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Stop blaming the poor for their fate and ill health

The obesity epidemic ('Mainland's 60 million obese reveal a growing problem', October 13) is blamed on poor consumer knowledge and not the tantalising, manipulative promotion of unhealthy products such as baby milk formula, fats, sugars and other junk passed off as 'food' by corporations like Nestle, under the aegis of the World Trade Organisation.

A Nestle vice-president meanwhile suggests that Washington and Brussels tell Boeing and Airbus 'to cool it' and 'not allow their squabbles to jeopardise what could and should be a brilliant 21st century for the world, and especially for Asia' ('Give China a greater say', October 12). Edith Terry ('Career in politics? Get real', October 13) addressed the blatant hand-in-pocket links between politicians, big business and organised crime in Japan (and, by allusion, in Hong Kong).

Turning the page we read of the privatisation of state industries to reduce the Philippines' chaotic debt, blocked by senators' refusal to pass legislation hostile to big business ('Arroyo set to cull the fat cows'). The money saved (for whom?) in a country where one in three live in poverty would be worth it.

For a perspective closer to home, see J. Schofield's letter 'Pork barrel' (October 12). Meanwhile, Michael Scott's letter (October 13) about the plundering of New Zealand's public sector assets foretells Hong Kong's direction. He could also have mentioned the privatisation fest that asset-stripped the British public sector in the 1990s and how business interests now drive the political agenda in the UK, as they do in America and Hong Kong. RTHK Radio 3 broadcasts government messages on behalf of the recording industry and we tsk! that more people than ever earn less than $4,000 a month.

Large commercial interests are now so adept at driving global agendas that the semblance of democracy is in tatters while it is ever more voiciferously defended. Corporations are bankrolling politicians and governments to do their bidding. And as Russia - and, I daresay, most other 'democracies' - illustrate, organised crime is competing aggressively in this game. So let's stop blaming the poor for their fate, misery and ill-health.

RICHARD FIELDING, department of community medicine, University of Hong Kong

Gay problems

Hong Kong's first gay parade celebrated men having sex with other men. None of these men would want to discuss the reality within homosexuality of failed relationships, abuse and sickness, including sexually transmitted diseases and Aids. The leader 'Gay parade a step in the right direction' (October 16) focuses on the revenue possible, but avoids mentioning the negative effects of homosexual sexual activities.

What about the costs for doctors, nurses and hospital beds for homosexuals who have contracted significant illnesses? What is the value of gaining a chunk of cash at the expense of someone dying a lingering and painful death through Aids?

A remarkable trend is building of people who have identified why they chose homosexuality as an opiate and then left homosexual sex behind. Like any drug to numb the pain, the effect of an opiate wears off. I trust that the government will also hear those opposed to the gay community's quest for social re-engineering. We have enough victims in other areas without adding the abuse of the homosexual community.


Multilingual Hong Kong

I refer to the article 'Health chiefs vow joint disease fight' (October 16). The previous day, I watched the news on ATV Home channel, where the medical chiefs of Hong Kong, the mainland and Macau aired their views on co-operation.

They all spoke in Mandarin. The background banner was in one language - Chinese. If we want Hong Kong to become a perfect city of China, this is the way to go. But if we want it to become an international city, we must let speakers in such a meeting use a language they are most familiar with. Any banner must show a local language and an international language - English in this case.


Set limits for workers

It is hard to believe that in Hong Kong drivers of commercial vehicles, including heavy trucks, may work 14 hours a day, seven days a week, in order to secure an adequate income for themselves and their families.

Men fatigued by long hours are in charge of vehicles liable, in the event of a minor error, to cause accidents and deaths.

A move to impose limits on hours of work and introduce a minimum wage has recently been defeated due to the influence of certain Hong Kong business interests. They imply that such a move would be an unwelcome step towards socialism or a welfare state. But this is not a question of politics or ideology. What is needed is basic, down-to-earth common sense to tackle a quite scandalous situation.


Boycotts are effective

My thanks to J. Bruce for his comments on arms peddling by France and many other countries ('France was not alone', October 14). But I disagree that it would be fruitless to boycott French goods only.

I recall how the isolation and boycott of apartheid-era South Africa forced its white rulers to invite Nelson Mandela to move towards full democracy. The isolation of Myanmar and the refusal of most nations to sell arms to its military dictators will eventually promote a more just society. Unfortunately, the Chinese are the generals' biggest backers and freely sell them weapons. Obviously, it would be futile to boycott mainland products, but at least we can protest France's cynical move to undercut the European Union's ban on arms sales. Not long ago, French Exocet missiles were sold to Argentinian dictators, who fired them at British ships, killing many sailors. We do not want a similar event in the Taiwan Strait.

France's peddling of arms in Asia deserves condemnation. We can readily do without its effete luxuries and Picasso exhibitions, but we should not abandon our rejection of greed-driven militarism, whether French, Chinese, British or American.

J. GARNER, Kowloon

Narrow-minded view

I refer to the article 'What planet are Americans living on?' (October 4).

One of Mike Moore's points on how the US differs from other countries is about religion. But the only comparisons are with Britain, New Zealand and Australia. In Middle Eastern countries, the way of life is based on religion. Many countries in Europe were for a long time based on religion. Spain is still very Catholic. Where does he think Americans get their mix of ideals?

He talks about my (US) government's fashion as if it is ridiculous and illogical. Yet in Britain's Parliament, you often hear 'inappropriate' booing or snide remarks. I agree that the principles of survival of the fittest and reliance on one's talents were first embraced by a society in America. But elsewhere, individuals lived only slightly differently. America is a concoction of ideas and beliefs. That Americans do things their own way, like everyone else, does not make them weird.

And not everyone does things like Britain, Australia or New Zealand. Theirs is not necessarily the right way. In fact, I am surprised that someone who has led people, as in the World Trade Organisation, can be so narrow-minded and unaccepting of others' cultures and ideals.


Reeve's inspiration

As a disabled reader, I felt Harry's October 12 cartoon cleverly combined what we knew of Christopher Reeve - his strength and heroism as Clark Kent/Superman and how he so valiantly brought these qualities to bear as an activist and man with paralysis. His death challenges me to raise my game.