Education one of best ways to tackle poverty
The Hong Kong Civic Association is in broad agreement with Chapter 3 - "Enhancing the Quality of our Home-grown Talent" - in the population policy report [Public Engagement Exercise on Population Policy].
The report says, "Secondary school graduates will be offered more post-secondary education opportunities, partly attributable to the decline in student population".
And in a footnote, it says that by 2015 "almost 70 per cent of the relative age cohorts will be able to receive post-secondary education".
In this age of rising economic competition regionally and worldwide, our association would urge the government to raise the bar and aim for at least 80 per cent of post-secondary education by 2017.
A significant step in this direction can be made by providing two years of free or highly subsidised post-secondary education for the children of the reported 403,000 households who are classified as poor.
A practical step forward would be to encourage more industrial, commercial and other organisations to be linked with community colleges and the Vocational Training Council to combine workplace training and theoretical study in an initial programme for 1,000 to 2,000 one-year trainees.
This programme should be integrated with the Qualifications Framework to facilitate further education and career progression.
In Germany, this type of work-study training is carried out nationwide in the education system, and it has enabled that country to be a top economic powerhouse in the European Union.
Our association would urge the government to take decisive steps to give to all students from poor families the equal opportunity to receive two years of free or highly subsidised post-secondary education so that the rich-poor gap will be a less intolerable stigma on Hong Kong's social system.
We would also emphasise that all students from minority families classified as poor should be given the same equal opportunity for post-secondary education. Providing equal opportunities for post-secondary education for our younger generation is one of the finest ways of enhancing the quality of our home-grown talent and reducing generational poverty in Hong Kong.
Hilton Cheong-Leen, president, Frederick Lynn, chairman, Hong Kong Civic Association
Local doctors cannot hold HK hostage
I write to support C. K. Yeung's well-written and researched article about the locally trained medical profession ("The government must break through Hong Kong doctors' protectionist barrier ", December 16).
We need more doctors as the population ages and the government should stop us being held hostage by locally trained doctors.
They were trained using public funds and have no right to monopolise the medical system to line their own pockets afterwards.
It is time the government started pushing through the reforms before the long waits at public hospitals get worse.
W. Y. Pau, Quarry Bay
Government must have a mandate
I do not understand Edward Ng's letter ("Reconciliation better than confrontation ", December 16), as his reference to Nelson Mandela is inappropriate.
Apartheid ended because the South African government succumbed to various factors including internal and international pressure, economic sanctions, social activism and unrest by the non-white population, inspired by Mandela. Make no mistake, Mandela was totally confrontational.
The reconciliation came from a small faction within the National Party, which realised apartheid was a dead end.
There are always reasons why the people confront the establishment.
The majority of the Hong Kong people are worse off than they were in 1997.
The widening poverty gap since the handover has proved that Hong Kong needs a responsible government. Only a government with a popular mandate will act responsibly.
Please do not fall for Sir David Akers-Jones' sweet words about "feeling the stones". It is the establishment's tactic of buying time.
By the time we feel the stones and progress, it will be 2046 and the "two systems" will be at an end.
Finally, what does your correspondent mean by Hong Kong people working together? The government has the power, the rich have the money. They should be the ones who proceed towards reconciliation with the majority.
Tony Yuen, Mid-Levels
Dolphin shows exploit captive animals
Billy Lai Bo-wing ("Defending Ocean Park's dolphin shows ", December 14) gives his reasons for dolphin shows being moral: employment, popularity, conservation and lack of feelings.
Providing job opportunities is moral only if the actions involved are moral; otherwise we should approve of the drug trade and prostitution.
Wild animals in entertainment do not have a moral obligation to provide employment to anyone. The park does not have a moral obligation to provide jobs to trainers.
The popularity of a theme park is not a moral issue.
On conservation, I understand the dolphins in Ocean Park are bottlenose dolphins, which are not endangered. Captive breeding can be a component of conservation when coupled with a programme of reintroduction to repopulate their original areas. It is not a way of keeping dolphins safe from pollution and the dangers of a life in the ocean. In general we draw the line at exploitation of unwilling subjects. If the dolphins were released, would they try to return to captivity?
There are dangers in the ocean, some natural and some man-made, but the argument about protection is reminiscent of the arguments that used to be used to defend slavery.
On feelings, while we cannot tell what dolphins are actually thinking they do have a very complex neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for problem-solving and self-awareness; they are sociable and have cultures.
Dolphins swim in a home range of 300 kilometres and dive to 60 metres, and even large tanks restrict their space to a tiny fraction of that.
This can cause mental, emotional and physical stress, which leads to disease, death and abnormal behaviour.
Studies have also shown elevated stress hormones in captive dolphins and they exhibit the same abnormal behaviours as other animals in captivity such as self-mutilation and other behaviour associated with being psychologically disturbed. A circus is not about promoting conservation, education or protection of animals. It is about exploiting animals so some people can make money and provide entertainment.
Sheila McClelland, Lifelong Animal Protection Charity
Singapore reaps benefits of low tax
I refer to John Chan's letter ("Singapore is tax haven, just like HK ", December 9).
He compares Hong Kong and Singapore when he says that both are tax havens. In this he is correct, in that corporate tax rates, and indeed personal tax, in both territories are relatively low compared to other countries in the region.
However, whereas the headline corporate tax rates for both are relatively similar, Singapore operates a "Global Trader Programme". Simply speaking, this encourages large corporations to locate their regional and indeed global headquarters to Singapore, along with full head office functions, by offering very low corporate tax rates.
When turnover exceeds US$250 million per year, the tax is 10 per cent; when it exceeds US$500 million the rate falls to 5 per cent, whereas in Hong Kong our corporate tax rate is 16.5 per cent. This scheme has attracted large corporations, most recently General Motors.
Indeed, many mainland Chinese companies that had originally put their first international trading offices in Hong Kong have begun to downgrade here and expand or migrate their operations to Singapore.
Apart from the obvious boost to Singapore's economy, this scheme provides very high-quality service jobs for the local workforce of the kind we need in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong offers so many advantages for firms based here.
We seem to be understandably preoccupied with issues of governance. But it would be a real pity if, before the opportunities pass us by, we did not make some greater effort to maintain our attractiveness to foreign corporations as a location of choice for their regional operations. This would provide revenue for the city and sustainable and high-quality employment for our own population.
John Hellinikakis, Pok Fu Lam
Japan must face up to its cruel past
This month marked the 76th anniversary of the Nanking Massacre, which began on December 13, 1937.
The Japanese still have to face up to what they did in Nanking and other atrocities committed during the second world war. The massacre occurred over six weeks, during which an estimated 300,000 Chinese were killed and countless women were raped. Some Japanese have either tried to downplay or deny what happened.
The history textbooks say little about it or omit any mention. This means that many Japanese know nothing about the massacre.
The Japanese government should ensure its citizens are told the truth about the past and the country must apologise to war victims, especially from China and Korea.
Himmy Lee Chun-him, Yau Tong