PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 July, 2004, 12:00am

Q Is Bishop Zen right to sue the government over the school management bill?

I was amazed to read that the bishop has threatened to withdraw from some of the more than 100 Catholic schools under the church's control, more so because the Catholic Church issued a similar statement in my native India during a protest march in 1998. The head of the church there threatened to close all the schools run by them (of course, the threat proved to have no effect).

The problem is that the Catholic Church in Hong Kong and elsewhere operates as if it is an embassy of the Vatican. They pay scant attention and respect to the local laws of the land if they interfere with its overall objective. The concerns of the Catholic Church and Catholic followers take precedence over everything else - this is common all over the world, including the US, where I live.

I think the Hong Kong government should call the bishop's bluff and let him sue. I don't think anything will come out of it. On the contrary, it will prove to be more damaging to the reputation of the Catholic Church, showing it to be uncompromising and rigid.

Rajesh Kumar Pandey, California

The Hong Kong Democratic Foundation is puzzled by the Education and Manpower Bureau's doggedly stubborn attitude and high-handed approach towards the School-based Management - Education (Amendment) Bill 2002.

The main issue is that the mandatory establishment of incorporated management committees will drive a wedge into the present structure. It will leave policy-making power with the committee and responsibility with the school-sponsoring bodies. Thus, power and responsibility will be divided. This is fundamentally wrong.

Secondly, the school-level committee should be responsible to sponsoring bodies to deliver schooling in accordance with the mission set. The parents should be the customers who have rights to choose the schools they send their children to, not the supplier.

Some form of involvement of parents and teachers is obviously desirable. But there are conflicts. These are not occasional, but pervasive and intrinsic, concerning virtually every matter. This can only be resolved by removing parents from the policy-setting process, that is, positioning them as advisers.

Parent managers will generally have only a medium-term interest in the schools to which they send their children. They do not necessarily share the vision and mission of the school. It is one thing to be a 'customer', quite another to be the 'supplier' at the same time.

It is true that the accountability and transparency of the present system have to be improved. But the mandatory committee appears to be a crude and ineffective way to do it.

I feel sad that the government cannot listen to reason and continues to isolate sponsoring bodies - not just the Catholic Church - that oppose the bill for rational reasons. I feel particularly sad for Hong Kong that Bishop Zen concluded the only way out was to pray for a miracle and sue the government.

Alan Ka-lun Lung, chairman, Hong Kong Democratic Foundation

Q Is tearing down the Eastern Island Corridor a good idea?

Tearing down the Eastern Island Corridor is a very, very good idea.

It's about time the government gave something back to the people of Hong Kong. If it can buy back the Western Tunnel from the tunnel company and tear down the Star Ferry car park and move the General Post Office and City Hall and the Tamar site, we will have more than enough space to build extra highways for cars and a promenade for the people to enjoy our harbour (soon to be Victoria river) and maybe, just maybe, leave something for our future generations to enjoy.

Elizabeth Maegerlein, Pokfulam

Q Are teachers setting a good example by going on hunger strikes?

The hunger strikes undertaken by the teachers just made me so disappointed in them. I think the method they used to express their opinions is too extreme.

Hunger strikes are used for political purposes, like the former leader of the Indian independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi, who used non-violence to seek independence from Britain. However, I think the teachers just want to ensure their employment opportunities. It is not really necessary to use hunger strikes as their weapon to keep their jobs and gain public sympathy.

Because they are teachers, what they do will influence the younger generation, and indeed other people. If anyone else is dissatisfied with the government, will they now also follow those teachers and go on hunger strike?

Moreover, is a hunger strike that effective? I believe the government can do little to help them, because there are approximately 250,000 people in Hong Kong who are also suffering from unemployment at the moment. The government cannot find jobs for all of them.

I just wonder why those teachers could not improve themselves and find other jobs. They are not children. They are supposed to be mature, independent, confident and hard-working people. They can make their own lives. They should not rely on help from the government.

I hope there are no other hunger strikes.

Ben Kwan Kit-pang, Yuen Long

Going on a hunger strike seems to be an unhealthy act, but it is rather a peaceful way to hold a demonstration.

Some may argue that teachers are not setting a good example since they are protesting against the government at the expense of their health in an effort to force the government to give in.

From the viewpoint of the public, this action has caused little damage to us. Compared with going on a march, hunger strikes need less police to maintain order and do not affect others' normal life, like the change of routes or closing roads because of a demonstration.

The teachers went on hunger strike for 24 hours, bringing minimal health problems. All in all, going on a hunger strike can be a good example set by teachers to voice their opinions in a peaceful but forceful way.

Cindy Cheung, Kwun Tong

Surplus teachers are a situation that happens when supply and demand is out of balance.

Their union wants to exert pressure on the government to ensure all teachers are employed.

Should the government control the population growth or dictate to families the number of children they would like them to have?

If the government can't control the population growth, why should it be held accountable for the plight of unemployed teachers?

If the teachers' solution to adversity, conflicts and problems is a very childish act - that is to refuse to eat food - what kind of information and skills will they pass on to their students?

If the teachers do not have a broad base to widen their interests and training, what kind of message in their initiatives in learning do they portray?

There are a lot more choices than teaching. If money and job security are the concerns, then searching for other profit-making businesses should be the actual route. Why do the teachers ruin the motivations, interests and futures of students out of their inflexibility to change?

Stephanie Ngar Ling-liu, Tuen Mun

Q Are the Western Harbour Tunnel fees too high?

The biggest problem is not whether the fees are too high so that people take other tunnels, it is the fact that there is a price difference between the three tunnels which make many people opt for the cheapest tunnel.

By doing so they think they save money, which may be true when there is no traffic, but in many cases they spend more money by wasting fuel while in a traffic jam and making a detour, clocking up more miles which need more petrol. These drivers also generate extra pollution as they spend more time pumping out exhaust gases.

The government should take action and make tunnel fees equal for all three tunnels, and I do not mind whether they take the highest charge or the lowest.

For those who wonder, yes I am a motorist and I do make use of the harbour tunnels and choose the one which is fastest and shortest to my destination.

Jeffry Kuperus, Clear Water Bay