lessons to enhance their competitiveness. This means they lack enough rest and sleep, adding to the pressure and leaving them feeling anxious and unhappy.

Most students also tend to choose programmes in business or science at university, as they think majors like literature or music will not lead to higher-paid jobs and a trendy lifestyle. They become more utilitarian in their outlook under this educational system, with very few insisting on following their interests and dreams. It is a pity that students and Hong Kong as a whole should move in this direction, just because of the educational system.

In conclusion, there is an urgent need to overhaul the current educational system and allow Hong Kong’s students to delight in true learning and also to follow their dreams.

Natalie Siu Hoi-tung, Yau Yat Chuen

Press freedom is an integral part of Hong Kong’s identity

I am writing to voice my concerns over media freedom in Hong Kong, after Reporters Without Borders lowered the city’s press freedom ranking by four places in its global index for 2017.

Freedom of the press could be classified as a symbol of democracy. A high degree of press freedom means the government allows people to express or receive all kinds of opinions. An independent media is an integral part of what Hong Kong represents and is crucial to our society.

A high degree of press freedom can help create a better government and a better Hong Kong, given that the media can act as a watchdog. It can trigger government action by revealing the truth to the people, like corruption and scandals. Restrictions on media coverage would mean the public would never discover the truth.

The role of the media is to monitor the government, to ensure righteousness and equal governance. Unlike the people of, say, North Korea, Hongkongers are lucky because press freedom still exists here. However, the city ranked 73rd out of 180 countries on the Reporters without Borders global index, while Taiwan rose six places to 45 – the highest ranking among all Asian countries.

People have the right to accurate information. People cannot always dig out the truth on their own, so they needs the help of the media to know the truth, and nothing but the truth. Censorship would harm Hong Kong’s progress and future. Press freedom is one of the most precious elements of life in Hong Kong and must be protected.

Anna Yu, Kowloon Tong

‘Uncle Ice-cream’ personified the Lion Rock spirit

A poor man getting rich through a windfall or a businessman’s many struggles in rising to become a tycoon are commonplace stories in Hong Kong. But how about this one – a man who sold ice cream almost all his life and was so popular with school children over the decades that many hundreds mourned his passing at the age of 102?

I recently found out via a WhatsApp group of my primary school friends about the passing of an old man at the age of a 100 or so. He used to sell ice-cream in the neighbourhood of my alma mater in Shek Kip Mei. His name was Wong Kwong, but to us schoolchildren, he was “Uncle Ice-cream”.

I saw him almost every day on the way to school. I left school some 40 years ago and, though I wasn’t one of his regular customers, I can still recall the image of him as a stooping grey-haired man in his mid-50s or early-60s.

He would be there with his ice-cream cart almost every day, rain or shine. At times, some enthusiastic, caring school boys pushed the cart for him, which showed how he had established a good rapport and friendship with the children over the years.

The vast majority of students in the neighbourhood came from families of modest means and Uncle Ice-cream charged them fair prices, thus maintaining a steady customer base and income to lead a decent life. Former students would return to visit him even after graduation: that is how loved he was.

We all know that Hong Kong is an ageing society. Even scraping a living is not easy for youngsters, leave alone the elderly. Perhaps the story of Uncle Ice-cream can give older workers some encouragement and inspiration, so that they can become small-scale entrepreneurs, benefitting themselves and the society at large. This way, Hong Kong can possibly avert turning into a welfare society and the community can be relieved of a great financial burden.

The current principal of my alma mater is thinking about keeping Uncle Ice-cream’s cart in the school for display. He may also consider incorporating the story of Uncle Ice-cream in subjects such as liberal studies and ethics. That way, Uncle Ice-cream can live on to nurture the “Lion Rock spirit” in all of us.

Randy Lee, Ma On Shan

Hard to feel at home in unhappy city

I am writing in response to the article on housing costs causing depression (“High housing costs to blame for young Hongkongers’ unhappiness, survey finds,” May 13).

Despite being a developed city, Hong Kong ranks at 71 among the world on the UN’s happiness index. Among the causes are soaring housing prices, which in turns trigger social problems, ranging from adult children finding it hard to move out, family conflicts, and low marriage and birth rates.

It is a known fact that most people in Hong Kong find it difficult to own a home, even if they work their fingers to the bone.The underprivileged in Hong Kong can hardly fulfil their basic needs, leave alone buy a home, with inflation adding to their pain. A worsening quality of life for the majority means the people of Hong Kong are becoming unhappier.

Even Hong Kong’s children are not spared the misery. An exam-oriented education system and pressure to do well sees children pushed to excel, as parents are pressed to find expensive tutors in the hope of ensuring a place at university. With hobby classes and tutorials taking up most of their after-school hours and weekends, young students have no time to relax or enjoy their childhood, while their parents are left out of pocket.

The financial pressures of having a family are seeing more and more Hong Kong people choosing to marry later in life, or not marry at all, a consultant at the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society said.

It is hoped the Hong Kong government can take proactive measures to improve the quality of life for citizens.

Tiffany Cheung, Yau Yat Chuen

Handwritten minibus signs are a cultural treasure

I’m writing in response to your article on Hong Kong’s last writer of minibus signs (“Minibus signs reflect changing times”, May 15).

Calligraphy has been a great tradition in Asia, whether in mainland China, Japan or Hong Kong. All my life, I have travelled around Hong Kong by minibus, and have been impressed by the calligraphic signs indicating the destination or route, but I never realised those were done by hand.

It is now more convenient to use computers to design these signs, and there may soon be nobody left to create these signboards by hand. But I think that should not happen, as it would be a great loss to our cultural heritage. Using a computer to design signboards may be convenient, but automation is not art.

Michelle Mai, Sau Mau Ping