How to guarantee maximum fairness

What Hong Kong needs is not so much a minimum wage as a maximum wage gap. This would give employers the flexibility they insist they need to stay in tune with fluctuating economic conditions while at the same time deterring them from exploiting their lowest-paid employees.

Since there are no absolutes, the wages of those on the lowest rung of an organisation's payroll ought to be a derivative of the salaries of those on the highest rung, and vice versa.

This would ensure that, during the good times, when chief executives see fit to award themselves large pay increases, the workforce as a whole benefits. Likewise, when they deem it necessary to slash wages in times of economic recession, they will feel the pinch as much as everyone else.

In this manner, wages will still be governed by the unseen hand of the free market, but it can also be ensured that the wealth generated by this force is more fairly distributed.


'Not healthy', indeed

In a desperate effort to win support for the proposed goods and services tax, the government has launched a ridiculous media campaign declaring: 'Only one-third of the local working population pays taxes and this is unhealthy.'

First, this is a downright lie, as everyone in Hong Kong pays indirect taxes one way or another, beggars included, even if they do not pay salaries or profits tax.

Furthermore, may I ask our financial secretary whether it is 'healthy' that - in the absence of a legal minimum wage - two-thirds of Hongkongers earn such shamefully low incomes that they fall outside the salaries tax net and can hardly make ends meet?

To widen the so-called narrow tax base by means of a GST under such deplorable circumstances is unfair to the poor and underprivileged, and will only widen the wealth gap. By insisting on implementing a wrong policy against the wishes of the public, Henry Tang Ying-yen threatens to undermine social justice and harmony.

PETER WEI, Kwun Tong

Employers don't care

I am writing in response to your editorial 'Working smarter, not harder, the way forward' (October 19). While I agree with the sentiment summed up by the headline, in my opinion the problem of overworked staff is not the fault of the government but of employers.

The government has strongly promoted family-friendly work practices such as flexible timetables and working from home. It has also set a good example with its own conduct, with most departments working five-day weeks since July.

Hong Kong's employers, however, care only about the profits they make. They do not care about their employees' working conditions or the effects of long working hours on their personal lives. They do not care that workers will be more productive if they are in better health or have time to upgrade their skills. To sum up, the problem of overworked staff is the fault of companies that do not follow the government's policy and example.


Q.E.D. on smoking rooms

Letter writer Nigel Pike defeats his own argument in favour of smoking rooms with his quote from philosopher John Stuart Mill: 'The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.' ('On liberty, smoking and the nanny state', October 25).

Even in a restaurant smoking room, a smoker causes harm to staff and to fellow smokers with his or her second-hand smoke.

Some studies have shown that second-hand smoke is more dangerous than the filtered stuff smokers inhale voluntarily.

The restaurant staff are in a particularly vicious bind: their health or their jobs?

So, smokers in smoking rooms harm others and, therefore, according to Mill's argument, power to prevent this is 'rightfully exercised'.

ALLAN DYER, Wong Chuk Hang

A haze of falsity

It is irresponsible and ignorant statements such as those in Philip Bowring's article 'Penetrating the haze of truth' (October 23) that make me advocate the recently passed French legislation criminalising those who deny the Armenian genocide of 1915.

He writes that, although 'hundreds of thousands of (Christian) Armenians in Turkey were massacred', he finds the use of the word 'genocide' dubious.

I am not sure how much he has read or researched to come up with his claim that 'most of the evidence points not to government-directed massacres but to spontaneous, communally led killings'.

For Bowring's information, on

June 7 last year, in an open letter to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayib Erdogan, the International Association of Genocide Scholars clearly stated the following: 'We want to underscore that it is not just Armenians who are affirming the Armenian genocide but it is the overwhelming opinion of scholars who study genocide: hundreds of independent scholars, who have no affiliations with governments, and whose work spans many countries and nationalities and the course of decades.'

Bowring makes a case for the facts speaking for themselves - especially if they are repeated often enough - yet he repeats a falsity that only successive governments of Turkey and a handful of Turkish scholars have come to believe, perhaps from too many repetitions.

KATIA PELTEKIAN, Beirut, Lebanon