National education in Hong Kong
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The city's beaches are covered in litter. Photo: Sam Tsang

Letters to the Editor, September 04, 2012

Are we going to wait until we have destroyed our surroundings before we clean up our act?

Our sea has become a giant refuse can, beach-goers wade through floating rubbish when they go for a swim. Education is sorely needed in how to use rubbish bins.

We witness rubbish dumped within easy reach of a bin; adults blow their nose into a tissue and toss it on the ground; some owners take their dogs to the dog park and seem quite oblivious to the fact that if your dog defecates, you should clean up the mess so that others don't accidently step in it; and boat parties toss their leftovers and sewage overboard rather than dispose of it properly.

We have litter laws, but why is no one enforcing them? The government is sitting on a goldmine; it has the opportunity to make a fortune in litter fines alone.

Litter louts would soon learn what a litter bin is for if they were made to part with their hard-earned cash every time they had a lapse of memory.

A spell of manual labour cleaning up the beaches and streets as part of their penalty would do wonders to encourage them to change their selfish ways.

There are calls for volunteers to clean up the beaches, but the volunteers are the people who already know how to use a bin. It's the non-users who would benefit enormously from doing this job.

The law as it stands is too soft on the ignorant lazy lumps soiling our city. We currently live in a society that seeks only self-gratification and has little or no respect for either authority or the environment.

Without drastic action by the government, are we all doomed to live like pigs in muck, those who are decent being dragged down by those who care for nothing and no one but themselves?

Parents should set an example, but sadly we can't rely on all parents to teach their children how to behave properly, because they themselves are the ones behaving badly.

It's time for those who created our litter laws to actually put them into practice before Hong Kong becomes known as the city of litter instead of the city of lights.


It is obvious to most Hongkongers that many people lack adequate housing. And yes, a hot property market makes it harder to meet the needs of people ("Housing measures too weak - analysts", August 31). Unfortunately we've got used to ignoring the needs of those around us.

As I walk around Hong Kong, I still cringe when I see an elderly woman digging recyclable material out of a rubbish bin. I worry about the people who move here from the mainland without the ability to secure an adequate living space. We still have thousands of people living in cage homes and tiny subdivided flats.

We fail to see the sacrifice these people make.

So, yes, whatever the government is doing is inadequate. But also, if we fail to care for the many needy around us, the heart of Hong Kong fails.

We need more private citizens helping to improve the living conditions of our people.


It is disheartening to see that Hong Kong nowadays is fraught with altercations.

Society has become more and more polarised on a myriad of issues.

One obvious example that has erupted has been brought about by the government's insistence on the implementation of the new moral and national education subject in local primary schools from this month.

This triggers lots of concerns from the opposition camp that the children will be brainwashed with blind patriotism.

Those in support of the subject dismiss such scepticism by arguing that the right balance will be struck by the professional teaching team in actual delivery.

Conceivably, the controversies result from a number of misconceptions.

First, patriotism ought not to be a vice.

Scholars such as Roger Scruton and Alasdair MacIntyre argue that patriotism constitutes prima facie the basis of societal unity and territorial jurisdiction, which are both essential for a liberal state.

Yet patriotism should not be confused with a mindless loyalty to one's own particular nation but should rather be seen as a central virtue of a person whose morality it is based upon.

Joseph Kahne and Ellen Middaugh conclude from their 2005 survey of more than 2,000 California high school students that educators have to do more to foster understanding of patriotism that support democratic values and practices in order to avoid the danger of blind loyalty to the state.

Secondly, whether the April 2012 moral and national education (Primary One to Secondary Six) curriculum guide seeks to promote uncritical thinking towards, and blind appreciation of, the nation seems unconfirmed, judging at least from one of the curriculum's aims: to develop independent and critical thinking skills in students.

Last but not least, a 2009 study on moral and civic education alerts us to the fact that local primary school teachers may not be that ready to take up the gatekeeping role as envisaged.

When many issues, including but not limited to those mentioned above, remain to be clarified, I am compelled to doubt if it is necessary to rush through the process.

A fuller deliberation will certainly be worthwhile to steer the way.


I refer to Alex Lo's column ("National education a lost cause for C.Y.", September 3).

Most likely it is a lost cause. But I take issue with his depiction of the protests as "democratic lynching" and that only catchy slogans were the reason for the mass mobilisation.

Maybe the curriculum for national education is "a mild form of patriotic teaching" but we must remember that we are part of "one country" and that one country has a history of ideological manipulation.

OK, so Hong Kong is the "second system", but even if the curriculum provides "room" for various viewpoints, don't you think that school authorities or those even higher up might exert pressure on the classroom teacher? Furthermore, don't students learn all about Chinese art, history, culture, philosophy and literature through the various subjects they already take?

A final point. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was not elected by the people. If he campaigned with a platform that included national education and was elected by the people, then the people could not really complain if it was later introduced. But Hong Kong does not have an elected government.


I refer to the letter by Lester Lim ("Many Olympic sports have martial origins", August 25).

I had already made that observation in my letter opposing the featuring of rifles and pistols in the Games ("Ban shooting events from the Olympics", August 18).

Why should guns be banned from the Olympics?

The reason is that they are modern devices especially designed to kill on a large scale. The other primitive weapons (such as javelin, hammer and discus) still retained in the Games and still receiving awards actually require strenuous physical effort and are mostly symbolic.

Guns, on the other hand, are a daily threat to peace and to the lives of many in the US and other countries.

The Games have evolved over the years.

In the beginning, only males took part and they wore no clothing. Do we want to restore that custom?

Why, then, should we cling to a recent tradition introduced by military men who wanted to show their prowess with guns?

Since the Games are hailed as "a contribution to world peace and understanding", why should we welcome killing devices and the military ethos that produces them?

The very purpose of weapons is to threaten others, not to understand or embrace them.

I now ask the members of the China and Hong Kong Olympic teams to make an official request to have guns removed from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

There are nobler ways to extol the sporting achievements of one's country than by pulling hi-tech triggers and puncturing paper targets.


There are 28 Hong Kong athletes taking part in the London Paralympics which opened last week.

It is a very high level of competition.

I think it is an important sporting event and helps to remind disabled people that they can get involved in sporting activities like anyone else.

I think the government should do more to help these athletes and provide them with additional resources for their training.

Also, there has not been much advertising about the Paralympics.

At future Games, the Hong Kong administration should do more to make people aware that the event is taking place and that athletes from the city are taking part.

We should be encouraged to show our support for them.

The government should be spending more on the development of sport here.