Education has failed to stop the killing
On a recent visit to Lei Yue Mun, I was shocked to find one seafood stall with two agitated and very juvenile blacktip reef sharks swimming in their own tank.
This display was a first for me.
The reality that these immature creatures were destined for someone's table is surely a new and sinister development, ensuring the extinction of this apex predator will probably occur faster than anticipated.
Their mindless capture prevents any chance of reproduction, and the fact they were in plain view for all to see makes you wonder if it is time to start policing what is on offer.
You published a damning exposé on the unbridled consumption on the mainland of numerous "protected" land-based species ("In the market for a taste of the wild", December 12) and I have to question if the appearance of live sharks in our seafood stalls is pandering to visitors' demands.
We recently had the alarming report of thousands of shark fins drying on a rooftop, as well as the reported record HK$13.7 million paid for a single endangered bluefin tuna ("Record smashed as tuna price scales new heights", January 6).
Both made for sickening reading.
It is a disgrace that whatever tenuous measures are being taken by international agencies, the truth is the oceans' species are being overwhelmed by the all-pervading profit motive and the insatiable greed of countries like Japan and China.
And we are equally culpable. Sadly, with Hong Kong's well-deserved reputation for in-your-face consumption and our appalling levels of wastefulness, very few care beyond their own blind obsession with self-aggrandisement.
Putting faith in education and a more enlightened public is a pipe dream, given the point of no return we must surely have reached.
Martin Labrum, Mong Kok
Shark fin trade helps poor fishermen
The opinions of the younger generation on Facebook, on the merits or otherwise of shark fin consumption ("On shark fin traders who say their business is being hit by Western-led green groups", January 9), should not surprise anyone.
Advertising campaigns criticising Chinese people for eating shark fin, with various celebrities involved, are specifically targeted at that audience.
And let's face it, younger people often like to hold what they consider the moral high ground over their parents.
That Chinese people do purchase shark fins from all over the world benefits many people, including perhaps millions of coastal fishermen who live in poverty and who catch what fish they can, including sharks, to feed their communities.
If they can sell the shark fins they may get 30 per cent more for the sharks they catch and eat, regardless of the fins. If they cannot, the poverty in their lives is increased that bit more.
Strange how the campaigns do not mention the positive contribution the shark fin industry makes to the scourge of poverty. Perhaps none involved with the campaigns has ever lived in poverty.
Violet Chong, Sheung Wan
Religious fervour holds back nation
Your Back Page feature perfectly illustrates why the Philippines remains a poor country ("Praying for a miracle", January 10).
It may be nice for tourists to see mobs of people engaging in dramatic rites during a religious festival, but it reflects the 400 years of religious indoctrination by Spain which has resulted in people believing in God more than in themselves.
The national philosophy encapsulated in the Tagalog saying " Bahala na" translates roughly as "Leave it to God", so disasters are God's wrath and successes are his blessings.
It's natural for Filipinos to pray for everything from physical healing to help in finding employers to the quaintly worded "financial breakthroughs" when short of funds.
They fervently believe in miracles, which may be a charming trait but one that's counterproductive.
Compared to the irreligious Chinese who accomplish much by dint of their labour, Filipinos continue to fall into the category which Lee Kuan Yew once termed the less intense people of Southeast Asia as compared to the more intense ones of East Asia.
This is why a number of Filipinos are known to sometimes wish for their own dictatorial Lee Kuan Yew to pull the country out of its rut and into the modern world.
L.M.S. Valerio, Tin Hau
Not enough land for many villagers
You have printed numerous articles, reports and letters from people who are complaining about the government's small-house policy.
One of the latest was a letter from Guy Shirra, chairman of Friends of Sai Kung ("Scrap unfair small-house policy now", January 9).
I wonder how many of the "Friends of Sai Kung" live in a so-called village house.
The policy is not a fair deal, but I wonder if all those complaining about it, and asking for it to be scrapped, know that most indigenous villagers will never be able to build a house because of a lack of available land.
I agree that the small-house policy needs to be dealt with, but all aspects of the policy need to be examined.
Ken Chan, Tai Po
Let officials vet visa applications
Following many high-profile law enforcement actions against parallel-goods traders in North district, the vicious trade has now been expanding throughout the city and citizens using railway stations suffer the most.
Thanks to the individual visit scheme introduced in 2003, hundreds of thousands of mainlanders have flocked to Hong Kong, some with legitimate and some with a not-so legitimate motivation.
There may be people making family visits or just wanting to travel, but there are also those involved in the parallel goods trade.
A dark side to the parallel goods scheme has emerged.
To address this serious issue, the government should enter into negotiations with the relevant mainland authorities, so that Hong Kong immigration officials can look at visa applications and, where necessary, tighten immigration controls imposed on travellers.
A preliminary screening system could help society get rid of these appalling and irritating parallel-goods traders.
Gravis Cheng, Yuen Long
Motivation should be altruistic
Many Hongkongers took part in the annual Hong Kong and Kowloon Walk for Millions earlier this month.
It made me think about the fact that social services is part of the other learning experience in the new senior secondary curriculum.
As a senior form student, I am opposed to this arrangement, because it distorts the meaning of social services.
Getting involved in this kind of voluntary work can help students and might give them an edge over other young people when they apply to study at a university.
I am not saying that there are not students who get involved because they genuinely want to help other people, but there are students who are doing it to advance their academic careers and this is wrong.
Youngsters should only get involved in these kinds of activities if their aim is to genuinely help others.
I do agree with those who say that students should be encouraged to get involved in voluntary social care, but that encouragement should come from teachers and parents, not be included in the other learning experience programme. Youngsters should get involved only if they have a passion to help others.
Ho Tsz-sum, Tai Wai
Students were right to oppose new course
I do not agree with the views expressed by Cheung Chi-fung about the national education course ("National learning fears unfounded", January 11).
He said that opponents of the national education course did not realise what was being proposed.
However, I do not think that was the case.
Some of the material that was going to be taught in class was to be very selective, hence the accusation of brainwashing. Opponents felt that, too often, pupils would be presented with positive aspects of the history of China and the Communist Party of China.
The course would have been unbalanced if it did not, for example, focus attention on the problem of corruption in China.
Also, children, especially at primary level, have difficulty distinguishing between being taught facts and given information selectively.
It would not be difficult to brainwash them and have them believing that the motherland was wonderful.
The main opposition came from teenagers at secondary school level. They had the benefit of doing the liberal studies course.
This enabled them to cast a more critical eye over the proposed national education course and to determine that it was not appropriate for schools in Hong Kong.
Scarlet Wong, Sha Tin