Hong Kong civilised, not democratic
According to Michael Chugani, universal suffrage is mere icing on the democracy cake ("Over-egging it", May 4).
It is correct that Hong Kong enjoys a relatively high degree of civic freedom but this is maintained by the rule of law as developed and passed on via the Basic Law from the British colonial administration.
Democracy as such is as absent now as ever. The valuable institutions the writer refers to that distinguish Hong Kong from "North Korea and Zimbabwe" make it civilised but not democratic.
We should all recognise that full democracy is no panacea for society's ills but we ought to give credit to what supports Hong Kong's freedom rather than pretend we already have something which we do not.
I would suggest the real reason for the failure to vote is that those elected have no power.
Chugani gives away the truth when he says one reason is to await the "thrill" of voting in 2017.
Only then will there be an election for more than a select few that can make a difference.
No doubt this is the reason why so much misstatement and overstatement is emanating from the respective sides in the debate.
And now we know which side Chugani is on.
Paul J. Carolan, Admiralty
Guantanamo Bay inmates deserve trials
Pyongyang may be the bane of the US State Department but North Korea's government is more civilised at least in one respect - its judicial system.
Kenneth Bae, the jailed US citizen, appeared before a court before being sent to a labour camp.
Granted, in the eyes of the West, the trial may have the appearance of sham justice. In stark contrast, more than 100 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, the American government's gulag, have been denied justice so far - neither sham, nor fair. Many of them have been in jail for over 10 years.
Still they have no shimmer of hope of receiving fair justice or the possibility of release. No wonder that most of these prisoners have started a hunger strike, their only weapon to get the outside world's attention. Justice in court is a basic human right.
As long as Washington denies these people a fair trial, it should stop lecturing governments in Beijing, Pyongyang or other capitals about human rights.
Kristiaan Helsen, Clear Water Bay
US is acting against aggressors
All too often we read anti-American propaganda attempting to legitimise targeting innocent people, this time in the form of a letter by Eric Comino ("US 'war on terror' lacks legitimacy", April 25).
In modern history, American military action has been a defence against aggressors, not an "immoral … killing campaign". North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam; surrounding Arab nations waged war on Israel; Palestinians indiscriminately fire rockets into Israel; Muslim fundamentalists slit the throats of pilots and stewardesses with box cutters and flew planes into office buildings. Those are the aggressors which your correspondent and others choose to overlook in their judgmental self-righteousness.
There is a distinction between targeting fanatics who plan and commit violence, which results in unfortunate deaths, and purposely targeting citizens watching a marathon on a city street. The Obama and other administrations have avoided, when possible, collateral deaths.
I challenge Mr Comino to give a legitimate example of the US purposely targeting innocent citizens. Terrorists do purposely target the innocent, for example, the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Did the act of setting off those bombs prevent violence? Absolutely not, since those targeted were not killers, getting back to the distinction which those who spout anti-American rhetoric deny. The military actions of the US are a reaction to the killing of the innocent and a defence against aggressors, not aggression itself.
As for the international community somehow taking some action in an "international court", if it wanted to be fair, it would have to first take action against those who begin aggression. If the "international community" were to really have the moral fortitude to take effective action against, among others, the leaders of North Vietnam, Hamas, Iran, and the Taliban first, then the US and other nations wouldn't have to take action and we wouldn't have these horrible situations in the first place.
Carlton Cash, Lantau
Giant duck brings back memories
I refer to the report ("Bomb the duck! Internet users take aim at big bird", May 6).
I am sorry that some people have reacted so negatively to this giant inflatable sculpture in the harbour and I hope that nobody has any real intention of damaging it.
I was amazed to see the size of the duck. It brought back memories of when I was small and I played with a rubber duck in the bathtub.
Overall, I think it has proved to be a popular attraction in the city. Many Hongkongers and tourists from around the world and the mainland have gone to Tsim Sha Tsui to see it.
Of course, the internet image was only simulated, but I do hope no one decides to try and damage it.
Tang Yuen-tung, Tsuen Wan
Human side to Li Ka-shing's charity work
I refer to Tony Yuen's letter on the moral issues behind Li Ka-shing's philanthropy ("What really motivates Li's philanthropy?" May 1).
As a young student at the Tsuen Wan Trade Association Primary School in the early 1990s, I was one of the first group of recipients of a book coupon "study incentive" that was part of a "Dock School Programme" pioneered by Hongkong International Terminals.
My siblings, and my friends, also benefited from this programme, which has now spread to 28 schools around the world.
This award - presented to the students in each grade with the top marks - was important to us.
It served as a major confidence boost and incentive to continue working hard at school.
Two decades later, I am happy to see it is still helping students who have a desire to learn, boosting confidence and driving them forward.
It is an example of the very real human element that characterises so much of Li's philanthropic work.
Chan Pui-chi, Kwai Chung
Students must think for themselves
It has been argued that although Hong Kong is a bilingual society, with English and Cantonese being used, many students' language skills are poor as they take a sort of mix-and-match approach.
It is also said that they lack the ability to think critically about problems.
I would certainly like to see further changes to education policies. Liberal studies was aimed at enabling young people to be more analytical and think for themselves. But there are so many so-called helicopter parents in our society and their children rely too much on them.
The officials should try to get the message across to parents that they have to encourage their sons and daughters to think independently so that they can do well in exams and learn to look after themselves in society.
With regard to language proficiency, the administration has to consider if there is a need to change the current curriculum. It may be that additional material will need to be provided to teachers and their pupils with the aim of raising levels of English and Cantonese in the classroom.
Students also have to take responsibility and work on their own to raise their level of comprehension of these languages.
Young people need to learn the importance of being independent and self-learning. Teachers can also encourage them to think on their own.
There are clearly problems in the present education system.
All parties - the government, parents, teachers and pupils - should play their part to make the improvements that are needed.
Darren Fung, Sau Mau Ping
Police can curb Clear Water Bay racers
As a resident of Clear Water Bay, I again woke on a weekend to yet another serious car accident, involving a speed racer and a local resident.
The frequency of car racers on this road is increasing; we are woken regularly in the early hours during the week, and at weekends, by a collective of the speed racers driving at excessive speeds along the winding road. There are many blind and difficult turnings from Clear Water Bay Road to the associated villages, and it is no surprise to learn of more accidents involving the racers and innocent villagers.
We should not have to live in fear for our families' safety. There are no speed cameras here, and racers, using spotters to ensure they have a clear run, risk our lives and theirs.
Cameras, speed bumps and additional police patrolling along Clear Water Bay Road are not a nice thing to have, but they are a necessity.
Max Connop, Clear Water Bay