Gay wedding ban reflects on British

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 April, 2006, 12:00am

The British government almost certainly received the news it wanted to hear when Hong Kong objected to same-sex civil unions being registered at its Admiralty consulate ('British gays denied chance to wed in Hong Kong', April 16).

There was no need for the consulate to invite the Hong Kong government to object. There is a world of difference between receiving a 'signal of no objection' and asking the Chinese government to formally reply that it has no objection.

I use the word 'Chinese' rather than 'Hong Kong' government because the issue, being a matter of foreign affairs, would have been referred to the central government liaison office, as the consulate would have known.

If the British government truly wanted same-sex civil unions to be conducted at the consulate, it could have handled the matter more cleverly by quietly informing the Chinese of its intentions through the British embassy in Beijing, and taking the absence of a response to mean it had not received a 'signal of no objection'.

Hong Kong's reaction to the proposal, as the gay couple quoted in the article concluded, was 'not surprising'. It is more than that, however. Britain still treats its 3.5million British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong as second-class citizens, unlike the French and Portuguese, who give full citizenship rights to residents of their former and current (in the case of France) overseas dependencies.

The British have not changed their views since the cabinet of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher set out to ensure Britain would not be swamped by Chinese hordes.

Ironically, the country is now being swamped by Eastern European hordes who provide bad, cheap labour. They not only ensure Britain keeps moving but also make it difficult to spot an Englishman on the London Underground.

The difference, of course, is that these hordes are not members of the 'yellow peril'. Shame on us British.

P. A. CRUSH, Sha Tin

Fight for what's right

I fully support the government's refusal to condone same-sex civil marriages at the British consulate in Hong Kong ('British gays denied chance to wed in Hong Kong', April 16). It is proper that the government should remain neutral on the issue while the sexual orientation discrimination ordinance is under debate.

People will compare Hong Kong with other countries which allow such ceremonies, but being an international and open society does not mean we have to follow everything others do, especially when it comes to moral standards.

It is time for us to think about the kind of society we want to build for our children. Passing the sexual orientation discrimination ordinance will be followed by legalising same-sex marriages, gay parenthood and so on. I urge all parents and teachers to fight for the right world for our children, and defend ourselves against what is wrong.


Internships moribund

Doris Ng's letter about her son, an intern at the United Christian Hospital who spends his long shifts drawing blood, draws attention to a common experience ('Interns deserve better', April 9).

Two interns I know faced the same frustration of learning little except how to draw blood in hospital after hospital.

Their experiences underline the moribund state of the housemanship system. The 34-hour night shift (9am to 5pm the following day) is notorious. Adding the time it takes to commute to the hospital and sign in and out, some interns do up to 40 hours at a stretch.

They work from 9am to 5pm on the third day, and on the fourth start another night shift, and so it goes for a week. By day two, they are in a daze. What clear thinking, good decisions and careful work can reasonably be expected of them for the rest of the week? Shorter night shifts, protected hours for sleep and a break afterwards are the indicated remedies.

The internship is meant to be a year of observation, training and guided learning. However, doctors order tasks done but are too busy or reluctant, or cannot be bothered, to explain or teach. Most questions on treatment go unasked and unanswered.

Mr Ng's consultant telling him that he had it even worse in his day typifies the dismissive attitude of senior staff. His bad experiences don't make those suffered by Mr Ng right. He also missed the point.

It is not the hours but the futility and irrelevance of the interns' work that is so depressing. They draw blood, do odd jobs and are bullied by nurses who buzz them insistently and impatiently at all hours.

Reducing the length of shifts only tackles part of the problem if the work does not provide a useful learning experience.

JOHN CHEONG, Kowloon Tong

Try smiling

Roger Shuttleworth's letter 'Victims of racism' (April 16), on the treatment he endures as a white European in Hong Kong, did not surprise me. A few similar missives have appeared in the South China Morning Post at irregular intervals over the past half century during which I have happily lived here.

Of course, if you sit on the MTR with your nose buried in a book and a frown on your face, it is not difficult to imagine why no one wants to sit next to you. Being sociable is a two-way street. Although it takes all sorts to make Hong Kong, I certainly would not say we Europeans live in an unfriendly city. But here comes the rub. We have to make an effort.

A piece of advice for what it's worth: you need to do two things. First, you must learn some Cantonese and, second and most importantly, you must smile. Go on, give it a whirl. You'll find it works.

DAN WATERS, Mid-Levels

Passengers left stranded

My staff arrived at Chek Lap Kok airport recently for a Hong Kong Express Airways flight ($2,570 return) to Laoag, in the Philippines, only to be informed that it had been cancelled. After a long argument, Hong Kong Express arranged seats on Cathay Pacific to Manila ($1,400 return), where they were unceremoniously informed getting to Laoag was now their problem.

They finally arrived at their destination 22 hours later.

Hong Kong Express then refused to organise their return journey from Laoag to Hong Kong, as contracted.

Is this acceptable behaviour from a Hong Kong-registered company? Would Cathay, having contracted to take its passengers to London, reroute them to Paris and then inform them that it was their problem from there? I think not!

A complaint is being lodged with the Consumer Council, but that's not much consolation to my stranded staff.

I. FOSTER, Aberdeen

A waste of paper

I have a simple method for saving paper. Banks, phone companies and shops should check the name of the person to whom they are addressing print advertisements. If such a name sounds non-Chinese, they should avoid posting materials written in Chinese, which, unfortunately, many westerners cannot read. The result is always that the pages are crushed and thrown into the wastepaper basket.